The “Star Wars” icon and BAFTA-winning voice of The Joker, 67, is going from lightsaber to sword in Season 2 of History Channel’s drama series “Knightfall.” The actor plays Talus, a battle-hardened Knight Templar veteran of the Crusades, who survived captivity for 10 years and is tasked with training and new initiates to the Order.
Cullen of “Downton Abbey” and “Gunpowder” fame stars as headstrong Templar Knight Landry who will embark on a journey that explores the dark, brutal side of the 14th century.
“My younger brother is on ‘Knightfall’ as well this season, and we grew up obsessed with ‘Star Wars,’” Cullen told Fox News. “So it was a real treat for us and everyone who got to work with him because I think that Mark is so interwoven into lots of childhoods. But the thing about Mark is as soon as he arrives on set, he is just the most humble and hardworking guy. He’s so much his character in the show that you kind of just forget who Mark is and you just see his amazing character. And it was a pleasure to work with him. He’s great in the show.”
The 33-year-old revealed that the Hollywood star was incredibly humble and easily approachable while filming the gritty show.
“It was so surprising,” gushed Cullen. “You always have so much fear when someone is that famous, that they might turn up and not be the nicest people, but he couldn’t be a lovelier man and he’s become a really good friend…. And there’s a lot of young actors on the show. Some of them, it’s their first… job. And he kind of just came in and took everyone under [his] wing and would tell stories. It was a really special experience.”
Cullen has plenty of reasons to celebrate, other than the opportunity to work alongside Hamill on a show he stars in. “Knightfall” first premiered in December 2017, just a few months after Season 7 of HBO’s wildly popular fantasy drama “Game of Thrones” concluded on August 27 of that year. Several TV critics pointed out “Knightfall” was the ideal choice to fill the void.
But Cullen warns both shows are completely different and it wouldn’t be fair to compare one with the other.
“I mean, ‘Game of Thrones’ is amazing,” said Cullen. “I have many friends in it and I love watching it. So, it’s not a bad thing to be compared to ‘Game of Thrones,’ but we’re a different show, and there are lots of similarities, I guess. But we’re trying to do our own thing. I would say if you like ‘Game of Thrones,’ you should definitely tune in. And if you like ‘Vikings,’ which is also on History — it’s an amazing show as well. We’re kind of all sitting in that ballpark, but trying to cut out our own little corner in it.”
Cullen has a close connection to “Game of Thrones.” His good pal is Kit Harington, who famously plays Jon Snow. The two actors have known each other since drama school and, in 2017, co-starred in the historical miniseries “Gunpowder.” Cullen shared there’s one memory of his time attending the Central School of Speech and Drama in London alongside Harington, 32, that still sticks out to him.
“I came from Wales, which is a really small country next to England,” he explained. “I grew up in rural Wales and so I was suddenly in London and it was very exciting. And I had a girlfriend, but we kind of broke up as soon as we got to London. I was absolutely heartbroken. Kit came over to my house and took me out. And I didn’t know him at all. We got very drunk and he looked after me. So that’s my first memory of Kit.”
But these days the pair have been keeping busy with their shows. And Cullen, in particular, had to embark on a no-nonsense training regimen that involved wearing a 50-pound costume for hours to get in shape and fight like a knight.
“It’s super intense,” said Cullen. “… The Knights Templar themselves, they used to train about six, seven hours a day. And then the rest of the time they’d pray. That was their life. It was kind of a mix of warrior and monk. … But for us, the training was very much about being able to carry the heavy weight of the costume and to physically get through the difficult schedule. It’s every day for seven months in freezing cold weather and boiling hot weather. I broke my toes on the first two days.”
“I tend to work every day, nearly in every scene,” continued Cullen. “So the times that I have to learn the fight scenes are often on my lunch breaks or on weekends. Just snap times. And then you’re suddenly in battle with 100 people around you swinging swords. You just have to really dive in and go for it. It can be pretty scary. You do get some wacks because you don’t always remember the choreography. Sometimes it’s real. And that’s probably the hardest part, but it’s also the most fun as well.”
While “Knightfall” takes place hundreds of years ago, Cullen insisted the medieval period has plenty of lessons for audiences in 2019. And as the story unfolds, things will only become more shocking.
“I think the medieval period, in general, is a really fascinating period of time because I think that in many ways, that was the birth of our modern society,” said Cullen. “For example, the Knights Templar, who are the centerpiece of ‘Knightfall,’ they set up the first banking system and they became kind of the world’s first conglomerate, which is a bit of history that I didn’t know before the starting this show. And I think that we feel the history of that period still vibrating in the world that we live in today.”
“Knightfall” premieres March 25 at 10 p.m. on the History Channel.