Johannesburg - He’s known by many as pirate Billy Bones from the hit TV series Black Sails, but fans will soon be introduced to a new side of British actor, Tom Hopper, when he assumes the role of Arminius: the stolen son of Germany in a new series to hit the History channel (DSTV channel 186), entitled Barbarians Rising.
You see, when he’s not waging war in Barbarians Rising or returning from the dead on Black Sails, actor Tom Hopper is just an ordinary guy, who likes to go for cauliflower-based pizzas with his wife and child in their adopted home of Cape Town.
Channel24 met up with Tom recently (but not over pizza) to get the lowdown on his life and new role.
Welcome back to South Africa, Tom! Can we even say that considering you’ve been shooting here so long? It must feel like home.
It does. You know I’ve been here for the last four years, in Cape Town at least, so it does feel a bit like home. My wife and child are all here so it is home for us, at least at the moment.
So, what is it that you love most about our beautiful country?
There’s so much to love about South Africa, from the food – we love the cauliflower-based pizzas over here - to the people. You know I was really young when Mandela was released from prison, and when he became president of the country, but his example shows in the people. There’s so much love and kindness here. It’s just such a pity that things like the economy and the occasional incident sometimes disturb that.
You’ve been shooting Black Sails in Cape Town, and the second season is about to air on South African TV, but a little birdie tells us you’re character was supposed to have died at the end of season 1? What happened?
That’s the rumour but I guess fans will just have to wait and see. We’re currently shooting the fourth season of the show, so that should answer your question. But on a more serious note, being on the show has taught me so much about being a better actor, both physically and mentally. Just being in that environment has pushed me as an actor and I’m so grateful to be doing it still, even after 4 years.
Of course, many fans will know you from your role in Black Sails, and even Merlin, but now you have a role on an upcoming historical action drama, Barbarians Rising, you must really love history?
Yeah! I do tend to play historical figures, right? It’s just that I’ve been lucky enough to have played some amazing characters that really test me and that I’m really enthralled with. I mean, Merlin and Pirates are pretty cool, right?
For sure! You’ve spoken before of some of the heavy training you undertook for Black Sails (a lot of exercise but not really an eye patch). Can you walk us through what it takes to become the ultimate barbarian?
For me it was a lot of studying and trying to get into the role. My character, Arminius: the stolen son of Germany, has seen a lot of heartbreak and so it was kind of trying to tap into that as well as watching loads of Youtube videos about him and the period and just trying to channel the anger and feelings he had into my character.
You’re character looks really mean! But there’s a lot of scary characters on the show. Tell us, which character from the show would you be most afraid to meet in a dark Soweto street?
Yeah, they are all kind of mean, right? I mean, they are all kind of waging a war for or against the Roman Empire so they are really emotional characters but I have to say, for me, it was probably the character Viriathus (played by actor Jefferson Hall). In one scene I had to lie to him and the whole time I was like ‘How can I lie to this guy? He’d probably slit my throat if he knew I was lying to him.’
We’ll be sure to avoid him then. But, listen, we hear you’re quite a hit with the ladies - just a quick glance on social media will tell you that much- how do you deal with all the female attention?
It’s not something I really pay attention to, to be honest. Maybe if I didn’t have a wife and a child at home, and was one of those guys who was single and always getting around, it would be a concern to me but I mean it doesn’t bother me. Although there was this one time that was quite funny. We were in America, I think, and these two ladies dressed like bikers came up to me and one of my acting buddies and slipped us a business card and was like 'If y’all aren’t busy later…' It was very awkward.
Talking of home, You’re a fairly, newly wed and a new dad. How has your life changed since the birth of your son?
Yeah, little Freddie. He’s 8 months now. It’s the most amazing thing. I feel like I have to be more responsible now, especially with my career. I remember when me and Laura (wife and actress, Laura Higgins) went for our first scan. It was quite early on in Laura’s pregnancy and we didn’t expect to see a heartbeat yet but there it was and I was just watching it in complete silence and awe. Laura asked me what I was thinking and I remember just realising how much of a gift and a responsibility this was. Now everything that I do is for them and they in turn have been really supportive of me.
?? @laurahopperhopsA photo posted by Tom Hopper (@tom.hopperhops) on Feb 14, 2016 at 10:26am PST
A photo posted by Tom Hopper (@tom.hopperhops) on Feb 14, 2016 at 10:26am PST
Catch Barbarians Rising on History (DStv 186) June 2016.
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