We chat to Black Sails star Sean Cameron Michael

2015-08-18 12:04

Cape Town – Driving along the N2 it was hard to miss the big pirate shows gracing the outskirts of the Mother City.

South Africans can finally see the amazing set and island Cape Town Studios created for the Michael Bay pirate series Black Sails.

The internationally acclaimed series makes its debut on South African screens tonight at 21:20 on the History Channel (Dstv 181).

A prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s world-famous novel, Treasure Island, Black Sails is a gritty, adult drama set in the brutal and cut-throat golden age of 18th century piracy.  

The series features international and local actors such as Sean Cameron Michael (When We Were Black), Louise Barnes (Jozi-H), Fiona Ramsey (Homeland) and Hakeem Kae-Kazim (Hotel Rwanda).

We chatted to Sean Cameron Michael about his role, the Black Sails craze, filming in Cape Town and his future projects.

Will you tell us more about your character and what attracted you to the role?

(Laughs) The pay check! What really attracts you to a role is the work, being able to work. In all honesty when you get the call from your agent saying Michael Bay who is a director/producer whose films have grossed millions of dollars is coming to Cape Town to shoot a pirate series you really don’t need much more motivation than that! Getting to audition for Black Sails was an amazing opportunity. We all auditioned for the role of Captain Flint, but a month later I got a phone call from the casting director, and they asked me to audition for the series' regular role, Richard Guthrie. 

Richard Guthrie is such a warm character… (pauses). Not! Richard is an English businessman who came to Nassau in the early 1700s with his daughter. His wife died and he found and opportunity to make money by buying pirated goods and reselling them to his connections. He is a very powerful, political being and he is well connected around the world. He is a manipulative character and there is a lot of backstabbing, he would say one thing and do another. He will become the character that you love to hate.

Richard sounds like a dark, complex character. How did you prepare for the role?

When I was in my twenties I was always playing the good guy. As I got older I wanted to do more meaty roles and playing the baddie allows you that. I knew he was a complex character. I consider myself a method actor. For me to play a character I need to climb into his head, what does he sound like, what makes him tick, what makes him happy, what makes him sad, what is his motivation and what scares him. I have played a number of bad guys and I have learnt that the secret to playing a good bad character is that when you’re a bad person, you don’t believe that what you’re doing is bad, in your own mind you’re justifying your actions. That’s how I approached the character Richard Guthrie. 

How is Black Sails different from Pirates of the Caribbean?

Treasure Island was the blueprint but this is a prequel to it. The big difference is that Pirates ff the Caribbean is a family friendly movie, it’s going to be funny and scary. Black Sails is in your face: there are throats being slit, blood across the screen, it’s hardcore. It’s not for the kiddies. There’s sex, nudity and violence, but it’s not grotesque. It’s a political drama and besides the action there is a very intricate storyline. There’s all the violence and the action that the guys like and for the girls you also have very strong female characters. 

(Sean Cameron Michael. Channel24)


The show has done exceptionally well and a fourth season has just been commissioned. Why do you think the series is so appealing and what makes it different from everything else showing right now?

There’s a bit of everything in it for everyone. After the first season the creators went onto social media to see the audience response: to see what they liked and what they didn’t like and in the following seasons they gave the audience what they wanted. You can’t get away with inferior TV, you have to give the audience more of what they want. Audiences are very intelligent. If the audience wasn’t loving it the other seasons would never have happened.

How has Black Sails boosted Cape Town and South Africa as one of the prime locations to shoot movies and series?

The entire production and the set showcases the facilities we have to offer, it shows the international industry that we can co-produce and that we can offer world class locations, sets and crew. Out of 800 cast and crew only 30 were not South Africans. What this series shows Hollywood and the rest of the world is that we have the ability to do top class shows.

Do you have any other projects in the pipeline?

I just finished shooting a post-apocalyptic zombie movie called, Last Broken Darkness. I also have a small cameo opposite Anna-Mart van der Merwe in an Afrikaans movie, Dis Koue Kos Skat

Watch the Black Sails trailer here:

Catch Black Sails Tuesdays at 21:20  on History Channel (DStv 181).

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