Dark Secrets from an Even Darker Show

by Natasha Wolff | November 3, 2015 1:00 pm

In Kurt Sutter’s medieval drama The Bastard Executioner[1], Danny Sapani’s character, Berber the Moor, desperately clings onto his Muslim faith (behind closed doors) in Catholic 14th century Wales. But that’s not the only secret he keeps. Berber, an educated advisor and moral compass for the series’ main warrior Wilkin Brattle, holds the key to a dark past, which slowly unravels throughout the series’ blood-soaked episodes.

Here, the British actor—best known for his role as Sembene on Penny Dreadful—opens up about overcoming internal conflicts and the setbacks of filming in a rain-drenched forest. 

What drew you to this role?

I’ve always been quite fascinated by the Berbers as a race of people. They are one of the oldest national identities in history dating back to the Roman times. My character is a Muslim in a Catholic country who is fighting for independence. He’s come from a world of conflict, political upheaval, and he has a past. I think it’s become a niche corner for me to be honest with you to play these characters that have a bit of a dark secret. 

In some ways, the internal conflict your character faces with faith can be just as complex as the physical battles we’re seeing on screen. Would you agree? 

Absolutely! There’s nothing more damaging in the end, and more overwhelming, than the battles we face within. Those resources and tools that we develop over years of fighting our own personal battles and conflicts, a character like Berber would have developed through escaping Spain when the Moors were overrun, having to give up so much to come and live in Wales. That journey alone would have equipped him in ways that the other characters wouldn’t even begin to understand.

What’s it like to film those bloody battle scenes? 

They take an awfully long time to put together, but we’re in good hands with Lee Sheward, the stunt coordinator. All the characters have to look like they were born with a sword in their hands because people traditionally would have learned how to hold a sword and use one from a very early age. 

What has been the most challenging aspect of filming for you?

Welsh weather isn’t notoriously good. There’s a lot of time spent wearing plastic things around your feet and over your medieval costume trying to keep out of the wet. Filming in a forest, knee-deep in mud is tough. Thank God for rubber.

The Bastard Executioner airs on Tuesdays at 10pm on FX.

  1. The Bastard Executioner: http://www.fxnetworks.com/shows/the-bastard-executioner/episodes

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