Interview with Black Sails Stars Luke Arnold and Jessica Parker Kennedy
Q: Are you from West Australia?
Luke Arnold: I studied in West Australia, yeah, so I lived in Australia kind of in every state there. I went to drama school over in Perth. The most isolated city in the world, so, which is good practice for shooting in Cape Town.
Q: So where are you from originally?
Luke Arnold: Originally South Australia.
Q: I’m originally from Oakland.
Luke Arnold: Oh, right!
Q: I actually lived in Adelaide.
Luke Arnold: Yeah, yeah, right, right, that’s where I was born. Yeah, I go back occasionally.
Q: Do you see the relationship between John Silver and Captain Flint taking center stage?
Luke Arnold: Hopefully! No, definitely, that’s kind of the real central relationship to the show, and it goes for a few different stages like there’s actually, they’re very tied together even though there’s not a lot of interaction really in season 1. It’s kind of slow, drawn out thing. They only deal with each other as much as they need to. I think until Silver shows up, Flint is always the smartest guy in the room and suddenly there’s this other guy that washes up on the shore that’s kind of a bit of a thorn in his side, and that’s really kind of fun to play. Yeah, it’s a bit of an odd couple thing going on when we get to hang out.
Q: When you went into your audition, did you know you’d be playing the central lead?
Luke Arnold: Well, it’s, the audition scenes were really fun, kind of those two scenes from that first episode, and it’s a really sort of interesting balancing act. I think the tough thing about auditioning for this role, especially with a fun character as Silver is seeing this kind of heightened version of pirates for so long and so the interesting thing about this role and then getting the audition was like, keeping that kind of roguish knave quality but really making sure it’s grounded in reality and that he doesn’t feel apart from all these other thugs who, you know, try to smash his face in.
Q: Most of the time, it’s a much older figure. Is that difficult playing as well?
Luke Arnold: Yeah, I think you know, could be still doing this in 20 years! That is kind of the fun is for me, I’m like, it’s just, it’s always such a fun role, you know, and such a fun job that you want to go on forever, but I think more than anyone, I’m the one that’s going, you know, I really want this to go to the end. I want to take this character from this young sailor who is introduced to our world and almost trying to escape it to the most famous pirate in literature. Yeah, so I think it getting that origin story is just a gift, knowing that we’ve kind of got that at the end and seeing how we get there will be an adventure for me as much as everyone else.
Q: What’s it like working with a mostly male cast?
Jessica Parker Kennedy: Honestly, the guys on our show are just a bunch of puppies, you know, so they’re, they really are truly the loveliest people I could be working with, unbelievably, you know, sensitive and kind and wonderful, warm people to work with, and the other two girls on the show, you know, really as much as I love my bros, I’m extremely grateful to have Clara and Hannah around, you know, because you need to have females around you when you’re a female as well. They’re the warmest, loveliest, most mature but fun women I could ever have the pleasure of working with.
Luke Arnold: And the 3 female leads in this definitely make their presence known. They’re pretty strong women in this.
Jessica Parker Kennedy: Yeah, very much so. No one’s going to watch it and say, “Oh this is a real male-dominated cast.” The female roles are extremely prevalent in the show. We were around all the time, so it feels equal in a way.
Luke Arnold: Absolutely.
Q: Max’s base of operation is on the island that Eleanor kind of runs or operates-
Jessica Parker Kennedy: You know Max works in the brothel, and the relationship that she has with Eleanor at the beginning is one of a lot of friendship and passion, actually. They quite love each other, I love her very, very much, and there’s a lot of respect between them and you know, they trust each other and they share a lot with each other. Max does all of her dealing and dueling from the brothel and those pirates who come into her space are kind of, they come in one way and leave not knowing exactly what I’ve been doing to them.
Q: Do you enjoy the historical aspect, the costumes-
Jessica Parker Kennedy: So, so fun, and I always thought, I’m part black and I’m quite a mix. I always thought, gosh, am I ever going to get to do a period piece? Because I don’t quite fit anywhere, so I thought oh gosh, this is going to happen. To be able to be doing a period piece is really a dream come true for me. I’ve wanted to for so long, and the wardrobe was magnificent for me. I mean, so many of the guys on the ships are wearing the same thing every single day. I think in the first season, I have 10 different wardrobe changes. I’m so lucky, I really, really am. You know, no one wants to be a prostitute, but man, is it fun for wardrobe changes. But I mean, it’s crazy. I wear this corset, it takes 2 people to do me up in this corset every day and 10 minutes to get out of it at night. It’s a process, but it helps so much ground the character knowing that this is what it feels like, you know, to be at least a female back in the 1700s. It’s extremely helpful, really fun.
Luke Arnold: And sometimes I wear a jacket, and sometimes I don’t. It’s very exciting!
Jessica Parker Kennedy: And occasionally, a little scarf, and occasionally not! And occasionally
nothing at all!
Luke Arnold: There’s always that option, yeah.
Q: Was it hard for you guys to relocate for the shoot, how long was it?
Jessica Parker Kennedy: 5 months for the first season and then it will be 6 months for the second season. I’m very lucky, I’m not married, I don’t have children. Relocating is a fun adventure for me and nothing else. I mean, it’s certainly not a place where you can go home for the weekend, and you know, when you’re there, you’re there for the entire time. So for me, it’s really easy. I think for other cast members who have, you know, families, I think it can be a pretty big challenge.
Luke Arnold: Yeah, we were the two single ones.
Jessica Parker Kennedy: Yeah, just living it up in the city going, “This is easy!” We could do this for
years, this is great!
Luke Arnold: It’s definitely a long way away from the rest of the world, really, which is in a lot of ways a blessing, you know. It’s just like Cape Town is a beautiful place on the weekends, you can eat some good food and good wine and go for a good hike! But otherwise we’re left just to focus on what is a really demanding job. Between the physical elements as well as the density of the scripts. The language in these scripts is really incredible. You can’t just walk up and wing it. You really want to serve the scripts in this, so yeah, between that and the physical stuff, it’s a full-time job just keeping in this world, so it’s actually nice being taken away from everything else and focusing on it.
Jessica Parker Kennedy: There’s literally zero distractions. There’s no excuse not to be fully prepared when you come to set.
Q: When you come from Down Under, you’re probably used to being a long way from home.
Luke Arnold: Yeah, well that’s right. Imagine being in New York. Trying to shoot something like this would be much tougher because yeah, there’s everything there. And that’s the thing, the flights, I’m used to that with Australia. It takes a day to get anywhere, and you’re always kind of moving in this career, so you kind of take it as a given that when you’re gonna get a role, you’re going to get stuck somewhere else with a bunch of people and you just hope they are people you can handle. And we got very lucky on this.
Jessica Parker Kennedy: Yeah, not only can we stand them but I’m truly madly in love with every single one of my cast members, so we’re very lucky.
Q: How does it feel, I mean, you haven’t even aired yet, and you’re about to go in for next season.
Jessica Parker Kennedy: Yeah, it’s very lucky. I’ve done so many seasons, one show, one season, over and over and over again, so I just sort of waited for the same thing, even though I have so much faith in this show. You’re just sort of waiting to go, oh, that’s a great first season, and I’m gonna go start auditioning again and hopefully get more work, so it’s just been like, just from an employed- unemployed standpoint, it’s nice to know I have another job, okay.
Luke Arnold: I think it’s just great having that sense of faith from Starz and everyone on that side of things, that they’re ready to keep going with it, and I think it’s really exciting and really happy, and I think now that we’re starting to see parts of season 1 and start looking towards season 2, just getting more and more confident in what this show is and that it is one of the special ones for us. We just start getting excited for scripts to come out and seeing episodes come out, not as a job but as an audience member. It’s getting less quietly confident and more loudly, brashly confident in what this show is. Yeah, I think we’re just really excited to get back in the costumes and give it another crack.
Q: What are some of the major challenges you guys face on production?
Jessica Parker Kennedy: Gosh, in what aspect, in character driven challenges or?
Luke Arnold: It’s everything. The boot camp that most of us went on was the toughest thing I’ve ever done in my life. It was actually life-changing, just getting physically ready for it. It was less about finding an aesthetic with our shirts off and more like we needed to look like guys in this tough world and then being ready for to manage the days of shooting that we had on this, that involved some really physical stuff. You know, we’d be on boats all day, jumping off them, fighting on them, running back and forth, climbing up ropes. We do a lot in a very small time on this show, and just being ready for that was really important. And that said, that mixed in with this very high level of drama and characterization, it’s a constant challenge, but that’s what you want. You know, there’s nothing worse than starting onto something and it just being a job. With this, every day you hope you can meet the standards that everyone else is setting and that the scripts are setting and the production. Which is great, yeah, to always have that challenge.