Interview: HANNAH NEW, Black Sails

Hannah New took an indirect route to become a star. Based in England, she started modeling (which is typical enough), but then immersed herself in Spanish culture, even living in Bolivia for a while. She landed a few roles on Spanish television (a very unlikely path), and was discovered by Disney, who was casting for “Maleficent”. New was able to enter the legendary Pinewood Studios and get a small but important part: Sleeping Beauty’s mother.

With little thought that someone relatively unknown could land a leading part, she auditioned for Michael Bay’s “Black Sails”. And she nailed it. As of now, the show is set to run at least three seasons on the Starz network, which can only open New up to more opportunities.

Setting aside a few minutes in her busy schedule, Hannah was kind enough to chat with me on January 7, 2015 (a week before Season Two premiered).

GS: When you were on Craig Ferguson’s show a while back, did you share the green room with Patton Oswalt?

HN: You know what? He was already out front filming when I arrived to the studio. I didn’t get to share the green room with him, though I was really hoping to. He’s hilarious.

GS: As I understand it, the show is filmed in South Africa and you go surfing during down time?

HN: Yeah, I do. I love surfing, it’s awesome, and I try to get in as much as possible, but I can’t get as much in as I’d like. I love the ocean.

GS: Some of “Black Sails” first episodes were directed by Neil Marshall, who is a legend in the horror community with “Dog Soldiers” and “The Descent”. How was he to work with?

HN: It was really great working with Neil, he’s such an incredible director, good with action. It was a godsend and a really exciting time for us. We were all still trying to figure out who these characters were, fleshing them out and finding them. It’s always really tough at the beginning of a season, or the beginning of a show, to really know who everyone is. It was an incredible process we went through together.

GS: On a series, there is a change of directors from episode to episode. How does this change of command affect the cast and crew?

HN: It’s really interesting, actually, because you do get really different perspectives on where the story’s going and who these people are. And I think it’s great because it makes you question things that you weren’t necessarily thinking of. You make assumptions about your own character after a while, and it’s really good to be taken out of them and find something new. So, we always have the overarching and amazing guidance of creators Jonathan Steinberg and Robert Levine, who are just such an incredible resource. They’re always available for any questions, queries or suggestions we may have. So in that respect we’re really lucky because we have showrunners who are very hands-on. The storylines aren’t simple, because they involve some very complex historical moments and complex politics. Having those people there to guide us is great, but having fresh faces and fresh perspectives is actually helpful, too.

GS: At the end of Season One, your character was not in such a great place. Does this mean Season Two will focus on her getting her revenge?

HN: Season Two really looks at… well, I’m not sure what I can say. It’s her climb back to where she was, but not a direct ascent. Other things are going to push her down, weigh her down, and she’s really grasping at straws and is going to have to question where her loyalty lies. I’m not even sure if revenge is even in the cards yet, because so many things will have to happen before she’s even in a position of power again. It’s really tough work for her in Season Two, she has a lot thrown at her. But what I think is really neat about people and characters in general is not how they get knocked down, but how they get back up. And she climbs up pretty ingeniously at times. Other times, she’s really on her own. She’s lost all the people she had, the people she trusted. She’s got no one but herself. It’s the journey of a young woman realizing what it is to be independent in a world where it’s about alliances, or more so having the right alliances.

GS: You approached the writers about having more fight scenes in Season Two…

HN: (laughs) Yeah.

GS: Did they listen?

HN: Uhhh… (laughs) There was definitely a bit of me approaching them asking, “When will I get a sword? When will I get a dagger?” I’ll have to leave that one for viewers to see in Season Two, in just a few days.

GS: With the show being told as a prequel to “Treasure Island”, does this give it a limited timeline?

HN: Yeah, obviously we know where the story will end up because we have “Treasure Island”, which does kind of read like a sequel. So it makes sense we’re making a prequel. But we’ve gone so far back in the sense of who these characters are as young men. There’s quite a journey to be made. By the time of “Treasure Island”, Billy Bones has become a bitter old man. You look at Billy Bones when he’s younger and he’s very idealistic, innocent and truthful. These are long arcs we’re dealing with. For us, it’s really exciting to see the twists and turns before the end of that story.

GS: Is it crazy that for two seasons in a row, the show was renewed before it even aired?

HN: It’s incredible to know we’ve been given the space and time to flesh out these characters and really take people on this journey with them. We don’t have to rush and tie up loose ends just because we only had one or two seasons. We have that kind of sense of longevity, and for a story of this scale it’s important we have that time. We’re dealing with historical fact combined with fiction, and there are a lot of storylines to be found there. We are just lucky that Starz has confidence in what we’re doing that we get the opportunity to play them out.

GS: Thank you so much for your time. Good luck on the show!

HN: Thank you!

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