Atlantis is a brand new, thrilling fantasy drama, set in a time of legendary heroes, mythical creatures and gods
Jack Donnelly plays Jason
This is a huge break for you as an actor. Tell us how you got the part?
I was put up for the audition by my agent in January and then I went back for a series of recalls. It was a big deal and I didn’t want to fall at the last hurdle so spent about half an hour before the final audition listening to Eye of the Tiger from Rocky to psyche myself up! I’d totally tired myself out by the time I got in there but at least it got rid of the nerves! I think the penultimate audition was about two and a half hours and the final was about three hours with the producer, casting director, director and then they brought in Robert Emms for a chemistry read. I’d met Rob about a year before on a random night out, so I told the producers I knew him really well, so was thinking ‘please remember me, or this could be really awkward’, but luckily he did! Afterwards we went out and I wasn’t sure if he had any sway over casting so I bought him a bagel just in case …
Was your first day on set nerve wracking?
The first day on set I was so nervous, I’d wanted it for so long and then suddenly you get there and wonder if you can really do this. My first scenes were underground fighting the Minotaur so, as it was CGI, I didn’t have much to go on and the director was chasing me around caves with a green stick! I was pretty nervous for the first three weeks but then once I got into it and started having a laugh with Mark and Rob, I relaxed into it and the whole thing became loads of fun.
Jason seems a very physical character and we’ve seen some impressive stunts - what preparation did you do for the role and do you do your own stunts?
They asked me if I had a gymnastics background in the final audition and I happen to have a brother in Cirque de Soleil which was a big selling point! That was my way of deflecting the question as I’d never done anything like that! So from the moment I got the part they set me up with a stunt co-coordinator. It’s been great, I’ve been learning on the job and I’ve done about 95% of my own stunts so far. There was one stunt in Morocco where Jason was jumping off a 40 foot wall onto a crash mat below that they wouldn’t let me do it and then I saw the stunt man do it and thought, do you know what, I’m fine with that, you go ahead!
What’s Jason like?
He’s a good guy and a lot of fun to play. He’s a really headstrong character; he’s got a strong moral compass and is very genuine. When we meet him he’s a newcomer to Atlantis, the audience will discover Atlantis through his eyes. As a person he becomes more defined through his relationship with Pythagoras and Hercules. They are the first real friends he’s ever made as he never really fitted in where he came from.
Jason seems to have a great love story brewing with Princess Ariadne?
This is one of the nicest things for Jason in his story. It’s an interesting one as they come from such different worlds. Jason is courageous and heroic and has all that going on, but when it comes to Ariadne he shows that he’s still a young guy who’s not overly confident and this is when he shows a real sensitivity. Then on the flip side, Ariadne is a princess who’s been raised to become queen and have power over people. Jason is the first guy that comes into her life that she feels anything for so there’s all that to play with. It’s all fun to do, Aiysha is just brilliant, she just gets funnier and funnier and we have loads in common so she makes it really easy.
What’s the best thing about starring in such a big new drama for BBC One?
The best thing is that I get to ride a horse and I have my own sword! In my last job I was working for a promotions agency handing out leaflets on the street and I didn’t have a sword or a horse so this is way better! As an actor you audition all the time and you often have just a couple of days on a project, so to have an opportunity to act every day is just brilliant and it doesn’t feel like work because we laugh so much on set and have so much fun. It’s really so much better than I imagined it would be and I thought it would be pretty great to begin with …
How is it working so closely with Mark Addy and Robert Emms?
It’s great. We get on so well and I think that the relationship between these three characters is one of the most important things in the show, so it just helps so much that we get on as well as we do. It’s intense; we’ve had breakfast, lunch and dinner together for the last 6 months!
How do you think you’ll cope with being recognised when the series starts?
I haven’t really thought about it yet. If people are fans of the show and they recognise me from that, then that’s great and definitely something to look forward to. If I can interact with people that way and speak to them about Atlantis, then I’m more than happy to. It’s a very exciting time now, we’re still shooting, so to get people’s reaction on the street will be interesting and I really hope that people like what we’ve done. The press screening was totally and utterly surreal and nerve wracking - I was excited all week and it wasn’t until I arrived in London that the nerves kicked in. At first all I could do was see myself on screen and couldn’t get away from that but luckily I managed to relax and it was so good to have my brothers there for support who were absolutely lovely and helped me realise how you need to separate yourself from what’s happening on screen.
Where and with whom will you watch the first episode?
My mum wanted to throw a big party but I said ’no way’! So my whole family will be watching it in my flat in London. As they watch it I’ll probably be cowering in the corner to see their reactions. Hopefully it will be easier now I’ve seen it, but definitely no big party!
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