Troy: Fall Of A City

The story of a love that threatened to bring an empire to its knees

Interview with Jonas Armstrong (Menelaus)

By many accounts he's a good king: he does a lot for his people, he's well read, he's intelligent. It’s fair to say he’s a better king than he is a husbandJonas Armstrong
Date: 14.02.2018     Last updated: 14.02.2018 at 20.53
Category: BBC One; Drama

Describe Menelaus to us.
Menelaus is the King of Sparta. By many accounts he's a good king: he does a lot for his people, he's well read, he's intelligent.

It’s fair to say he’s a better king than he is a husband. When you play a character you always have to think about the perspective of your character. From that point of view, this is a man who feels he essentially does everything for his wife Helen - he tries to make her happy and as content as she can be, even though she is living a different life to what she would have been if she wasn't in Sparta. When she leaves him and elopes to Troy he feels incredibly wronged and becomes a man who is hell-bent on revenge and on getting his wife back.

Why do you think Helen leaves him?
Helen's personality is much more free spirited and bohemian than the strictness of Menelaus court in Sparta allows for. When she meets Paris she gets a taste of what life could be about. A more full life and a more expressive life.

How do you think Helen leaving Menelaus changes him?
As it’s so public he takes it as the ultimate humiliation. The waging of war comes more from [Menelaus brother and fellow Greek King] Agamemnon though. He's the war man - the great leader - and he knows that Troy commands a lot of the trade routes. I think the Greeks do use Helen leaving with Paris as an excuse to go to war - it's a lot to do with expansion from the Greek perspective. Menelaus and Agamemnon’s father never would have gone to war with Troy, but now he’s dead Agamemnon wants to invade. He wants to take control of the Dardanelles and that's why Troy’s such a significant and important prize, as well as winning Helen back.

What preparation did do you for your role?
I got the role two months prior to filming and started straight away. And obviously we knew that we'd have to be physically capable and work in the gym so myself and the Greek guys plus Paris and Hector all spent a lot of hours in the gym trying to look as good and 'battle ready' as we could. To play these parts you have to look like you can fight. You have to look physically capable. It’s kind of a plus for when you get a job like this, because essentially what are you getting paid for is keeping fit!

What are the differences between the Greeks and the Trojans?
When it comes to the war I think the Trojans are more organised, and the Greeks a lot more vicious, a lot more barbaric. But then again that's probably down to the circumstances - the Trojans are sitting in their Citadel, whilst we the Greeks are in camps and are desperate in a way. They're cold and hungry, and their  families are hundreds of miles across the sea. They are there for this sole purpose, so when they get to fight they're going to try and make it as quick and as vicious as possible and teach the Trojans a lesson. They have to take every opportunity they can to make their mark.

What do you think audiences will enjoy about the show?
I think everybody's familiar with at least some parts of the story of Troy. Achilles, for example - everybody's heard of Achilles, and probably of Hector and Helen of Troy. But there’s so much more to discover, and it's not been told for a while. There was a film 15 years or so ago now, but there's never been a series. It’s never been told in this way, across eight hours of television before.