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The Bastard Executioner: Stephen Moyer on Sons of Anarchy comparisons: 'I'm Clay'

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James Minchin/FX

EW was the first outlet to visit the Wales set of The Bastard Executioner, FX’s much-anticipated medieval drama that debuts Tuesday. Here, star Stephen Moyer — who plays Milius Corbett — talks about working for creator Kurt Sutter and how his wife and former True Blood star Anna Paquin feels about his 14th century look.

What did you think about Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter doing a period drama like this?

I had heard about it probably a couple years ago, and I knew nothing about it other than its name, and that it was medieval.  That probably goes for most people. Nobody really knew what it was, or what it was about, or just the fact that it was The Bastard Executioner. Truthfully I had no idea that when we met for coffee in January that it was going to be about this. We had finally found a window in our schedules when we could meet at the same time, and it led to this, so I was very happy. Most of the stuff that was coming my way was what I had done before. For me to get the chance to work with Kurt was very fortuitous.

Your character is an advisor?

I am kind of a soldier who has elevated himself within the ranks to a position of power within the castle, and I’m the right hand to Lord Ventris, whose shire this is. He’s married a girl, the princess of the shire, and he and I, we’re soldiers together, and I was his corporal or sergeant, if you’d like, and he was the leader of the army. After the Scottish War, we joined together, and he’s become the Lord of Ventrishire, as it’s been called, and I’ve become his chamberlain. So when he is no more, as you will find out, I sort of start positioning myself to keep my role, because there’s no reason really for me to stay anymore other than she’s got nobody else in her ear who can show her how to run the shire. So I’m angling to stay within the shire.

And you have a relationship with Lee Jones’ character [who plays the bastard executioner] as well? 

Yes. Nobody else knows in the whole world other than my captain, Lord Ventris, that he fought for us in the Scottish War.  When he turns up in town with this new brand on his face as an executioner, I know that’s not who he really is, but I’m the only person who knows he isn’t who he says he is.

Are you a source of conflict?

Yes, I’m his nemesis. 

Does The Bastard Executioner feel similar to Sons of Anarchy?

I tweeted a picture of me on my horse and I said, “This is my Harley Davidson.” If you actually analyze it, a very simple first look, I’m Clay, and he’s [Lee Jones’ character] Jax. You can see that. But if you think about it, you can do that with any drama, really, and all the guys under him are his team, his gang, and I suppose in a funny way my boys who are working under me are an amalgam of the Sons boys, but they’re also antagonists. There’s definitely connections, and you see rhythms within his storytelling, which lead to Shakespearean tragedy in the same way that Sons was Hamlet with leathers. There were definitely traces of that within it.

Is there a Shakespearean character that represents your character best?

Probably Iago. The advisor capacity is the most obvious one to choose. He’s a little bit more interesting. Not that Iago isn’t interesting, because obviously he is, but my character doesn’t have the jealousy, but he does have that strain of lying to succeed, and push on beyond what would ordinarily be his position in society.

What do you think about Kurt’s ability to write a period piece?

He’s extraordinary. One of the things I like about Los Angeles is that you’re allowed to be who you want to be. So you’re not constricted by your past, or by your place in society, or whether you’re working class, or upper class. L.A. doesn’t care. So if you turn up and you are who you want to be, L.A. accepts it in a funny way. So I don’t know this for sure, but I’m not sure that Kurt probably looked like he looks now — I’m going to pick a number — say 20 years ago. I don’t know either way, but he has become the person that he wants to be, and my guess is that underneath that exterior that you see and the world sees is an academic, smart, incredibly bright scholar who was always under there, and just looks different to the way we think scholars look.

How does [Moyer’s wife] Anna Paquin like the beard?

She’s into it.  She’s surprisingly embraced the whole thing, and the grey. It’s lovely. We’re really loving Wales, and I think it’s been really nice for Anna to get away from L.A. and live more simply, in the best possible way.

Did you watch Sons of Anarchy?

I watched the whole thing. We were obsessed. Anna and I were obsessed, and Kurt offered us a couple of roles in the last season of Sons, and we couldn’t make it happen because of our schedules. I was going to play a pimp and she was going to play a whore.  We were trying to make it work. We were dead into it.  The thing was we agreed to have some time off after the end of True Blood, and we had already arranged it. We just couldn’t do it, but we are obsessed with Sons, and it was date night telly for us in that macabre and weird, strange way that Sons of Anarchy became I think.

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RELATED VIDEO: EW News: Ed Sheeran joins ‘Sons of Anarchy’ creator’s medieval drama series

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