'Legends' star Sean Bean shares some professional 'Firsts & Worsts'
Sean Back is back on TV in TNT’s Legends (premieres Aug. 13, 9 p.m. ET). Based on the book by spy novelist Robert Littell, Legends centers on Martin Odum (Bean), an undercover agent working for the FBI’s Deep Cover Operations division who begins to question his own identity when a stranger suggests that Martin isn’t the man he believes himself to be.
We did a little digging of our own when Bean visited EW for our “Firsts & Worsts” video series. Watch his installment and read a full transcript below.
EW: What was your first role?
SEAN BEAN: I think I was something in The Owl and the Pussycat. It’s like a pantomime. I don’t know what I was doing, but I was painted blue. We had all blue makeup on and I was in a boat. My first professional role was in Romeo and Juliet, and I played Tybalt, who was Romeo’s enemy, in a small production of that in the U.K.
What was your first on-screen death?
You better remind me what I’ve died in. [Laughs] One of the first ones was called Tell Me That You Love Me. It was a  BBC drama, and I think I stabbed myself in the stomach. I’ve still got the knife from that, in fact, in a drawer—in the night drawer.
What’s the worst fan mail to receive?
You get some odd things, people send you weird stuff, and sweets and things like that. If you say you like sweets or chocolate, you suddenly get quite a lot of chocolate arriving in your three letterboxes … I was just recognized now. That’s fun, isn’t it? Somebody just popped their head into the car. I was just looking around [Laughs], and somebody’s head just popped through and said, ‘I’ve seen you in…’ I went [jumps], ‘Ah, f–king hell,’ like, scared they’re a stickup. Some funny experiences with how people approach you, and how they come up to you… and you don’t know what you’re doing.
What’s been your worst audition?
Most of them, really. I’ve been into lots of auditions, and I’m sure I’ve lost a lot of jobs through that, because I’m pretty dreadful at reading. Either one thing or the other, you either know it or you don’t, and I can’t look at the camera and keep talking [as I’m reading pages of dialogue]. I used to walk out and I just knew I hadn’t gotten the job, and I hadn’t gotten the job. [Laughs]
What was your first fight?
I did a film called Caravaggio, a  Derek Jarman film, playing a kind of boxer. There was a lot of fights in that, a lot of punch-ups and stuff like that. I guess that was the first one… And I died in that! Slit my throat. Somebody slit my throat. Caravaggio slit my throat. Ha! Can you believe it?
We’re bringing back all the good memories. I love it. What’s been your worst death scene?
The most unpleasant one was, I did a film called Don’t Say a Word with Michael Douglas, and I was buried at the end—buried alive. We had to keep reshooting it, using it all these kind of different materials and compounds to cover me. It was hot, and it started to smell, and it was horrible. I just saw the light disappearing slowly. That was unpleasant.
We covered your bad auditions, but what was your first one?
I guess that was for drama school. I went to do a three-minute piece of Shakespeare and a three-minute contemporary modern piece to audition for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. I did a piece as Cassius in Julius Caesar, and my friend went in before me, and he did exactly the same piece that I was going to do after him. I could hear him, and I didn’t want to listen to his interpretation. That was pretty nerve-wracking. But as it happens, we both got in.
During an EW Pop Culture Personality Test interview [watch it below], you told us you keep your swords from projects. When was the first time you got to use a sword?
That was probably at drama school. We used to have fencing lessons by this professional Olympic champion fencer—épées, small thin swords. We used to do that twice a week for two hours. Everybody had to do it. So it was good training. I did a great fight with that friend of mine at drama school, and that was with a rapier and dagger. I did quite a lot. I enjoyed it. I won two awards as well.
What is the worst sword you’ve had to use?
I don’t like broad swords. They’re not much fun. A broad sword is just a big chunk of steel, and there’s not much finesse in it, not much skill, I don’t think anyway. You’re just like battering someone to death with them.
What was your first on-screen kiss?
I didn’t really get many parts when I was younger that had one—I was playing baddies, and baddies don’t tend to kiss anybody. It’s just the good guys in films… I suppose Lady Chatterley, there’s lots of kissing in that—amongst other things. [Laughs] It was with Joely Richardson, and we knew each other from drama school, and we’d been in the Royal Shakespeare Company together. Ken Russell directed it, and it was a very good production.
And what has been your worst on-screen kiss then?
I think I was doing a little scene in Sharpe with someone, and kissing them, and it just all seemed wrong: There were horses flying past, and people moving tents, and it was just, “What are we doing here? It’s all wrong.” I won’t say who it was, but it just felt [shudders].
And going back to fan mail: When John Noble came in to do a video interview with us last year, he told us he’d never written a fan letter—but then he remembered a funny story about you. He hadn’t met you before he was cast as your character’s father in The Lord of the Rings, so he mailed a letter to you, just to say hello. Apparently it got mixed in with your fan mail, because six months later, he received a postcard signed by you. Were you aware of that?
[Laughs] I wasn’t actually. Thanks, John. Now I know.