The third season of Black Sails introduces perhaps the most notorious and famous pirate of them all, Black Beard himself. Playing that iconic historical figure is Ray Stevenson, who is no stranger to playing such roles as evident by his portrayals in Rome, King Arthur, The Punisher, Dexter, and Thor. Mr. Stevenson was gracious enough to sit down with us and share his thoughts and motivations behind taking on this role so far from home and some of the pressures that go along with tackling such a larger-than-life icon.
GWW: Were you a fan of the show before being offered role of Edward Teach?
Ray Stevenson: (Mr. Stevenson stated that he previously had seen an episode or two before being offered the role). Upon being offered the role I had previously viewed a episode, and they sent me episode one and two, but it was the making of footage on DVD that they sent that gave me a clear view of their commitment. After viewing that and seeing the full commitment behind the production he termed the offer as a no-brainer. Not only investment talent wise but will it come across on the screen as well and create a world that will allow him to bring that iconic character to life. When you’re offered such an iconic character,it’s not just a shoe-in and “Hey, I can be Blackbeard.”
The question is are they going to facilitate and enable you to be able to bring this character to life, is the infrastructure there around you, and my God it was. Once I watched how everything was fabricated, the set builders, the designers, the armories, it was just a no-brainer. It was just all there, and I was delighted to have the opportunity. There’s a huge responsibility of playing this character because there is going to be expectations from Blackbeard societies and Black Sails fans everywhere. With in that you’re bringing in somebody that is already historically larger than life and its going to cause a upset but you don’t want to break or cause a crack in the fabric of whats already been established. He was one of the founding fathers of the old vanguard so he has to feel part of the village already. What helped, enabled, and made that happen was this wonderful team of actors, producers, directors, and writers. This team and family down there that embraced me and gave me confidence and made it possible for me.
GWW: What kind of research did you do on such an iconic historical figure?
Ray Stevenson: History is often written by the victors and the sensational media. There were these pamphlets that were sent back to London detailing about these pirates and their exploits and escapades and violence and the blood thirstiness of these pirates. This is how these legends grew and how the populace came to know names like Anne Bonny, Blackbeard, Charles Vane, and Rackham. You can draw a correlation to in the U.S. with the Old West and how the papers were going back east to New York and Boston and names like Jesse James, Billy the Kid, and the Hole in the Wall Gang. Would you use these as historical documents, no of course not. But the history is in there somewhere and has to be taken with a grain of salt. So then you emerge yourself into what you’re doing, this script of Black Sails and it’s layered, it’s detailed, and it’s beautiful.
GWW: Do you feel drawn more so to historical period pieces like Rome, King Arthur, Saints and Strangers, and now Black Sails? What is it about those periods that seem to hold great interest for you?
Ray Stevenson: I consider myself a historical nerd and clearly see the correlation between these historical figures and the massive changes that their world was undergoing with the spread of civilization and the reach of England. I look at change and progression my own life and the way the world has changed in the time since I was fifteen. These men ran some of the most complex societies of their time. It is amazing how he is able to view these characters not only as historical figures but as contemporaries in many ways.
GWW: It seems as though most of the characters you portray have a lot of complexity to them, they aren’t simply a villain or hero. Is that really something you look for when deciding which roles to tackle?
Ray Stevenson: There is no such thing as two-dimensional roles, I’m asked often how do you like playing bad guys and my answer is really? There is no such thing as simply a villain or hero, ask anyone who is regarded as a hero and they will tell you that the heroes are your buddies that didn’t come home even though they may have just done something incredibly heroic. By doing something heroic it has a humbling effect on them. Even bad guys justify their acts by believing that they are serving a higher cause and you don’t have to defeat them you have to defeat their higher cause which they believe is in everyone’s benefit. They believe that gives them legitimacy to take out whatever they need to in order to serve this higher cause.
GWW: To veer from Black Sails for just one moment, I would be remiss if i didn’t ask you about your role as Volstagg in Thor: Ragnarok.
Ray Stevenson: I’m still in the dark in regards to that, but I’m absolutely blown away to be apart of something that so influential and integral in a part of our generation in regards to movie watching and this Marvel Universe. Its absolutely incredible and if there’s a place for Volstagg then great, but right now I don’t know. He was great to play. Vikings in space!
It was a pleasure to speak with Mr. Stevenson and feel his infectious passion for his craft. Black Sails‘s previous two seasons were already hard-hitting character pieces set against a changing world and how each character deals with that change in his or her own way. Launching a figure such as Edward “Blackbeard” Teach into that foray combined with the “chops” of Ray Stevenson, and it’s easy to see why season 3 of Black Sails is one of the most anticipated shows of the new year. All hands on deck indeed!
Season 3 of Black Sails premieres on Saturday, January 23, at 9 p.m. EST.