An Interview With Craig Horner
February 5, 2010
Craig Horner stands in no one's shadow. With 10 years' experience, the 26-year-old actor (who just celebrated that birthday on January 24) now leads a talented cast in bringing Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth fantasy novels to life. In fact, there are so many famous names associated with the internationally syndicated Legend of the Seeker fantasy adventure series that it almost seems like the show was destined for success. Sam Raimi ("Spider-man", "Darkman") and Rob Tapert ("Hercules: The Legendary Journeys", "Xena: Warrior Princess") are the executive producers. Bruce Spence ("The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King", "Australia", "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith", "The Matrix Revolutions", "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome") is one of Craig's co-stars.
When we spoke on the phone Craig was still working on the second season, with five more episodes to shoot. How does it feel compared to this point in your schedule last year? I asked. "Pretty grueling," Craig confessed. "When it's all done I can rest and recoup and I can really enjoy that. I guess last year I knew the day I wrapped I would go to the United States."
Not for rest and relaxation. Apparently Craig was sent on a whirlwind press tour to help promote the show. This year he is hoping to appear at a major convention in the United States. He's pretty excited about that as it came up a couple of times. If it happens this will be Craig's first American entertainment event.
With ninth months of intensive shooting for Legend of the Seeker Craig doesn't get much time to do other projects. Still, considering that he is in New Zealand, I could not help but ask: Any chance you might have a role in 'The Hobbit'?
"I'm going to look into that," Craig admitted.
Probably half the actors on the planet intend to look into it but I think he'd make a pretty good Bard the Bowman. That's just my opinion, for what it's worth. Although working full-time on a successful show may limit Craig's chances of winning a role in the Guillermo del Toro movies, he does currently reside in New Zealand. I'm sure he could work something out with the scheduling. And he probably has some good referrals from Bruce Spence (who played the Mouth of Sauron in "The Lord of the Rings") and John Rhys-Davies (Gimli in LoTR).
"John Rhys-Davies guest-starred in an episode just recently," Craig revealed to me. "He's a really great person."
To hear Craig speak about the actors he has worked with through the years, one gets the impression he is an enthusiastic, warm "team player" as we say in the corporate world. He always has a kind word for his fellow cast members. In fact, I'll admit to being a bit surprised to learn Craig had worked with Geoffrey Rush (Captain Barbossa to us "Pirates of the Caribbean" fans) in "Swimming Upstream". I already knew from having watched Legend of the Seeker that Craig had shared screen time with Jay Laga'aia, who played Richard Cypher's friend Chase in the first few episodes.
Jay was one of the stars of Water Rats, an Australian television show that ran for five years. I knew his work mostly from Xena: Warrior Princess and "Star Wars" but Jay has a very long and impressive resume. I couldn't resist asking what it's like to work with Jay. "He's a big family man," Craig told me. With seven children, Jay "just does everything. He has his finger in all the pies. He is playing Mufasa in 'The Lion King' (stage play). Very typical family man." I don't do justice to how much Craig respects his peers, but he speaks very quickly and can tear through facts and anecdotes about people faster than a fan juiced on caffeine and three sleepless nights.
Despite working in Australian television for many years Craig had never met Jay Laga'aia before shooting on Legend of the Seeker began. Being curious about Craig's early work I looked him up on the Web to see what I could find. His first show was called Cybergirl, which lasted 1 season. Craig won the part of 14-year-old Jackson Campbell, the show's second lead after star Ania Stepien, at the age of 17.
Comparing his work on Cybergirl to Legend of the Seeker, Craig mused, "It's almost like it's come full circle again, now it's nearly ten years later since I started."
"It was the first audition I'd ever gone for," he recalled. "Then like a week later I had a lead role in a show that ran for eight months." He realized his enthusiasm for acting very quickly. "It was cool! I loved it!" he all but gushed. "I didn't want to do anything else. The first week, yeah, the first day -- I was like: 'I could do this for a living.'" It's rare to figure out what you really want to do at seventeen, but Craig has never looked back.
"You've got to learn from every job that you can," he continued. We talked a little bit more about his career track, moving back to Legend of the Seeker. Did you feel you were ready for the lead role, I asked him. "Being in the industry for 10 years ... I knew I was ready for it. And then, yeah, it happened."
And it happened in a controversial way, if I may say so. Although I didn't want to draw Craig into the Hercules and Xena discussion, there are so many connections to the previous shows that it's hard for a hard core nutball like me to overlook the obvious. New Zealand's film and television industry is extremely talented and professional but rather small. When "The Lord of the Rings" was gearing up for production I asked Stephen Sears (Co-Executive Producer on Xena) if the movies were having an impact on his show. "About half our crews have already signed on," Steve admitted to me. "The other half will be gone come hiatus."
So Craig, Bruce, and Bridget Regan (Kahlan Amnell) have some pretty well-trodden paths to follow. Everyone has worked with everyone, although Craig is too young to have been part of Shortland Street, New Zealand's other international phenomenon, when the regulars and semi-regulars and many local guest stars for Hercules and Xena were cutting their chops on international television. Herc and Xena fans regularly looked up guest star bios from Shortland Street fan sites, and at conventions and get-togethers we watched Shortland Street videos that had been smuggled out of New Zealand.
It's an absolute shame actor Kevin Smith passed away a few years ago. He would have made a great addition to Legend of the Seeker's cast. And Michael Hurst (Iolaus) has now guest directed an episode for the series -- perhaps he'll do more. So Craig may not stand in anyone's shadow, but I couldn't help but mention at least one name from the "old shows".
What's it like to work with Michael?, I asked him. "We had a great first meeting," Craig said warmly. "He did possibly my favorite, "Denna", (Episode 1.08, introducing a Mord'Sith character played by Jessica Marais). I love working with Michael." Michael Hurst has, to date, directed about five episodes.
But what about Craig's work on the show itself? I must confess I deliberately tried to shy away from the usual fannish questions as those can be found asked and answered all over the Web. Still the SF-Fandom staff had inquired about a couple of things.
Q: As an actor, obviously you incorporate Richard's feeling for Kahlan into just about every scene you do. This season, though, the notion of Richard as being a legitimate heir to Darken Rahl has been introduced, and therefore the temptation to take over and be a real ruler. How much of that do you incorporate into Richard's reactions to various challenges and missions? Are we going to see a darker side to Richard?
Craig: "Yeah...it's interesting. It's almost like every turn there's a whole new challenge for Richard in leadership this year. ... After [defeating Darken Rahl] my mission ... just gets harder. ... Now apparently the Keeper of the Underworld is trying to take over. Richard just does what he does best, which is face the challenge that confronts him."
I was curious about Craig's experience at playing a second Seeker. In the first season, Richard and Kahlan were trapped in an ancient crypt and they were possessed by the spirit of the previous Seeker and his Confessor (who had also fallen in love with each other). Craig enjoyed that episode. In fact, he confessed to me, he had teased the writers about being possessed before the episode was scheduled.
Of playing Richard he says: "I think he's really a greater good kind of character. There's no like evil kind of intense. It's great to play those kind of characters but it's kind of cool."
As we talked I remembered something I had always been curious about. I was thinking of a video teaser from one of Craig's earlier shows, Blue Water High, where he filmed a scene in an office. The set was very modern looking and seemed like a real office somewhere. There were pictures on the walls, notes on the desk, and knick knacks all over the place. Film and television shows often dress up their modern sets immaculately but fantasy shows often have rather Spartan settings. You usually see pottery stacked in a corner, wooden dishes, etc. The props just don't seem as plentiful and diverse as in modern shows because we have thousands of factories turning out stuff for real life but hardly anything producing stuff for fantasy.
So I asked him what it's like, to go from working in a modern setting to a fantasy set where everything has to be made up. "There is something about when you go on a set," Craig replied thoughtfully. "You look behind and you see stilts. It's not real. When you're a kid you go on and you think 'Oh my god!' You fill in the blanks with the imagination. Sometimes you lean on a wall and it shakes." He still does that. He just puts himself into the character and tunes out real life.
But sometimes real life intrudes on the set. They often use plastic swords for much of their work. "One time," Richard said when I asked him about on-set injuries, "I smacked myself just above my left eye with my real sword. I was trying to give an 'eye line' off camera for Bridget and Bruce." Ouch.
My fellow fans were curious about what it's like for Craig to work with Bridget Regan, his beautiful co-star. There is a lot of chemistry between Richard and Kahlan. In fact, I mentioned seeing some online chatter about a love scene in the woods. "Oh yeah," Craig said, almost chuckling. "It took me and Bridget rolling around in the flowers and the leaves. I think I was confessed by another Confessor." However, he adds, "we're comfortable with that kind of stuff .... You're kind in the mind of the character. It's kind of like, 'I'm Richard and I love Kahlan a lot.'"
Indeed, in the books, I pointed out, Richard and Kahlan get married. Will that happen on the show? Craig is not sure. He thinks the writers are keeping that open. In fact, the marriage would not happen for several seasons if they continue to use the books as a guide. I asked him how far the show might run. Should people think about 11 seasons (because there are 11 books)? He was careful to say only, "So far it looks pretty good. My gut feeling is that we'll go at least another season."
And plenty of time to get settled in to New Zealand. I wondered how well he's doing there. "I love my little place here," he assured me. "It's great." So here's hoping he stays long enough to need a larger place.
Craig Horner may stay busy but he's got the looks that keep the ladies watching -- I know that from comments I've heard. But he doesn't take his shirt off much. Do you get requests for shirtless scenes?, I asked curiously. "I told the writers I don't want this to be like a Baywatch in the Woods," Craig replied. You know, I probably should not have asked that question, given how often I criticize the film and television industry for not taking the fantasy genre seriously. At least we have one actor who wants to focus on the character and not the body.
Still, I was asked to pass on one more cheesecake question (by a woman): What's it like to work with all the girls? I don't know if he'll ever match the James Bond legend for drawing in beautiful women, but the Seeker seems to have his share of lovely ladies to share adventure time with. Craig laughed -- almost shyly -- admitting to me, "It's great. � It's fun. It's a lot of fun."
Star Trek fans have been excited to learn that Jolene Blalock will have a recurring role on the show. I asked if any other "big names" are scheduled in the near future. That sort of question puts an actor on the spot but Craig handled it politely. "We're getting a lot of fresh new actors, actors from the States," he said thoughtfully. "Sometimes quality actors are here in New Zealand, sometimes in Australia, sometimes in Los Angeles. ... A lot of exciting people on the shows."
Speaking of the fans, Craig mentioned he has not had an opportunity to meet any fans from the United States. Hopefully, he will soon have his first opportunity to do so, although he said the cast receive "fan mail from a lot of countries. There's just not a lot of chances to meet fans." I think that will change once the American convention circuit gets its first taste of Craig Horner.
In fact, he will soon have some free time on his hands and he's not too concerned. When I asked him if he was considering any other projects, he said: "I'll let the universe move through me. There might be some great projects at the time when I get there. ... Otherwise I might work on some music for a while. Just relax as well and get my energy back."
WRITE TO:Disney-ABC Domestic Television Publicity500 S. Buena Vista StreetBurbank, CA 91521-4299ATTN: "Legend of the Seeker" (Craig Horner)