On a show like Starz’s “Black Sails,” the language is often a little saltier than that but, thankfully, this show is not just about the language but is driven more by the intoxicatingly good storylines that will propel the appealing cast into its second season this weekend.
And who knew a sexy pirate drama like this would have its share of LGBT characters? One of the larger relationship stories of the first season was between Eleanor Guthrie (Hannah New) and Max (Jessica Parker Kennedy) who started the series out in each other’s arms but were emotionally estranged by the end of that first season and may see their power shift in the new episodes.
I sat down recently with New to talk about how Eleanor is going to deal with a new threat in the form of a monster of a pirate, whether there’s hope for a reconciliation between her character and Max and what she likes about Eleanor’s outfits on the period drama.
Moving into the second season, this new pirate, Ned Low (Tadhg Murphy), is not a very nice chap! Is her biggest complication?
Hannah New: I think it’s the most fundamental threat that she can come up against, which is directly a threat on her life and I think can that really raises the stakes for Eleanor. So she really has to start kind of changing the game plan. You know, she had the consortium of making a nice little business carrying on and then trying to rekindle and now it’s like, no I need to f***ing survive.
What I found really interesting about the presence of someone who's that brutal is it kind of re-represents the image of who the pirates were in London, what the tabloid press in London was doing to kind of fear monger as you see in the way press can function at any time period. There is this constant sense of creating fear to justify fighting these people, these monsters.
I just said something earlier, which I thought was really true, is that you've seen all of these pirates before but it's always been this big theme of are they men or are they monsters? And then you get someone like New Low who's a f***ing monster. He's a brutal, inhumane thing who is out for himself. He's the real criminal among criminals, you know.
I think you suddenly realize that Eleanor doesn't want to accept someone like that. This isn't a free for all. This isn't something where any complete psychopath can come in and try and lord their power over it. So she's not going to give him favorable rates.. She's not going to let him be part of this community. And so it really does exemplify the fact that pirates are human, and the pirate community that were based in Nassau were trying to create something that goes beyond this vision of these absolute brutes.
When I first read the first few episodes of season 2, I was like, 'oh my gosh. She's going to die. She's going to die. She's going to die. She's going to die. She's doing to die.' You know, so she really is grasping at straws.
Who does she have to lean on, because Vane is there but she doesn’t trust him since he’s just out for himself as anybody else.
So does she have anybody or will we see her lean on anybody as she’s just really that stuck?
HN: You know, she is so alone and there’s no one she can really trust anymore and I think she puts a lot of eggs in one basket. She has put a lot of emotional energy into Flint’s vision and then into the things that he’s offering. I think there is a point where she suddenly realizes that perhaps this was an error because he’s an enigma, and I think the audience knows that. The audience sees how he isn’t this moral, figurehead. He’s very complicated. Eleanor’s naïve in that respect, I think.
So she's constantly having to fight to become more and more independent and become more self-sufficient, standing on her own two feet in regards to her own safety. Being completely alone is a really interesting thing to play as an actress because you suddenly realize every single person that she has contact with, there's some need of connection that goes much, much deeper than just a normal interaction where you're sitting and your laurels and know you have your back. Someone has your back.
And she and Max aren’t necessarily in the best of places either so I guess she won’t be leaning on her anytime soon.
HN: I think the fact is that Max, as much as they come from being apart from each other, that emotional connection is gone. What’s still there is this kind of deep, ingrained intimacy and that hurt is still very present and their actions even though they’re not directly in each other’s presence, can really affect each other.
Max in season 2 is an equal rival, which isn't the case with of any of the characters. It isn't the case with any of the other pirates, any of the other men. But Max has a key into what this world is about, through Eleanor, through the intimacy they've shared over a long period of time, and Eleanor knows that she can use that and Max has this knowledge and she's the embodiment of knowledge is power and she knows she's going to be able to use it in ways that will position herself, if not above Eleanor then on par with Eleanor.
Despite all this, is there any hope that we might see them together a little bit more?
HN: Well, what I can say is that it’s that kind of deep emotional connection that doesn’t just disappear and that has to go through those phases of anger and hate and complete revulsion in a way. I mean, anytime they’re in the same room, it’s like that physical feeling of like wanting to throw up. It’s like seeing that ex who makes your skin crawl. Do you know what I mean?
I think we all know what that feels like.
HN: Yeah. We all know what that feels like but at the same time, there’s part of that connection where you think, ‘I don’t want that just to be nothing because you had such a deep access to who I am. I don’t want that to mean nothing.’ I think at a certain point, they’ll have to work together otherwise, they’ll be a demise of them both. Either that or they kill each other. I think they’ll probably will have a battle to the death and then that will be that.
You had your challenges in season one but do you feel like you were challenged differently in season two?
HN: Definitely. I felt like the plot really starts to move. I felt like we had to reestablish who these characters were and the world that we were presenting in season 1. You start to see what these characters have to do in order to survive on this island. Each episode, there’s always something that kind of undermines the plans that people have put in place. We’re all saying ‘That was a waste of time wasn’t it?’ And you know, all of those meetings, all of the negotiations, for it all to be thrown away in one minute, and I think, for the audience, that keeps everybody on their toes and as an actor, it keeps me on my toes.
Do you like Eleanor’s outfits because they still look very cinched you’ve got to hold yourself very well in them.
HN: I absolutely love it. I’m really glad I’m not wearing a corset because there are times when I have had to wear a corset and you can’t do anything in a corset and I don’t think Eleanor would subscribe to that. She needs to be able to run around, run her business. So for me, I think that that’s the really interesting aspect of how she gets to completely turn her nose up at societal norms and their costumes. I mean, I love her costume.
And I like season 2. I got to do a little bit of horse riding and I was like, I don't think Eleanor would have learned to ride sidesaddle. Who would have taught her to ride sidesaddle? So we had to kind of design a pair of kind of trouser, culottes things, kind of like what I'm wearing today. And so yeah, she's jumping on and off horses, riding across the island. For me, the more action type of stuff I can get, the better.
“Black Sails” kicks off Season 2 on Saturday at 10pm on Starz.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.