At London Comic-Con, Hollywood News Source was lucky enough to be part of the press roundtable held for The Shannara Chronicles star Poppy Drayton.
The Shannara Chronicles is based on the fantasy book series by Terry Brooks and has been translated for TV by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar – the same team behind Smallville.
Check out the interview below.
|QUESTION||Were you aware of the source material? Had you read any of The Shannara Chronicles beforehand?|
|Poppy||I must confess I didn’t know Terry’s books before I had to audition for it, but as soon as I got the audition I went and did all my research and looked into his work, and the books were fantastic. I read the books and also got the audiobooks. I was drowning myself and reading as much as I could have, completely immersing myself in his world. It is incredible as I am sure you all know.|
|QUESTION||Coming up on the next season, do you think you’ll end up possibly doing some flashbacks to the year earlier detailed in the previous book? Because it was a brave choice to start with the second book I thought.|
|Poppy||I can’t say much about the second season, in fact I can’t say anything at all. Sorry to stump that one down now but I am not allowed to say.|
|QUESTION||What was it like working on Downton Abbey?|
|Poppy||Aww again amazing.|
|QUESTION||They are really nice people, I used to work there.|
|Poppy||Oh did you, they really are the loveliest people. They automatically just made me feel so welcome and so at home which is nice when you go on to a programme like Downton Abbey, because it is obviously quite daunting. It has such a huge following but they were so lovely and everyone was so nice and they made me feel at home.|
|QUESTION||So when you found out that you had an audition for The Shannara Chronicles, were you already aware that the show would be airing on MTV?|
|Poppy||Yes I was aware, when I got the breakthrough – when you join an agency, your agent gets you the breakdowns for each job so I knew it was going to be on MTV. I knew it was going to be Terry Brooks’ books and I knew it was going to be filmed in New Zealand. I don’t think I knew that any other actors were attached so I knew little bits.|
|QUESTION||Was it surprising at all that MTV would do this kind of show?|
|Poppy||It was actually, it was one of these things that you did notice when you read the e-mail, it was an odd pairing those two names but I think what makes this show so special is the fact that it is a slightly unique un-obvious choice. You would never think to go to MTV to create a fantasy fiction series, and they have done a remarkable job and they have put so much time, money and attention on this series that I think you can see how well it has paid off. Visually the show is stunning, it is film like, everyone says after watching it that it takes after The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit more so than other TV fantasy shows that have a lower budget and pay less attention to the CGI. It seems a much larger scale and a much higher budget for a TV series than it is.|
|QUESTION||You have obviously connected with the world, but I am curious as to what it was about the character that you found especially interesting?|
|Poppy||Well I just fell in love with her really as soon as I started reading it, every time you read a script you naturally want to identify with the character because ultimately you want to see yourself playing that character but as soon as I started reading it, more so than other scripts that I have read, I felt so connected to her and her journey.
Her desire to find strength and her vulnerability and she’s this wonderfully well rounded character because she’s trying so hard to be strong and she’s got all these insecurities and these doubts, as we all do that’s what made her so personable to me is that I can really see myself in her and hopefully lots of young girls can see themselves in her.
I think that’s what is so lovely about her journey, is that she starts off as this very sheltered, very precious mollycoddled little girl in this palace and then she goes on this journey and she becomes this strong powerful warrior and has to save the world. Which is a huge task, especially on such young shoulders so for her to take on that challenge and succeeding at it, I think it is absolutely remarkable and if I can get the message across to young girls that they can… you know if they can be inspired by her story and know that they shouldn’t feel inferior in anyway regardless of know because of their sex or because of their gender (laughs) that means the same thing but if they feel inferior for any reason they shouldn’t and they should try to not feel like that and try and push forward anyway because everyone has insecurities and everyone feels as though they have barriers they need to overcome and we can just all do our best to try to break through those I think.
|QUESTION||Your character is really great for female empowerment and challenging what the role she is assumed to take. Do you think it is great that she persevered and did the competition anyway even though it was deemed not be for her?|
|Poppy||Of course, hell yeah! I think that was the first bit that grabbed me in the script. In the opening section she is running the gauntlet, which is this competition which is exclusively for the males in the society so it is a massive, massive moment for her just to be taking part let alone the fact that she then goes on to win and become one of the chosen few who get to look after the Ellcrys, so it is a huge moment for her. Obviously she is doing this while her Grandfather the King had no idea she was planning it. It is an enormous moment for her and I think that is a real changing point for her because it makes her realise that she is capable of what she feels she is capable of, even though everyone else around her completely dismisses her and doesn’t think she is able to, she fights against all prejudice and proves them wrong.|
|QUESTION||So you were talking about insecurities, were there any personal insecurities you had to overcome during the filming?|
|Poppy||Well I’m not terribly good on a horse (laughs) so that was a personal insecurity. I hadn’t done any horse riding before I got out there (New Zealand) so we had three weeks before we started and we did horse riding every day, we did sword fighting every day, we did stage combat, we had a personal trainer who was this ex cage fighter who trained us up and made us really staunch and bulky, and pretty badass by the end of it. The horse riding though was a bit of a challenge for me, I also fell off the horse which didn’t go down very well as everyone was very worried about me but I was fine and survived to tell the tale with a few bruises and patches and scrapes.|
|QUESTION||Obviously elves are a very staple part of the fantasy genre but I am curious what do you think makes the elves of The Shannara Chronicles particularly unique, what makes them stand out?|
|Poppy||Well our series is set in the future, so for one they are not your old ancient elven creatures as such. This is post-apocalyptic, so this is set thousands of years in the future so I think there is elements of our human world that we know and live in today in their world which is quite interesting. There are certain bits that you notice and think, “Ooh I recognise that,” like, there is an iPad for example in one of the scenes and you go, “Oh” as a viewer, well I imagine you go “oh” as a viewer because that is how I imagine I would react if I was a viewer. There are little things like that which set it apart from your everyday, not your everyday I shouldn’t say that but your other things that incorporate elves.|
|QUESTION||You mentioned John Rhys-Davies, what is it like working with the rest of the cast? It seems like a fantastic team.|
|Poppy||It really is, I know everyone says that and they all say that you are a family and you bond and everyone does, but I feel like we bond the most, if I can say that. We did just become this huge family, he’s (John Rhys-Davies) the most incredible man and actor obviously and someone I looked up to hugely so finally getting the chance to meet him and work alongside him was incredible. He would sort of take you aside and drop little pearls of wisdom in your ear so you just felt like you were this wonderful sponge on set every day, and you were just trying to soak up all his knowledge because he is such a temple of wisdom he’s amazing.|
|QUESTION||Can you give us an example?|
|Poppy||One of the things he taught me was he hated my signature (laughs) he didn’t like the fact that my signature was really squiggly because he said you know when a fan wants your signature they are going to want to be able to recognise your name and I was like, OK this is my signature (writes in the air) and he went *does an impression* “Well you read what that says at all, that doesn’t say Poppy Drayton” so I was like OK John I’ll go home and practice and do a different one (laughs). That is a really poor example because he also taught me lots of important things too but that is just the first thing that came to mind.|
|QUESTION||What was your favourite day of shooting? Was there a particular day when you were on horseback or you were fighting?|
|Poppy||Gosh that is really hard, that is a nice question because there were so many. There was a scene in the first episode where I am in a waterfall and I’m sort of washing myself, and it is all very quiet and there is no one else there and bizarrely even though it was one of those scenes that make you go oh god (makes a face showing apprehension) I’m going to have to do that, I’m going to have to be pretty naked in front of some people and that’s embarrassing, but actually it turned out to be the loveliest day. There was a really minimal crew and there was something about being under that cascade of water in the middle of New Zealand pretty bare and just thinking “Oh my goodness this is quite remarkable and strange and wonderful in a weird way. So yeah maybe that day.|
|QUESTION||I know you can’t talk about the details of the second season but I am curious how do you feel about the fact that you are going to have the opportunity to keep this story going.|
|Poppy||Again I can’t say too much about that I think without getting into trouble, and I don’t want to get into trouble so I’m going to be quiet.|
|QUESTION||Having read the novels now or some of the novels, how close do you think the TV series is to the novels?|
|Poppy||I think it is a really interesting one because Terry (author of the novels) was really behind us all the way, he understands that they are two completely separate mediums and what a viewer or reader demands in one can’t demand the same thing in the TV series. Because we don’t have the same luxury of time and you don’t have, well actually I think time is the main thing people are going to want things faster, and they are going to want something more dynamic, something more dramatic essentially because they don’t have a book you can pick up and put down and do things at your own pace. So there are quite a few differences in our series to the books. One of the things that I really enjoyed about the TV series was that Amberle’s character really grew in quite a… I mean she is a lot more of a badass in the TV series than she is in the books. She is a beautiful, beautiful character in the books but she is a lot softer and she is a lot more gentle and that’s beautiful and I really wanted to keep that essence of her when we started working on the TV series because that is such an integral part of her character, but in the series they really wanted to show her as an empowering young woman at the same time and I think they really found the balance there, and I tried my hardest to find that balance to in order to keep the nature of the character alive and make her that bit stronger and that bit more 21st century.|
|QUESTION||You spoke earlier about how The Shannara Chronicles is set in a post-apocalyptic setting and there are things from our universe. It is something that is only vaguely alluded to in the first few books, do you think it was the right decision to make that a bit more blatant in the TV show?|
|Poppy||I think so just because as a viewer those are the little details that you really appreciate while watching and identify with. Whenever you are watching anything all you want to do is say, “Oh I do that” or “I react that way” or “That is exactly how I feel”. You long to feel some sort of connection with what you are watching. So I think it does help and I think the more of that the better.|
|QUESTION||Obviously you have been interacting here with the fans at Comic-Con, I am curious as to what the questions they have, what are the things they always seem to want to know about?|
|Poppy||They are all very interested in my little Elven ear tips and I saw a few people with them on and I was like, “I didn’t even get to keep mine. Where did you get yours?” So yeah they are very interested in the ears, very interested in how long it takes for the ears to get put on and what they are made out of and that sort of thing. Also what is New Zealand like, it is so fun to answer their questions and it is great to see the fans face to face. That is what you are doing it for, that is who you are doing it for. So to really see the excitement on their faces and to see their wonder, their desire to learn more about your show is just such a precious, precious thing and something I am extremely grateful for.|
|QUESTION||Filming in New Zealand, do you do the fan thing yourself? Have you been around and found Hobbiton and all those kind of things yourself?|
|Poppy||Well I didn’t, that was the one place I didn’t manage to get to. I ended up staying in New Zealand for a little bit longer after we finished filming because I realised that although we have been to all these different locations that I hadn’t actually seen much of the country. So it got to the end of filming and I thought I can’t leave, I haven’t done New Zealand! I have to go and do New Zealand.
So I went down to the South island and I did a sky dive and went on a helicopter trip and did all these things then I felt at least then I sort of calmed my urge to see everything and to do everything.
|QUESTION||You’ve mentioned fans always want to know about the ears, this is the perfect opportunity you have the world’s press here (Poppy laughs) answer it now, put it to bed.|
|Poppy||They are made of silicon and they’re disposable so every day you get a new pair of ears which is pretty great. They take about 45 minutes to apply, I mean I can take you through the whole process if you would like. They are glued on to your ear and then they have to be taken off at the end of the day. Mind you John (Rhys -Davies) would always be very naughty and just grab his ears at the end of the day and just rip them off which he would take much delight in because it would really annoy the makeup girls who were ready with their alcohol to take it off naturally and do it the proper way. I did take after him sometimes and just rip them off if I was feeling particularly rebellious that day. It was wonderful, there was another thing they used to do in the water, they (ears) didn’t really react well in the water, they would sort of droop and become these little puppy dog elven ears which wasn’t really the look that MTV was going for, so we had some emergency ear moments.|
|QUESTION||With the DVD and Blu-Ray coming out for Season One shortly, are there any cool extras that we should be looking out for?|
|Poppy||You’ll have to get it and see (everyone laughs). But that’s out on the 6th of June which is coincidentally the day before my birthday which is lovely I know, what a little treat.|
|QUESTION||Is there anything else you are working on?|
|Poppy||I just finished working on The Little Mermaid which is an independent American film which was fabulous I got to be in a full prosthetic mermaid tail for three weeks basically and got to go to a mermaid park and swim around. I did have scenes out of the water, don’t worry I’m not under the water for the whole film. People ask did you do your scenes underwater and I ask how do you even do that? But no I was above ground with legs for a lot of it|
|QUESTION||Now that (The Little Mermaid) is obviously a story that has captured people’s imaginations for centuries, what do you think it is about that seems so timeless that keeps us coming back to it?|
|Poppy||Oh gosh that is a very good question. I don’t know, I think it is maybe the fascination with mermaids, every little girl well I know I did had a fascination with mermaids and always dreamt of being a mermaid and I know my sister did to (points to her) and she’s there agreeing with me. Yeah I think every little girl wants to be a mermaid and it is such a sweet story. Ours doesn’t follow the story exactly in the Disney version but there is a real beauty to the storyline that they tell.|
|QUESTION||And when you’ve been part of a big production series like this, is it a different experience to go and work on a small independent film?|
|Poppy||It is yes, it is quite different. Obviously the budget is smaller so you all have to galvanise together, there is a real sense that you’re in the trenches and you’re doing it, you’re battling against the elements and all sorts so there is much more of a “We need to do this by hook or by crook, and get this done,” whereas on TV or on a larger scale production you have more money and slightly more time sometimes so there are different things that take priorities over others but they are both wonderful in their own way.|
|Have you got a message to fans of the show people who are excited to be buying the DVD/Blu-ray release and can’t wait to get even more of it?|
|Poppy||Just thank you for watching it and I hope you enjoyed it and I hope you continue to enjoy the series.|