Tut Miniseries Makes the Legendary Boy King the Center of Attention

Michael Logan
Jan Thijs/SPIKE

Tut, Avan Jogia, Ben Kingsley, highlights, TVGM

Scientists and historians can’t seem to agree on how King Tutankhamun died—theories range from chariot accident and hippo attack to sickle-cell disease and political assassination—but how the Egyptian pharaoh lived is an even bigger mystery.

That hasn’t stopped Spike from launching its most ambitious and priciest project yet, the six-hour miniseries Tut, starring Avan Jogia (Twisted) as the legendary boy king and Oscar winner Ben Kingsley as Tut’s chief adviser, the wily, self-serving Grand Vizier Ay. (The story continues Monday and Tuesday.)

“This is entertainment,” Jogia says, “not a docuseries on History channel. We certainly take liberties with how Tut’s story went down, but within those liberties, we make his life, and a 3,000-year-old civilization, feel very real.”

With a rumored $50 million budget, the saga has “scenes with 800 extras that are completely insane,” says Jogia, who dropped 17 pounds playing the physically frail Tut—seven on purpose “to look sickly” and 10 more due to the rough action sequences and 110-degree Moroccan heat. “I didn’t have to act weak,” he admits with a laugh. “I was weak.” On the upside, “learning to shoot arrows and ride chariots was a boy dream come true.”

Alas, Tut’s boyhood was more like a nightmare. He became king at age 9, upon the suspicious death of his father, and married his sister to maintain the royal bloodline. Surrounded by conspirators, he died at 19. “It’s such an amazing story, but the irony is we only know about Tut because of the discovery of his tomb [in 1922] and all the riches that they found there,” Jogia notes. “Otherwise, he’d just be one of many forgotten pharaohs.”

Truth be told, the actor found some riches of his own. “Every set, every costume, every prop made for the production was gorgeous and looked so authentic,” Jogia says. “I maybe stole a couple of pieces of Tut’s jewelry for a souvenir. Maybe. Possibly. OK, I definitely took advantage of the five-finger discount!”

Tut, Miniseries premiere, Sunday, 9/8c, Spike