‘Knightfall’: Ed Stoppard on King Philip’s Season 2 Transformation & Arc (VIDEO)

Knightfall 1
Larry Horricks/History

History’s drama Knightfall never has a dull moment when it comes to its cast of historical characters. Whether its the Knights Templar or King Philip’s (Ed Stoppard) court, there’s no shortage of action.

Since Season 2 began, though, King Philip has gone through quite the transformation as actor Stoppard embodied the character’s emotional and physical changes. The decorum fans saw from him in Season 1 is less polite in an exclusive clip from Season 2’s episode “Faith” airing Monday, April 8.

The 'Knightfall' Cast Teases Mark Hamill, More Blood & Action in Season 2See Also

The 'Knightfall' Cast Teases Mark Hamill, More Blood & Action in Season 2

The History series is boasting a lot of changes in its second season, including more authenticity, gore, and a switch in focus.

Ahead of the new episode’s debut, watch as the leader questions De Nogaret’s (Julian Ovenden) judgment when he presents Gawain (Pádraic Delaney) to him.

We spoke to Stoppard about the new season as well as his character. The actor also talked about working with Mark Hamill and more.

King Philip’s quest in the show is fairly clear, but what should fans expect as the rest of the season progresses?

Ed Stoppard: Well, they can expect him to continue on his path of revenge and retribution against Landry (Tom Cullen) specifically, and the Templars more generally. I think the show as a whole — we maintain and then ramp up that kind of tension and increase the stakes. There’s a kind of inevitability I think of these two forces coming together.

I’ve felt like this season it would be nice to see a man who was kind of liberated in a way — kind of unshackled. I felt [King Philip] was kind of hamstrung in the first season somehow — some of it sort of consciously, some of it due to circumstances, some of it due to the kind of weight of history and expectation that was on his shoulders quite possibly in his own mind as opposed to reality.

(Credit: Larry Horricks/History)

I think he was trying to conform some kind of monarchic ideal in the first season… representing the nobility of the crown and all of that… It’s almost like he’s found his vocation, he sort of found his calling. The way he was leading his life as the monarch in Season 1 was not true to himself and the Philip you see in the second season is kind of more true to who he is. It’s darker, it’s more violent, self-centered — it’s not a nice person. He was nicer guy in Season 1, but I think he’s a more authentic guy in Season 2.

Your appearance in this season has changed drastically since the first one, does that help inform your performance?

It does, actually. Davina [Lamont], the makeup designer, and Diana [Cilliers], the costume designer — they both were given [time] to start from scratch if they wanted to, and Davina had this look, and I said, “Yeah, great, if you can sell it, yeah, great.” And she’s wonderful, so she sold it. It immediately gives the character a different feel. Certainly for me, you feel like a different personality, and actually I think there was some confusion on social media as to whether a new actor was playing King Philip, such was my transformation [Laughs].

Stoppard in Season 1 of Knightfall (Credit: Larry Horricks/History)

My drama teachers would be so pleased to hear that I’m literally the man of at least two faces — it’s not a thousand. But that was very helpful, and costumes as well, which just became a bit more robust and kind of structured and warlike and bellicose…. Diana and her amazing team made all of these fabulous layers, some of them like armor, some of them more like ceremonial of leather, metal… It was really amazing craftsmanship… That stuff is very helpful because… if someone sticks linebacker shoulder pads made of leather and metal on you, you just feel different. You feel like the kind of guy who can punch someone in the face if necessary or cut their tongue out.

What’s the best part about playing the antagonist?

It is fun to play. It’s fun to play characters who have strong impulses and motivations, and I think in the second season those were much stronger for him. He was much less equivocal, much less kind of diffident about stuff… There was a kind of stronger story for me to play this time with stronger intentions.

He’s the antagonist, I think you can say that, although his actions would not have been out of place or uncommon in a monarch who found themselves in a position that Philip finds himself in. He becomes ruthless, but ruthlessness came with the territory, and it turns out he was actually good at it. Dismantling the Knights Templar in kind of one fell swoop was no meaner feat and took a lot of guts and a lot of organization and a lot of chutzpah, and he pulled it off…

You’ve done so many different projects over the years from film and stage to television. What sets this series apart from anything you’ve ever done?

Probably off the top of my head, two things. One — the people. I know that’s a kind of trite thing to say, but it is true that as a cast we got on so well and really became very close in a way that’s really only happened to me probably once before.

And also the crew is fantastic. We were lucky enough to have a lot of our Season 1 crew back on Season 2, and then also just the expertise that went into the design of the show — it was sort of wonderful to just be able to step into those sets and step onto the back lot where we built medieval Paris. Wearing those costumes and feeling like you’re 50 percent there just stepping onto the set, that was pretty terrific.

And I think we’ve got some great storylines this season — the writers room does a great job. [They] just gave us some great scripts to play with, and, you know, hopefully the end product will show that.

(Credit: Larry Horricks/History)

Mark Hamill has joined the cast this season. Will we see his character Talus and King Philip cross paths? What’s it been like getting to work with him?

Mark and I cross paths. I won’t say anymore than that. He was just a joy. He was fabulous to be around. He had just a great, upbeat energy and threw himself into it. I think I saw him on Jimmy Kimmel Live! kind of saying he hadn’t really sort of thought it through before he arrived in Prague, and suddenly he’s having chain mail stuck on him and the wig and the beard [and all of that] and it was a bit of a shock. But you wouldn’t know it cause he just got on with it and was terrific.

And he’s Mark Hamill, that’s my generation. I literally dug out a Polaroid photograph of me about age 7, and I’m standing in my childhood kitchen, and dangling from the handle of one of the drawers is a Luke Skywalker figure on his grappling hook [Laughs].

Knightfall, Mondays, 10/9c, History