‘Britannia’s David Morrissey on Aulus’ Power Games & Having Free Will in the Season Finale
The sophomore season of Britannia concluded with a brother-vs.-brother showdown that looked like it would be a Druid version of Cain and Abel. But just as diabolical Harka (Mackenzie Crook) was about to slay his revered sibling Veran (also Crook), Divis (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) came from out of nowhere and shot Harka through the head with an arrow.
It was also a blow to Roman general Aulus (David Morrissey), who had been in cahoots with Harka against Divis’ young protege Cait (Eleanor Worthington-Cox) — the Chosen One and the only person who can defeat the invading Romans, according to Veran’s prophecy. Aulus may have reached a high point figuratively and literally — he decimated the Celtic Devni tribe and took over their hilltop castle — but he’s also possessed by the demon Lokka, and his soldiers have started to suspect something’s not right. Plus, it looks as if Cait is coming for him.
Morrissey, who’s British, and is best known as the deliciously evil Governor on The Walking Dead, went back to filming Season 3 of Britannia in the U.K. in September, after the pandemic shut down production in March. He speaks to TV Insider about his cryptic character, shooting a TV series in the COVID era, and whether he’d ever revisit the Governor.
So Aulus has conquered yet another Celtic tribe and secured a rather nice palace. How does this lead into the events of Season 3?
David Morrissey He knows that Cait is out there still. They’re getting closer and closer to some sort of encounter. We know that Aulus is also slightly under the influence of something that is from another world — that he has powers beyond human, that he has another agenda. So it’s all teed up very well for Season 3, where we explore a lot more of that side of Aulus and who really is his master.
This season we learned that he took part in the Crucifixion. What did you think when you found out the show was going in that direction?
I thought that was really interesting. You see that Aulus is at this massive world event, dictating the events around it. So you feel that he now is being driven by something that might be at odds with Christianity. What is the god that’s driving him? I’m very intrigued by that.
The idea of free will comes up a lot in Season 2. How much free will does Aulus have? Maybe not as much as he’d like?
Free will is very interesting, isn’t it? It’s not that he’s being coerced into something, it’s that he is sacrificing or putting himself into that situation in a very willing way. I think there’s a sense that he’s giving himself up or allowing himself to be dictated to in order to gain power. He might be a pawn in the game, but he feels that he’s very much the best pawn on the board.
Because of COVID, is more of Season 3 being shot outdoors?
What they’ve done is they’ve told the writers not to modify their writing at all, just to write what they want to write. So the ratio between exterior shots and interior stuff is the same. What we do is we get tested all the time. I get tested four times a week, and the crew are all in PPE. Also, we all have different bubbles that we can work in.
Was it hard going back after that long a layoff?
It was difficult to sort of get yourself back up to speed, but I was so delighted to just be going back to work, it outweighed any of the negative stuff.
You were scheduled to film most of the episodes during the spring and summer. Now that you’re working during fall and winter, you have the colder weather to contend with. What has that been like?
Ann Maskrey, who’s our wonderful costume designer, is busy cutting up fur and skin and stuff in order to give us all more layers. We’ll probably finish [filming] in February.
Sophie Okonedo is also in the new season as your missus, Hemple.
She’s a brilliant actress, and her character brings a completely different energy to the show. She brings this entourage: louche, sexual, quite liberated people — very different to the Roman army. It’s like being at Woodstock, and it really throws the whole of my world.
Aulus is such a dynamic villain, reminiscent of another great baddie you played, the Governor on The Walking Dead. Do you see similarities?
They both have quite a fast and loose regard for life. [Laughs] And they both are not averse to destruction. They might even have some sort of nihilistic idea of the world. But the Governor went through a psychotic episode, certainly once he loses his daughter in this attack by Michonne, whereas Aulus I think is being driven by something very much inside him, which is another force, and that’s very interesting to play. I think Aulus also has a sense of humor that the Governor didn’t have.
The producers of The Walking Dead have plans for an anthology series that they said could bring back former characters. Is there any chance the Governor will pop up?
I’d do it like a shot if they wanted me to. I loved playing the Governor. I also loved working with the people who make that show. They’ve got my number, and I’d love to do it if it came my way. I think there’s a lot to explore in that character pre-Woodbury.
Britannia is now available for streaming on the Epix app.