15 Minutes with Black Sails star Tom Hopper


Black Sails 2014

Beefy British actor Tom Hopper – who has appeared in a number of high profile television series such as Doctor Who and Merlin – can now be seen in the swashbuckling pirate series Black Sails.  Described as a “pirate version of Game of Thrones“, Black Sails airs on History (DStv 186) on Tuesdays at 21.20.

In the series, which was filmed in Cape Town, the 1.96 metre tall Hopper plays Billy Bones, alongside Toby Stephens’ Captain Flint, Luke Arnold as John Silver, Hakeem Kae Kazim as Mr Scott and local actors Sean Cameron Michael as Richard  Guthrie and Louise Barnes as Miranda Barlow.

We caught up with Hopper in between filming to ask him a few questions:

You’ve just completed filming the third series of Black Sails, but this is the first time we’ll see it in SA

When I tell people about it, it sounds like I am just going to work and having a laugh on a pirate ship because no one has seen it here. So  it’s really exciting that it’s finally being shown in the country in which it was filmed.

What’s Black Sails about?

It’s about the golden age of pirates. It uses characters from the book Treasure Island  but is set 20 years before the book. So  we’ve got Long John Silver in there and  Billy Bones, who I play, along with real pirates who existed. It’s got everything you could want from a pirate show and it’s about what pirates were really like.

How much time did you  spend filming at sea?

None! We ?lmed in a studio in Cape Town where they have huge water tanks and the ships are in them. We are always on water but we are in a tank  and surrounded by a green screen, so we  are never out at sea. There’s a machine that creates the wave effects and the whole ship moves like it’s on the ocean.

Did you have to do any pre-filming training?

Yes!  Before any of the cast got in front of the camera we were put through an extreme pirate boot camp that involved a strict regime. It wasn’t just the rope work and rigorous exercises that tested us though, it was the diets which was an even tougher thing for me.

Would you have survived well in the pirate world?

Hell no! It was brutal and although I enjoy acting in that world, I wouldn’t have  enjoyed living in it. I loved ?lming the action stuff, though. It can get pretty violent at times but that’s the world these guys lived in. We wanted to show historically what a violent, brutal world it was.  Men and women died all the time. It’s a world where you’re constantly struggling to survive