This Sunday, October 4th, EPIX will be debuting the second season of their original series, Britannia. This epic and visionary drama takes us back in time to the Roman invasion of Britain in 43AD. The inhabitants of Britain including Kings, Queens, and Druids must put their differences aside to face the deadly threat of the Roman Empire.
For me, Britania is like a giant Chessboard. Each player carefully moving around the board, careful not to get taken out by the other. Among those is the leader of the invading Romans. Not Caesar, but Aulus Plautius, played by David Morrissey. He is determined to succeed where Julius Caeser previously failed. He is a strong and resilient leader that will not allow anything to get in the way of his goal.
Ahead of their release of Britannia‘s second season, LRMOnline had the opportunity to have a conversation with the Walking Dead alumni, Morrissey. During the interview, we talk about his lead character General Aulus as well as his experience filming the series. You can check out the full interview down below!
Emmanuel Gomez: In Britannia, you play General Aulus. Can you tell us about the character?
David Morrissey: Yeah, it’s a real character. Aulus Plautius, he was the second Roman general to come to Britain. The first was Julius Caesar. He came to Britain and failed. He came to conquer the British Empire and the British colony. But they sent them back. They just couldn’t handle it at all. So, the second Roman invasion at ’42, that was led by Aulus Plautius, he was victorious. He managed to take on the Druids, take on the local people, local tribes. He was the person who started a Roman presence in Britain.
So it’s a great historical character. But I think writers realize that the show is about how the Romans arrive and how they had to take on the druids with slightly magical people. These people who worship many gods, but also seem to have these magical powers. Also, the Romans have to deal with these warring factions, warring tribes, and how the Romans negotiate those tribes in order to sort of stack them against each other, rather than get them to unite against them. So, it’s a political intrusion, as well.
Emmanuel Gomez: On that note, you talked about all the warring factions. One thing that really impresses me about your character is that it doesn’t matter if it’s a Druid, a Celtic, a queen, or an emperor. He seems to approach everybody the same way. So, my question is everyone really just a chess piece to him?
David Morrissey: Yeah. Well, at first I think definitely. I think he’s just got to do a job. His job is to conquer the land and to make these peoples loyal subjects. And it’s up to him. There is something else going on with him, which is revealed as we go along. Because what you feel is that this man is serving the Roman Empire. So he is his exemplar, which is Emperor Claudius. But it’s slowly revealed to us, as we move along, that he may be serving a different master that we may have a different force at work in front of him.
So, those things get with you. What I love about him, and the character. First of all, this General, who was just doing his job, his country, and his master, and his exemplar. But actually, as the show goes on, he’s a more complex role than that. He’s much more nuance and probably more dangerous character than we originally think.
Emmanuel Gomez: He develops very, very well. How did you go about preparing for the role of the General?
David Morrissey: Well, first of all, one of the things that really attracted me to the job was the writer to just up the work, who was some of the other guys of many, many years. He was sort of multi-award-winning writer, predominantly through the theater, who’s played Jerusalem, which was on Broadway a couple of years ago. They just won multiple Tony’s on the last play, Australia Man, which was on Broadway, as well. You know, he’s a great writer of dialogue and plot and structure and stuff. So, I’ve always wanted to work with them. So, when they approached me to do it, and it was jazz, and then I sat down and had a chat. But we didn’t trust him. He was working for him.
Also, I love the period. Roman history, particularly how the Romans conflict the world, the philosophy of how they built the Empire. I think it was quite wonderful, and they were so sophisticated. You know we like to think of ourselves as a sophisticated society, and for constituted generation that we’re in. When you think about where the Romans were, where they had to start with, it’s a phenomenal, phenomenal story. So it’s a period I loved, as well. And that’s what I want to portray.
Emmanuel Gomez: The series has beautiful settings and great costumes. I want to see if you can talk a little bit about your experience of filming the show.
David Morrissey: The first season we shot in the Czech Republic. So I’m in London, my flight to the Czech Republic that picked me up to the airport. The next day, I drive to the unit base and the place is really just where we hang out. We’re not filming there. It’s a massive unit base. You know, that’s where my trailer and my costume comes. And it’s sort of what I was expecting. I’ve tried it on before. A lot of leather, a lot of ropes, sandals.
Then I get in an SUV and go to set. When they drive me down to the trailer and I think coming out over a hill, overtop I looked out, having an enormous Roman encampment. Which, the biggest day on set ever. I suddenly think “we are in a big movie”, that they are making the proper television. The money that they’ve got to make, the show was going to be on the screen.
Then, the other set’s Stonehenge. They’re just trying to have the time, she had hundreds of extras who are the army and the Druids, help. So it’s a show that really puts her up all up there on the screen and I felt privileged to be part of that. Then, of course, you show me, you do it. But when you go to the screening, and they cut on this new way, which is the Sixties, psychedelic music. You think, gosh, what the show is, course it is. It’s about this sort of psychedelic, tripping world. I thought that when I heard that when I had to dive and stuff, a lot of the music in the show, I just, I couldn’t stop smiling because I just think “yes”. That is who we are. It’s a period piece, but actually, there’s something inside there that is very, very trippy.
Emmanuel Gomez: The music definitely caught me by surprise. When you come, you come face to face with many other leaders. I know that Steve Pemberton played Emperor Claudius. MacKinsey had a Veron and Harka. And then you dealt with the Celtic queen and others. Who was your favorite person to go back and forth with?
David Morrissey: Well those two are great. Season Three, which I’m filming now, Sophia Fernoto. Who’s a fantastic actress. She is my nemesis in the season. Every season I think that MacKenzie’s always there. So, I get to walk up and Zoe wants to make her who plays such a brilliant character. So, everybody seems to be after me, and I’ve had to sort of fight everybody. I love that Steve Pemberton, a great friend of mine, I’ve known him for many years. So, it was wonderful to be sort of working with him.
Mackenzie, I think is an extraordinary actor. That character, Baron is a very spiritual, other worldly-like character. But also, and I found after working with him was extra special. He’s a very spiritual man. That sort of spiritual side of him comes through in that character. I love working with him, but yeah, all of them. Kelly Reilly, I felt we had such fun. And I think people thought that they kept these two characters together.
Emmanuel Gomez: I wanted to talk a little bit about the mystical aspect of it. And the way the show mixes that with politics. How do you feel Britannia handles that?
David Morrissey: Well it’s about a lot of the time. It’s about how do you govern. How would you have control over the people? The people are of a belief system, and a certain god and certain superstitions. The Romans would conquer land and they would not impose their own belief system. What they would say is, “look, you can carry on with your beliefs. She can carry on with, look, maybe change the names of your gods a little bit, but you know, they’re yours”.
Then sort of slightly over years in Greece, integrate their own political systems, and political beliefs into the culture. To develop it harder to the popular celebs are sort of disentangle themselves. That’s how they rule. They were very subtle in how they had power over the conquered people. I think you see that Michelle, I think you see all this as the politician, but also someone who recognizes the power of gods and the power of belief systems around him. He doesn’t treat these people as, albeit she doesn’t treat them as “I’m telling to be”, absolutely thinks these people need to be taken seriously. Otherwise, we’re not going to get anywhere. And I think how he ingratiates with those people, is really an amazing example of leadership.
Emmanuel Gomez: I look forward to seeing what the general has in store for us in season three. Congratulations on the series.
David Morrissey: I’m loving Season Three. As you know, James and Tom have taken it to a different level. So, obviously, in COVID, I’m just very thankful that we are actually shooting at the moment. It’s such a privilege.
If you are a fan of the time period, I recommend this series. It’s beautifully shot and seems to pay close attention to details. You can catch up on the first season of Britannia on EPIX NOW. If you enjoy the two seasons you’ll be happy to know that season three is currently in production.
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