Dragon Con Interview: Craig Parker

Craig Parker is charming and funny, but he’s generally better known for portraying baddies onscreen. He’s probably best known as Haldir from Lord of the Rings, Darken Rahl in Legend of the Seeker, and Lord Narcisse on Reign

He took reporters’ questions at Dragon Con, so we first wanted to know what is he working on next? 

He’s about to go back to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, and he gets to be “a blue guy.  Like a smurf. From space. A space smurf.” He portrayed the Kree Taryan in a couple of episodes at the end of last season. And just released information reveals he may appear as a villain on the reboot of Charmed. 

But back to Lord of the Rings. Haldir is quite a fan favorite. What endears him to the fans?

“Peter Jackson, the director, wanted to have a sacrifice. Of nobility sacrificing themselves, and came up with the idea of Haldir dying. And while it is in addition to the story, they read the books hundreds of times, they knew it inside out, and they knew the world . . . To die with Howard Shore’s music playing behind you always helps and to die in Viggo Mortensen’s arms always helps so I think maybe was just jealousy.”

He adds that “It is about the elves not caring about humanity, about being above all that but then making the choice to come back to the alliance. And consequently that leads to sacrifice not just [Haldir]. But also the countless other elves, countless other immortals who laid down their immortal lives.”

You’ve had a lot of success on HBO, Starz, Netflix. How has that affected the industry since not everything’s coming from mainstream Hollywood? And as an actor how has that affected your career?

Craig explains that there used to be only one channel in New Zealand. Then 2, and then more. The first time he worked outside of those channels was Starz when he appeared as Claudius Glaber in Spartacus.

“It was stuff we would never be allowed to do ABC. And it wasn’t. You know, I’m not saying we want to get naked [though they do get naked in Spartacus. A lot] … part of that is you can have characters that are messier and more human and more visceral.

The great thing for me is more interesting television. Television is much more interesting than films nowadays. You can take a 6 hour story . . . And you can take risks and you can create characters and stories that aren’t ‘and then we solved the crime and everyone’s happy, and we did it again, and again and so on.’ It’s exciting times.”

He uses the example of Mad Men, and how it wouldn’t have survived on network television, but the brand grew and then people purchased subscriptions to watch it. We’ve now seen it with other shows, like the success of Game of Thrones.

How much did he know about the real-life background of the character he portrayed on Spartacus?

Claudius Glaber, “in history, he’s got about 3 mentions. We know he commanded the first army that was sent to bring Spartacus’ rebellion to and end. And then he got killed And so that’s pretty much what I had.”

He went on to talk about how the creative team put such intense research into the project, and though they took liberties with “costumes and things,” there was a system in place. The politics of that era were focused on sex, strength, money, or lineage. “And the same today, but it was so much more life and death … And to play in that world as an actor is amazing because you you can take things to extremes … you don’t have to make people like you. You can just be disgusting and every day you get to go to work, and oh we get to crucify someone. Cutting someone’s throat killing someone. It’s very good therapy to go and get that stuff out.”

So are you just drawn to villainous roles?

“I think the bad guy’s always more interesting than the hero to play. Because heroes are limited by what he or she may do because they have to be heroic at all times., I think in shows that are more subtle, more human, I’m fascinated by people who are broken, people who are damaged and how that damage then reflects into the world.  And often the most damaged people are the ones who strive the greatest to be seen as the greatest . . . Those are the people you go ‘What did they do to you when you’re a kid that made you this way? The need to do this to stamp your your mark on earth … That’s really interesting to me.”

What about Legend of the Seeker? Would it have been more successful on HBO or Starz?

The television series Legend of the Seeker was based on a series of fantasy novels by Terry Goodkind. Everyone was cast, the sets were built, there was a treasure trove of source material … but two weeks out from shooting “some lowly worker had to read the books and write a synopsis that finally made it to the desk of someone important, and the books are quite graphic. There’s a fair amount of weird sex in them and some awful violence. Everything was called to a halt. We just you know, it was stop production. Do not make this series. And the writers had to go away and radically alter the show. And they managed brilliantly to weave much of it back into it, and we sort of got more freedom as we went along.

But it definitely was not going to be an HBO version of these very gritty books. We saw it as we are making our version, our telling this tale, the books will always be their own telling of the tale and a lot of people who loved the books hated the show, but others would go ‘we see that these are the books, and this is kind of slightly fun, more family-oriented.’ Definitely would’ve been a different creature now. But I’m very fond of our version because it was sort of delightful. It was that old school storytelling where it can be very serious. But it can also be silly. We had episodes that were comic episodes.” He mentions they were in the style of Xena and Hercules, which comes as no surprise since all three series produced by Robert Tapert.

And though he is drawn to darker roles, in person Craig is exceedingly kind. Always a joy to speak to him and looking forward to his future projects!