Stuart Townsend on 'XIII,' Kicking Some Ass and Why It's His Favorite Role Ever
by Chris Jancelewicz, posted Apr 18th 2011 5:02PM
Stuart Townsend may be best-known for his turn as a vampire in the movie 'Queen of the Damned,' or other movies like 'Aeon Flux' or 'The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,' but if there's one thing he knows how to do, it's bringing intensity to the screen, whether that screen happens to be big or small.
Townsend's latest role is on the small screen, but it's a doozy -- he plays the title character XIII in the joint France-Canada production of 'XIII.' XIII is a mystery even to himself. The entire series focuses on the lethal, powerful XIII as he tries to figure out his own identity. It has cliffhangers, intrigue and best of all, a boatload of action.
AOL Television spoke with Townsend about kickin' ass, taking names and why this is his favorite role ever.
How did you get cast in 'XIII' in the first place?
It came out of the blue. I didn't really know anything about it. I didn't know that there was a graphic novel, and I never watched the earlier miniseries . Suddenly this script came in, and they said, 'The French people are doing it.' After I read it, I loved it and thought it was full of action and stuff I'd never done before.
Did you eventually read the graphic novel and watch the miniseries?
Yep, I did my homework! From watching the miniseries, I got a feeling of the 'look,' the style and the theme. From the comics, I got a sense of his character and his journey.
Was it fun to kick some ass and get in fights?
[Laughs] That was one of the most fun things to do in the beginning. By the end, I'd be like, "Oh, no. Do I have to do another fight sequence?" It was great, it was part of the big draw. I got to go to work and jump on motorcycles, go climbing, go scuba diving, all that stuff. Throwing knives, bow and arrows. It was like being a kid again.
Did you try and convince your friends that you could actually do all the stuff XIII did?
[Laughs] That's the thing. I can't do it, but XIII can! There were some stunt guys who came in for the scenes, for me to fight. I'd be like, 'Can I take that guy? Not in a million f--king years.' And then, five minutes later I'm kicking his ass. It was very good for the ego.
Did you get any training for this role?
Not as much as I wanted to. I was pretty fit going in. I had done six weeks of Muay Thai boxing. It's great because it's functional. To be honest, I would have loved to have had one or two more months to get ready for the role. He's an action hero, he's 'that guy.' I was training during the filming as well.
As the series progresses, how does XIII evolve as he discovers more about his identity?
The biggest question in the beginning is: Is he a good guy or is he a bad guy? He's clearly trained, he's clearly dangerous. What does that mean? Those are the existential questions he's dealing with. All the answers don't come until the very end. He understands pretty clearly that something has happened, and a lot of people have died ... he knows he's involved on a much deeper level. He's a killer – at one point he says, "I only kill people who need to be killed." There's a weird morality issue there.
How was the chemistry with your co-stars Virginie Ledoyen and Aisha Tyler?
Loved them. I had such great girls to work around. The guys, I didn't really have a chance to work with so much. Most of the main male characters were CIA guys, and they were all shadowy figures who I [XIII] didn't trust. I worked with Aisha nearly every day, and Virginie came in and out. I'm very blessed to work with such great girls.
You're lucky you enjoyed your castmates' company!
It could have been very stressful, yeah. [Laughs] Filming during Canada's winter, outside for a lot of it, it can be true misery. A lot of the time, it's -35 and you're not wearing the Canada Goose jacket. XIII doesn't feel the cold, but Stuart, on the other hand... [Laughs]
Do you have a preference for movies or TV?
You know what? I kind of don't care anymore. I used to think I'd have a big film career, but I no longer have any expectations. It was so much fun to do a 6-month intense stint. With film you have the luxury of time, and everything's a lot slower. On TV, the pace is so ferocious. It's a good thing for testing you, pushing you, and challenging you. Your brain has to learn 8-9 pages of dialogue every day. TV is bad-ass.
I really enjoyed being pushed to the limits. You'll even see it on the show. XIII is exhausted. It's perfect, because this guy is trying to find the answers and he's getting more and more desperate. And I felt very in tune, because I was coming to the end of this show, and I was hanging on, clinging on. Trying to nail it every single day. That is something that you don't get with film. To me, it was my favourite role out of everything I've ever done. It was the most enjoyable, creative thing I've ever done as an actor.
'XIII' premieres in Canada on April 20 on Showcase at 10PM ET/PT.
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