Stephen Moyer Teases The Bastard Executioner, Milus' Motivations

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Viewers and critics alike have been quite clear: the breakout, standout role of The Bastard Executioner is that of Milus Corbett, the "Machiavellian" Chamberlain of Ventrishire.

The popularity of this character owes its thanks in no small part to Stephen Moyer's incredible, fully-immersed portrayal of him.

In a Q&A, the former True Blood actor discussed what fortuitous events led him into the world of The Bastard Executioner, what his take is on his character's perceived villainy, and the intriguing, often tense relationship between the Chamberlain and the Baroness.

Lady Love and Milus Corbett - The Bastard Executioner

On what drew him to the project and to the role of Milus:

I just happened to be meeting with Kurt for coffee, we'd sort of become friends but I'd never met him (we'd been sort of flirting over Twitter). [laughs] And we met up, had a coffee, and he immediately started talking about the show and hooked me in with the kind of the story, the idea of the character, and the mythology behind them.

He just said "Look, go away, read it, and get back to me" and he didn't tell me any particular part at the time. I went away and read it and I mean, there was one that jumped out at me straight away.

I knew I was too old and grey to play the Executioner. Milus was the one who was interesting to me. Then I went back to [Kurt Sutter] and said "This is amazing." And I love the world, I know this world – I did medieval history as a two-year project at high school. So this was my period.

That was another kind of hook for me, because I already knew quite a lot about it. As it turns out, not as much as our fearless leader, who has done years of research. And I just loved the idea of this character who is kind of hanging on to his best friend's bootstraps and getting himself into a position that by birth he'd never have been in.

On the layers to Milus' character:

I've said this before: don't see him as a villain, I see him as someone pushing himself forward and taking an opportunity where he sees it. 

He's from a very, very poor upbringing and he's found himself in a position where he's the chamberlain of the court because his best friend was a warrior who was much loved by Edward the I.

Now that his best friend is gone, it's sort of up to Milus to see where it all goes from there.

On Denis O'Hare's very in-depth method of getting into character:

Denis O'Hare [Russell Edgington on True Blood] became a dear friend when we were doing True Blood and he wrote like a 3,000 word back story for his 3,000 year old character – some of which Alan Ball said "You will never see any of this." [laughs] There was literally like a ten year series just on Denis' character, just with all of the stuff that he wrote. I'd done stuff like that before, but I was so kind of taken with the idea of how far Denis went.

On challenges of filming in Wales:

My mom came up to the set recently. She was always blown away, when she came to the True Blood lot.

My favorite set, I think, in all time, will always be [True Blood set] Merlotte's, Sam's place. It was a real working bar, we had a real working kitchen. I never thought it would be better.

And it's not that it has been better, but my mom walked on last week [to The Bastard Executioner set] and – I mean, you just can't believe the detail. Giles Masters, our set designer, his father was the set designer for Lawrence of Arabia, so he comes from very good stock and it's extraordinary. We've got four studio spaces, and an entire village and castle completely built for us.

On the historical context

We are shooting in the castles that our characters would have existed in and that's kind of a beautiful idea, that 800 years on we're walking the same stone floors that the characters and historical characters did. We're going to be crossing over with real things that happened in history. There's a lot of history around, so there's a lot of history to latch onto. So, story-wise, I don't think we're lacking.

On the Milus/Baroness relationship:

Flora [Spencer-Longhurst] has sort of remarkable beauty on camera that is just mesmerizing, really, and given that she's done so much theater, she's come straight in and just kind of knocked it out of the park in terms of the quality of work she's doing on camera.

From within the court, there was absolutely no question that there would ever need to be an affiliation with myself and her. So what is growing, relationship-wise between them, is new to them. She has found herself with this Chamberlain who she knows comes from a sort of thuggish background and he's the one controlling the machinations of court.

So she probably has deep feelings about that but knows that ultimately he has the shire in his best interest and, push comes to shove, he'll hopefully look after the shire first and not himself. But she's wary of what he can do and she knows that he's not like some sort of graceful swan.

On another level, he is impressed by her. Since Eric's death he's seen her grow and start taking on this power of being a woman in this position she's been sort of thrust into.

I don't think he's ever entertained the idea of a sort of union there because she's so far above him. That aspect of it would only ever be a dream [for Milus] however much he might want it. Or her. [laughs]

On sexual tension between Milus and Wilkin:

Given that you've seen my character with the French servant, I think there's something there, that's fair to say.

I think he gets his kicks where he sees them and I don't think he's very discriminating. But I think he's intrigued by people of power [...] I think that intrigues him as much as sheer brutality.

On adding to the character as written:

During the pilot [in the scene with the French servant] I didn't want it to be heavy petting, I wanted it to be straight fucking. This is a man who takes what he wants. This is something I keyed into right away [about the character].

On Milus' motivations:

He is not just looking out for himself, he's looking out for everybody. But he also does have a conscience. And deep, deep, deep within that hard shell he has come up with a reason for doing everything. He thinks it's for the good of everybody. 

Caralynn Lippo is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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The Bastard Executioner Season 1 Episode 7 Quotes

Ruskin: I do not understand the purpose I serve in all this, woman. I am but a manor priest. Not a scholar or a prophet.
Annora: We do not need a scholar or a prophet. We need a warrior.

Baroness: Suspicion is fear without truth.
Isabel: That turns to poisonous talk and spreads like fire on hot oil.