We couldn’t be more excited about the newest Syfy miniseries, Neverland, which tells the origin story of Peter Pan and premieres in two two-hour parts December 4th and 5th.
Did you ever wonder how those classic characters became who they were when we met them in J.M. Barrie’s story? Well, this four hour miniseries will takes us behind it all as we’re led on a journey by the very capable writer and director Nick Willing.
At the Syfy Digital Press tour we were fortunate enough to meet up with the stars of Neverland Rhys Ifans, Anna Friel and Charlie Rowe.
Tackling such a classic tale could seem daunting and the stars were ready to discuss how they felt about being involved and portraying their individual characters.
Rhys, who plays Hook, explained, “It wasn’t daunting. I mean, what’s daunting is, I guess, that we — that everyone knows the story of Peter Pan. And what was appealing, I guess, for all three of us is that this goes a long way, if not all the way, to explain how Peter Pan becomes Peter Pan, how he acquires these magical powers and how Captain Hook loses his hand.”
But Rhys knew the importance of establishing the journey of Hook and making him into a fresh character. “We all know the Hook that we were presented with in the novel, and that Hook is essentially bad to the bone. And I wanted to kind of explore a journey, you know. How would a man become that bad? What would it take for a man to shed pretty much all of his moral fiber when — and what happens to the mind when it’s offered eternal life? Does it corrupt, or does it illuminate?”
“In Hook’s case, it corrupts, but it also liberates him from a very, kind of, stifled, unrepressed Edward in England,” Rhys explained. “Bonny liberates him completely and sexually, which wouldn’t have been the case in England. Men were scared of women, and women were scared of men. So it’s a kind of double-edged sword, and it’s an interesting question, you know. What’s the price of liberty? So that was all very, kind of, interesting to play.”
“It’s thrilling,” Rhys continued, “and that’s the beauty of a miniseries is that, in a film, you wouldn’t have the time that a miniseries offers to explore such complexities. And it is a real, kind of, roller coaster, model roller coaster, for Hook.”
There is also an interesting, potentially unexpected, father-son relationship that Hook and Peter Pan share that changes throughout the miniseries, which Rhys explains comes to down to as “Peter becomes better, Hook becomes worse.”
So Charlie Rowe, a mere 15 years old and tackling a huge role, had his work cut out for him. And he knew it! “I was pretty apprehensive because I, like, have quite big boots to fill,” Charlie admitted. “It was great fun, a completely different story to the original story. I think we did it justice.”
“I tried to avoid watching Hook and all of that before getting the part,” Charlie explained how he kept Peter fresh. “I just tried to talk to Nick because I think — I think Nick Willing is Peter Pan, really. So I just tried to involve him into my part because I think — yeah, I think he’s still a child. If you meet him, he’s a complete child, and it’s his little baby, this film. And so I just tried to involve him as much as I can into the parts I was doing. And, yes, my part is basically just Nick, very honestly.”
“I am incredibly lucky to work with such great people and amazing actors,” Charlie elaborated on his experience. “I learned a lot, particularly from Rhys and Anna. They are like my mother and father on the set even though my mother and father were actually on the set,” he laughed.
Anna quickly jumped in pushing him to see her more as a “big sister.” She also made not that “I think I’ve got a very bright star on the horizon sitting right next to me.” Judging from what we have seen of the miniseries and how he conducted himself with us, we would certainly agree!
Anna herself is showing her talents in this movie as she tackles a role unlike her others as the pirate queen, Bonny, a new character in the tale. “I have a six-year-old daughter. She just went, ‘Mommy, there’s no way you can’t not do Neverland.’ She was very excited,” Anna explained her involvement. “She wasn’t too happy about the idea that I might potentially kill Peter Pan. She thought that was stupid, but she was very excited about it.”
“It was great fun,” she elaborated. “I just loved the costumes. I played Bonny. We decided to make her Irish with the accent. And Nick, our director and writer, was just a joy to work with. I think we did about a three-and-a-half, four-month shoot, and never once did he complain of tiredness, and he kept the energy on the set all the time. It was great, although we worked with a lot green. Green became our least favorite color. I was like, ‘Oh, another green screen.’ The effects are amazing. I have not seen it done to that degree.”
Rhys jumped in here, “yeah. It was nice to use the imagination. We had these big boards that Nick showed us every day and said, ‘This green screen is going to look like this.’ The whole imagination was suspended in disbelief. It was a good challenge.”
“And Nick,” Charlie added, “also said at the beginning of the shoot, ‘We are going to end exactly 7:00 on our last day.’ And after 54 days of filming, we ended at two minutes to 7:00, and I was just like — that was just, like, the icing on the cake. That was awesome.”
“I was so jealous of your flying. I wish I could fly,” Anna laughed.
“It has a lot you should be jealous of,” Charlie laughed as well.
But that’s not all that we should be jealous of, because there are some incredible fight scenes within the miniseries. So how did they all prepare for that?
“I’m just a natural,” Rhys smirked.
“Yeah,” Anna responded quickly, “you are a mighty fine fencer.”
“We just — yeah. Me and Anna have had a lot of lunch breaks just trying to beat each other with swords, which was fun. And we did, like, long sessions on wires and stuff which is pretty exciting stuff. I mean, it’s every boy’s dream and every man’s dream. I shouldn’t say just a boy.”
“Thank you,” Rhys chimed in. “It’s great. You know, we did work quite intensely initially on the fighting, and you kind of just acquire the skill. So as the fights progressed in the film, we spent — because we were so — we became so adept early on, we spent kind of less and less time because we became, sort of, fighting with direction better, but also, you know, CGI helps.”
“I think the whole shoot was pretty intense,” Charlie admitted, “but I think Nick, the director, just sort of made it a lot less and just a lot more — a very happy place, really. The pressure didn’t really get to us because Nick was just there, making us all feel good. He did a good job of it.”
We’re certainly excited for seeing what they can do with such a classic, especially given the resurgence of fairy tales in pop culture. The trio had some great insight to share as to why it’s so popular now, as well.
“Well, you know, given this kind of fragile economic climate, you know, maybe there’s a need in all of us to escape to somewhere like Neverland where cash isn’t an issue,” Rhys theorized.
“Yeah,” Anna agreed. “It’s one of the greatest stories ever written, and now, with all of the effects we have available, we want to see them retold and use those effects.”
“And I think these stories, you know, they come in waves,” Rhys added. “It’s a title thing, you know, and there’s something kind of primal in all of these stories that speaks to everyone. That’s why we keep retelling them, revisiting them.”
They also had some thoughts on how it will resonate with viewers. “The original is very much a family story, and, you know, there are kind of dark, adult themes. And I think that is the appeal of the novel and the prequel, that it engages all ages,” Rhys reasoned.
“There’s questions of father-son and with a kind of union, Freudian sexual questions, you know. So there’s many kinds of emotional frets and dynamics that appeal to all ages, and particularly with Neverland, you know,” he continued. “When we read the novel, Hook and Peter are already embedded in Neverland. So I think what gives us another connection to Neverland is that we see them as — albeit in another time, but we see them as, you know, human beings who live in a world where you eventually die. So we see what the wonder of somewhere — in Neverland, somewhere like Neverland, what it does to the psyche. And in Peter’s case, it makes him good, and in my case, it makes me very, very bad.”
“And in my case, it makes me evil,” Anna added. “I love the dark undertones of the story. I think it makes it very available for both children and adults… I got both of those views from my daughter and from my mother and father. They enjoyed it for totally different reasons, and I think that’s why it’s so appealing, because it appeals to such a wide and varied audience.”
“I think another exciting, kind of, dynamic and an attitude is that we as humans in Neverland are the aliens,” Rhys explained. “So Bonny is essentially visited by a superior technological species which, again, you know, is a theme that runs through certainly a lot of sci-fi.”
Why else is the prequel so appealing? “Because the story is good to start with,” Anna explained simply. “You want to know what happened beforehand. That’s the only way you can go out and do sequel after sequel after sequel. I think we are intrigued about what happened before the story even started, and it seems to be — and I’ve followed others’ work thus far. And particularly with a story like Neverland, it has never been done before. Why can Peter Pan fly? Why is there eternal life? Why do you never grow old?” She paused, “It’s kind of like an age-old vampire story in a way.”
Charlie also had something to add that we also agree with, “Every kid in the world has grown up with these unbelievable stories, and everyone has their own different idea of why and how they got there. And that’s why I think it’s great that we’ve got all of these different ones like Wicked and now Neverland, you know, coming up because it’s basically someone’s complete imagination. Everyone has got a different idea of why they are there.”
So trust us, you are going to want to tune in for this miniseries on December 4th and 5th on Syfy at 9 PM. It’s sure to be magical! Still not convinced? Check out the trailer!