Whether he's Titus Pullo in "Rome," Volstagg in "Thor" or Frank Castle in "Punisher: War Zone," one way to describe actor Ray Stevenson would be intense. When "Black Sails" returns for an all-new season this January, Stevenson isn't changing course as he steps into the boots of the notorious pirate Blackbeard.
After visiting the CBR Tiki Room at New York Comic Con and scaring CBR TV's Jonah Weiland with his particular brand of quiet, still intensity, Stevenson spoke about joining "Black Sails" for Season Three, whether he's as tough as the characters he often portrays on screen, the delicate balance of fight choreography and, of course, that time he was asked to read Dr. Seuss' seminal classic, "Green Eggs and Ham."
On how he manages to become incredibly scary without raising his voice:
Ray Stevenson: It's not a one-man show. The writing, the direction, the other actors. You could try being scary as hell and if people just stand there laughing at you you're not scary. It's all a great collaboration, and when it works the desired effect comes across and you just say, "Thank you!" It was a beautiful setup and they wanted to have this particular moment of this reveal -- which I haven't seen yet, but I was there -- but I know that they did some clever camera work with just eyes on a reflected sort of sliver. It's gonna be very interesting to see how that comes across and is appreciated.
On how he developed his own take on Blackbeard, a character who is already so well known in pop culture:
There's such a plethora of information and histories and dramas in many forms, visual, audible and literal. But history is invariably written by victors or sensationalists, and his histories have been gone over and rediscovered and reimagined since he was around. So you're not indeed always taking from one bit of history. But the research is ostensibly you go, you dive in there, you've basically gotta strip away and pare down to -- what you can feel as an actor is in fact the essence of the man, and also a man that you can then bring into the "Black Sails" world. He's got to work in that world. You're not doing a documentary on someone else's version of Blackbeard or someone else's interpretation or academic profiling. You're doing a Blackbeard that exists within "Black Sails" and indeed is part of "Black Sails." He was one of the founding fathers of Nassau; he was one of the original drafters of the Pirate's Charter itself. And he's been away for like eight years or so now, so you're dealing with a character who enters this beautifully established world, this tight-knit community -- but he's separate, but he's not detached. That was, I think, a key principle in bringing him in is that you, know, yes he's separate but he's not detached. He's of that world, indeed he is that world, but there is separateness from the other players.
On being concerned with authenticity when it comes to weapons in something like "Punisher: War Zone":
When you do an awful lot of action films, they're using totally different weaponry, but ultimately the character is the weapon. 'Cause all the old weaponry is long-range, bringing it down medium-range, bringing it down short-range, bringing it down to you. Once you get that in there, the way you handle long-range, the way you prepare -- and I was very concerned on "Punisher," for example, of making sure we don't have magic, Hollywood magazines. Magazines ran out, boom, quick mag reload. I spent a lot of time with the Force Recon boys because I knew the boys watching this would be some military guys going, "Why are they beating us sixteen hours a day with this damn drill?" If they see a character like the Punisher who's ex-Force Recon going, "Bu-bu-bum, snap, snap," dropping things and reloading things and they say, "That's why we do it! Look," and they see it in practice; it's not a trick, it's not a gimmick. So it's out of respect for that, but he's a military guy, and he's also a violent guy doing violent things to violent people.
That same commitment is something you take to listen to people in front of you when they ask you something. You know what I mean? That's the same commitment, to listen and learn.
On being asked to read "Green Eggs and Ham" in his signature style despite never having read it:
They handed me this book and they said, "Can you do it as Frank Castle?" I said, "No, I don't want to do it as Punisher, but I get the sense of what you want." I said, "What is it?" and they said, "It's 'Cat in the Hat' and 'Green Eggs and Ham.'" I went, "What on earth is...?" They hand me this book and I start going [lowers voice, "Are you sitting comfortably children? Then I'll begin. I do not like green eggs and ham." And then I just let it free flow from there, and apparently people are going like, "What?!" Anyway, I just let it fly with it, a lot of fun.