An Interview with Jessica Preddy and Edward Mitchell – Mi’Lady De Winter and Athos in The First Musketeer

milady athosThe First Musketeer is a six part webseries that starts on 1st June 2014. Telling the story before the books by Alexander Dumas. The story follows Athos as he meets his friends and foes for the first time.

I’ve already published an Interview with Harriet Sams, Writer/Director of the series.

Today I have an interview with the actors portraying Athos and Anne, our romantic leads. Anne is destined to become the villainous Mi’Lady De Winter.

Jessica Preddy and Edward Mitchell are our star-crossed lovers…

Semple: How did you become involved with this project?

Edward: In 2012 I received an email from the director (Harriet Sams) who had seen my CV online, asking me if Id like to come in and audition for the series. I did a bit of research and read up about the show, and as soon as I saw the scope and ambition of what Harriet was trying to do I knew that I wanted to be involved.

Jessica: Through auditions! By the time I auditioned, every other character had been cast. So for my casting, I was reading opposite Athos (Edd) and The Pilgrim (Sean). No pressure!

Semple: Have you worked with each other before?

Jessica: No we hadn’t.

Edward: I’d never worked with any of the cast or crew before we all met in the build up to the show. However, by some strange fluke (or is it fate) we all got on incredibly well and became a very close-knit group extremely quickly and have all kept in touch since.We regularly meet up to hang out and socialise which is lovely – I think of them as my Musketeer family. I’ve also been lucky enough to work with Jessica since, but the entire cast all take a keen interest in one another’s various careers and endeavour to get along to support each other whenever we can.

Semple: How have you approached your take on the characters?

Edward: In the original story of The Three Musketeers, Athos carries a lot of scars and the weight of his past hangs heavily on his shoulders. However, it is deeply buried and hidden away under his experiences with the other Musketeers, his friendship with Aramis & Porthos and his sense of duty and purpose as one of the King’s elite guard. However, when we meet him in The First Musketeer the events that have so affected him are fresh, raw wounds that have only just taken transpired and so he is a much more volatile young man who is incredibly angry and reactive. It was really fun to explore this side of the character and have all these things bubbling away on the surface. I’ve tried to make it as authentic a portrayal as possible without it spilling over into self-indulgence, so I hope audiences feel for him and can understand the decisions he’s making even if they may not always necessarily agree with them.

Jessica: My first step was to read The Three Musketeers as well as research the historical setting in which the world of the series is set. I would say my interpretation of Milady is faithful to the novel, since our series is a prequel, her character arc has to end where the novel begins. However you get to see a younger version of her: she’s still figuring out how to achieve what she wants (and what it is that she wants most).

Semple: These characters are very well known to the general public, most people have seen at least one version on screen even if they haven’t read the books. How daunting is this?

Jessica: It’s a great privilege! But it is daunting. I hope people will appreciate what we have each brought to these roles.

Edward: Its incredibly daunting – playing such an iconic character is a two-sided coin. On the one hand, you are playing a character that elicits a huge amount of affection and evokes strong passions in a lot of people and so in a way, you have a built-in audience who you know are automatically going to root for you straight off the bat. However, that also means there is a huge amount of expectation in terms of what that audience hope to see from the character and your portrayal. So many fantastic actors have played Athos over the years that I didn’t want to do a disservice, but I was fortunate in that we are exploring a new era for the character and so I had a fair amount of license in being able to step away from previous incarnations and do my own thing to some degree.

Semple: The locations look amazing, did filming in France help you in your role?

Edward: Without a shadow of a doubt! Being in the storys country of origin, shooting in and amongst locations that were actually around at the time that the story is set helped to transport us back into that mind-frame with such ease. A couple of the locations we used were even actually visited by Richelieu himself, so there were no leaps of imagination required whatsoever.

Jessica: Absolutely! It was an incredible experience to be filming on location in chateaus and historical sites that were all really around in the time that the series is set. It was like stepping into a time machine. The costumes also really helped; both Nicole and I were dressed in historically accurate corseted dresses.

Semple: What was the experience like on location?

Edward: Obviously it goes without saying that it was a lot of fun, but thats not to say that we had it easy. We mostly shot at night which meant we were always tires and we were also under massive time constraints due to having such a small budget and needing to get things in the can before the sun came up. All this meant that everyone was always slightly on edge. With that said, there was an enormous amount of camaraderie and not one person shied away from mucking in and helping out when it was necessary (which was 99% of the time). I don’t know how the whole thing didn’t fall apart and how no-one cracked under the pressure – I think that’s probably testament to the incredible tenacity and professionalism of the rest of the cast and crew. It really was all for one and one for all.

Jessica: I’ve never worked on a project where the whole cast and crew bonded so much. Since we shot The First Musketeer, many of us have gone on to work together again.

Semple: Do you have any stunts, stunt doubles?

Jessica: I don’t have any stunts in the first season. But fingers crossed you’ll see us again for a second season soon as I’ve heard there will be some exciting stunts…

Edward: There were no stunt doubles on this project – we all had to learn the fight choreography ourselves under the expert instruction of our swordmaster Ronin Traynor from Independent Drama Action Specialists and had several cast weekends away for fight boot-camp where we learnt the requisite skills and choreography. I’ve already done martial arts from a very young age, but learning to fight for the camera is a different ballgame entirely although I had done some previous stage combat training whilst at drama school. Several members of the ID fight team flew out to France to play various assassins and adversaries and it made life a lot easier having them there to work with. I was also lucky enough to be taught to horse ride for the project by Tony Sams who plays Lazare and who is an expert horseman. He managed to get me from absolute novice to being a competent and confident rider within the space of a few short months, which was no mean feat.

Semple: Any fun bits of gossip?

Edward: Haha! We were too busy for there to be any gossip! Thats actually a half-truth – there was a bit of flirting going amongst certain members of the cast and crew but if I started naming names I would be strung-up from the rafters and held over a fire. All I can say is that we were consummate professionals on set, but we still managed to have a good timeYou can fill in the blanks with your imagination!

Jessica: Hmmmm…. I better answer carefully! Haha. There was this one time Edd and I snuck off in costume at the production base camp, while a local paper was interviewing Harriet. Very foolishly we were laughing around and (who knows why!) we decided to have a ‘Dirty Dancing’ moment – and my dress ripped! Luckily the costume designer quickly helped us out before we got into real trouble with our director (Sorry Harriet!)

Semple: And everyone is always interested in knowing this about any visual project… any really good outtakes?

Jessica: I do think there are some great outtakes with the boys (Athos, Porthos and Aramis) but unfortunately we were under such a tight shooting schedule, there wasn’t too much time to make jokes when the camera was rolling.

Edward: There are loads of really good outtakes but one sticks out more than any other’s Charles Barrett (who plays Porthos) and I where whiling away some rare down-time on set one day and managed to come up with a theme-tune for the show. It was absolutely ridiculous and completely out of keeping with the style, but it stuck and we’d sing it at every opportunity. We wore everyone down singing it until one day we were half-way through a night shoot, it was about 4am and everyone was a little delirious and the crew finally cracked, let the camera role and we got to put it on tape. It was glorious! I’ve never given more of myself in any one moment than Charles and I did singing that song. We watched the footage back the next day after some sleep and all fell about laughing, it was so absurd. That footage still exists somewhere deep in the First Musketeer vaults, and if we ever do a DVD release I would love to get it added in somewhere as a sneaky little easter egg.

Semple: What other projects are you currently working on?

Jessica: I’ve just produced a short film called Kill & Run, which will be entering the festival circuit shortly.

Edward: At the moment I’m on tour with the UK premiere of a new play called Unearthed which has been written by Royal Court young writer Alys Metcalf. It’s a fantastic new play and we’ve received some glowing reviews which is really encouraging. Just before that I finished filming on a feature called The Illustrious Client, in which I play the lead villain, which is based on the short Sherlock Homes story of the same name. It.s due to play at the Shanghai International Film Festival this June.

Semple: What other historical character, fictitous or real, would you like to portray?

Jessica: Such a difficult question! Let’s see… I love the heroines of Jane Austen novels, so it would be fun to work on an adaptation of those. Or getting to play a historical figure like Madam de Pompadour. Or Catherine the Great. There are too many!

Edward: Does it count as historical if it takes place a Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far Far Away

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