BBC’s ‘Atlantis’ combines Greek myths and bromance

Source: News.com.au

The myths, magic and monsters of ancient Greek lore are coming to life in the BBC’s new fantasy-adventure series “Atlantis” — from the unlikely setting of a former frozen-food warehouse in Wales.

A vast space once stuffed with supermarket foodstuffs has been turned into a television studio, filled with sets recreating the fabled lost city, complete with temples and terracotta-roofed houses, ceremonial bull ring and regal palace.

“Atlantis,” which starts on BBC America Saturday, is already a sizable hit in Britain, where it fills the family-viewing weekend slot previously occupied by sword-and-sorcery series “Merlin.”

“Atlantis” was created by some of the same team as “Merlin,” and like that show takes age-old stories and seasons them with humor, thrills and a central bromance.

Actor Mark Addy, who plays a less-than-heroic version of Hercules in “Atlantis,” says the recipe involves “a lot of heart and a lot of humor and a huge amount of action and adventure.”

“They wanted it to be epic in scale and in feeling, and that’s what they’ve managed to do,” he said during a break on a busy day’s filming in August.

“We’re doing stuff that you’d only ever see in movies, because it’s difficult and it’s expensive and it’s time consuming and it’s challenging,” Addy said of the 13-part series, shot over nine months in Wales and Morocco.

“Atlantis” opens with a young man named Jason — played by the strapping, curly haired Jack Donnelly — washing up in the city of Atlantis, disoriented but somehow instantly at home. The Oracle — there’s always an oracle — hints at big secrets to be revealed.

Jason soon meets brainy, kindly Pythagoras. “The triangle guy?” asks Jason, and indeed it is the ancient philosopher and mathematician, here a young man played by Robert Emms.

The third side of the central triangle is Hercules, in the — perhaps surprising — form of Addy, the burly actor who played a steelworker-turned-stripper in “The Full Monty” and King Robert Baratheon in “Game of Thrones.”

The casting is a sign of the show’s flexible approach to the Greek myths. This Hercules has superhuman strength, but he’s no bronzed muscleman.

“He wasn’t strong because he went to the gym, he was strong because he was Zeus’s son,” Addy explained, reasonably. “Although he was a demigod, I think he’s inherited most of his mother’s mortal traits. He drinks and gambles and he’s a womanizer.”

The cast includes Sarah Parish as scheming queen Pasiphae, Aiysha Hart as comely princess Ariadne, and Jemima Rooper as Medusa — here a young woman who has yet to become the snake-haired gorgon of legend.

But the show rests on the three main actors, referred to collectively by their fellow actors as “the boys.”

For the 49-year-old Addy, being one of the boys has been fun — even if hanging out with his 27-year-old co-stars makes him feel “very old.”

He recalled nipping out for a cigarette during a meal with Emms and hearing a woman at the next table say “‘Your dad’s being very polite.’ And Rob of course didn’t disabuse her.”

Such mix-ups probably ended as soon as the first episode of “Atlantis” was broadcast in September. The show is watched by seven million people a week in Britain, and a second season has already been announced. And Donnelly has become something of a heartthrob.

On set in August, Donnelly said the feeling that his life was about to change was “amazing and daunting.”

“It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me by a long, long way,” said the cheerful actor, looking as bouncily indestructible as his character, who is required to battle bulls, baddies and Minotaurs on a weekly basis, clad in a fetching jerkin.

“The first few weeks I was terrified. I was just waiting to get fired. … I mean, my last job before this was in (comedy show) ‘Misfits’ and I was wearing a white rabbit mask and I had no lines and no one saw my face.

“To go from that to this, I suddenly thought ‘I’m not ready.’ It has got slightly easier since then.”

Emms has a longer CV, including major film roles in “War Horse” and opposite Julia Roberts in “Mirror Mirror.” But he said he was also nervous — although that was offset by his family’s delight at his new role.

“I’ve played … some not very nice people, some weirdos,” he said. “And my mum’s like, ‘I’m so pleased you’re playing a nice person who doesn’t kill anyone.’

“She always just wanted me to play a doctor.”

Greek-Canadian stand-up comic bringing laughs to Athens

Source: Ekathimerini

One of Greece’s wayward sons is about to make a stand-up return. With the support of the Canadian Embassy, Canadian-Greek comedian Angelo Tsarouchas will take the stage at the Michael Cacoyannis Theater this Sunday, November 24. The show – in English but sprinkled with bits of Greek – forms the subject of “Back to Sparta,” a film documenting the comedian’s lifelong goal to perform live in his ancestral country.

Tsarouchas was born in Montreal, but his family originally hails from Sparta. “People would ask me how I learned to speak Greek and I would tell them it was because my mother couldn’t speak English,” notes the current Los Angeles resident. Tsarouchas has performed for audiences around the world, but this visit marks his first to Greece in a professional capacity. “This is where my parents are from. We used to spend summers here when we were younger. It’s always been a dream of mine to come back.”

Much of Tsarouchas’s humor pokes fun at his bulky figure and Greek heritage. His last stand-up special, “Bigger is Better,” premiered on Showtime and attracted upward of 14 million viewers. Past performances have also included roles in the films “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle” and “Cinderella Man.” The production of a new sitcom series, “The Angelo Show,” was recently confirmed and will feature fellow comedian Vince Vaughn in the role of executive producer.

Tsarouchas lists Harry Klynn (Vassilis Triantafyllidis) and Lakis Lazopoulos as his greatest artistic influences. Last week he had the opportunity to meet Lazopoulos in Athens – “a very funny man and a class act.”

Touring across Canada and the United States, fellow comedians would ask Tsarouchas why Greeks were always so congenial to one another. “That’s just the way we are,” he would reply. “That’s the way we’ve been raised. We’re probably the proudest people on Earth.” Tsarouchas’s homecoming takes him back to the roots of that pride. “I only wish that more artists of the diaspora would do the same,” he adds.

General admission to Tsarouchas’s “One and Only Stand-Up Comedy Performance” costs 10 euros. Tickets can be purchased in advance by calling 210.341.8579 or visiting the Michael Cacoyannis Foundation’s website, http://www.mcf.gr. The show begins at 9 p.m. Michael Cacoyannis Foundation, 206 Pireos.