In a career that’s as long and interesting as English actor Sean Maguire’s, it’s not surprising that he’s done his share of fantasy-esque projects such as last year’s 300 spoof Meet the Spartans and the TV movies The Charmings and Third Wish. He’s also done his share of comedy like the CBS sitcom The Class.
Frequently, the two genres even come seamlessly together, as they do in the new series, Krod Mandoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire, about a hapless freedom fighter and his rag-tag band of talentless companions, debuting next Thursday on Comedy Central (10 PM/9 C).
The show, which co-stars Britain’s Matt Lucas, is one part spoof of fantasy conventions, and one part launching pad for some often inspired contemporary comedy — a brand of humor already drawing comparisons to Monty Python.
Which is interesting, because Maguire himself actually had a small role in a Monty Python movie: The Meaning of Life. At age seven, he sang — yup, you guessed it — “Every Sperm is Sacred” in that then-scandalous, but now-classic musical number about condom-disapproving Catholics.
Recently, I got a chance to talk to Maguire about everything from his brief career as a teen singing sensation in the U.K., the discipline it takes to look like a Spartan warrior, and why, thanks to his time with the Pythons, he still has a strong attraction to female skateboarders.
TheTorchOnline: It seems to me that between the Krod Mandoon show and Meet the Spartans and Prince Charming a few years ago, you sort of have the market cornered on the swords and sorcery comedy thing. Is this a coincidence, or did one lead to another?
[Comedy can be] difficult, but it’s really nice when you don’t have to take home very painful, difficult drama and emotional things. You know, with comedy you really just got to work on it in the moment and try and make it funny, so it’s a lot more fun to do.
I don’t think it was a conscious decision to just do specifically comedy. In fact, I think I’ll be trying to look for something probably a little bit more serious. It’s really just, when an opportunity comes along – when Spartans came along, I’d never played the lead in a big feature, so that appealed to me. And I think doing that movie sort of put me in the right kind of world for Krod.
TTO: So I read that you also had a role in The Meaning of Life.
SM: My siblings [and I] were some of the many children singing “Every Sperm is Sacred.”
TTO: You’re kidding! I was wondering if that was what it was!
SM: Yeah, I’m the kid that’s sitting at the table, eating bread and marmalade, right in the middle of the shot, little Mr. Potato Head. That’s me.
TTO: What are your memories? Did you have a sense at the time that this would go on to be a classic film?
SM: You know, I didn’t at that time. I was very young. I was about seven, I think. But after that, about nine or ten maybe, I remember my father rented The Holy Grail, which again is quite reminiscent of Krod, and that had a really big impact on me. Obviously anyone who knows Python knows that they are geniously funny. I remember seeing Holy Grail, me and my brother were literally lying on the ground, our bellies were hurting so much because we were just giggling so much at it and then Derek said, “That’s what you were doing. You were making the next movie for these guys.” And we were like, “Oh, wow! That’s cool.” But we didn’t get it. We were still too young to really understand.
What I did remember was being in the campaign with tons and tons of women in skateboard gear with their breasts out, and as you can probably imagine to a nine-year-old, that was quite a vivid memory, let’s say. I think it actually had a profound effect on me. To this day, I’m still very fond of skateboarders.
“Every Sperm is Sacred”: Sean Maguire at age 7
TTO: What do you think now when people compare the show, I mean, it really does have a Monty Python sensibility. Do you feel flattered or is it intimidating or what?
SM: I think that it’s like [covering] a Beatles record. No, I don’t think anyone will ever achieve the heights that [Monty Python] did, because those were the guys who really did it first. I think that they have a special place in comedy that, a bit like the Beatles in music. It can’t ever really be bettered. All you can do is homage, you know? And learn and try and plagiarize cleverly.
I consider it a great, great honor if we’re put in any realm near them, but…they’re the best. I would consider it a great honor if we can introduce the kind of comedy that they did to me as a child. If I can introduce to, to 12-, 13-, 14-year olds who may not be familiar with the Python movies, then that would be great. That’s what you do, isn’t it? You try to learn and steal from the best and then try and introduce them with a slightly more modern flavor.
TTO: You mentioned how comedy is different from more serious projects. What’s the hardest thing about it?
SM: The hardest thing about comedy is finding the right piece of writing and then putting it together with the right actors and the right director. Everyone has to be on the same page and everyone has to kind of agree on a certain idea of what we think is funny, and also what type of funny we’re going for. Meet the Spartans is very much a kind of fun, silly spoof, making fun of pop culture and all of that. Krod is more like a Black Adder, if you’ve every seen Black Adder. I think that the writing is slightly cleverer.
We’re using the genre and the time period to kind of, as a backdrop for a modern workplace comedy. To me, that’s really funny, because we’re dealing with very modern sensibilities and metrosexual males and twenty-first century kinds of problems or issues in this sort of old, medieval type fantasy world. That just really connected with me. I thought that was really funny.
To be honest, when I first saw the premise and I read the title, I passed, because I had just made Meet the Spartans and I didn’t really want to do something too similar, but…I really, genuinely thought that the writing was something special. I also thought that the cast that they were talking about assembling and the director they were talking about getting really, really excited me, and I thought this has the potential to be something special. So that’s how I ended up in this one.
TTO: You really can’t beat Matt Lucas.
SM: He’s an utter joy to hang out with, to be on the set with, most of all to play opposite. He’s not as known here as in other territories. In England, he’s firmly considered one of the funniest men in the country. And for very good reason. I think he’s considered in Great Britain a lot like Will Ferrell is considered here, just geniously funny and complex, so getting that was a huge, huge coop for us, even though some audiences here may not know him, I think they will after the show if they give it a chance. Because he’s just one of those people who can’t help but be believably funny, and so the art of doing a good job playing opposite somebody like that, you just don’t do much. Just be a springboard for them to bounce off, you know, and let them use their magic.
TTO: Is it my imagination or did you really beef up in between The Class and Meet the Spartans.
SM: No, it’s not your imagination! I had to beef up a great deal.
TTO: How did you go about that?
SM: It’s one of those things that there really isn’t any cheat methods. There’s just the difficult route of just having seven meals a day and working out for four hours a day, every day, seven days a week. No alcohol, no sugar, no fat .
TTO: And do you still have to maintain that regimen for the entire show?
SM: No, because I wasn’t completely naked from beginning to end, I didn’t have to work out quite as much. I did work out every single day and I worked out in between takes, in between shots, but I wasn’t quite as regimented about the diet. I allowed myself a glass of wine at the end of the day, which I didn’t allow myself while doing Spartans. So it was a little easier, but it’s still very much an incredibly big physical task, because we shooting 15, 16 hours a day sometimes, and then I’m working out in between, so it’s very, very exhausting.
It’s a really tiring and physically demanding shoot, but, you know, these things are relatively short in the great scheme of time. It was three months or two months or something, so I tend to just buckle down and really develop myself to what I’m doing while I’m on the job, and then while I’m on my down time, I can eat and drink whatever I want.
TTO: You sing on the pilot of Cupid [in which Maguire guest-starred] and I know you had a singing career. Did you sing in any episodes of Krod? There are six episodes, correct?
SM: There are six episodes of Krod and no, I don’t believe I sang in any of them. I think it would only be fair to spare the public that. No, I was a singer briefly, but I was young. It was one of those things that just happened. I never really had a desire to be a singer. I’m not a musician. It was just one of those strange things that happened during my youth and I’m proud of it, and I had a good time, but no plans to reform with myself any time soon.
Maguire sings “Good Day,” his biggest hit, which reached #12 on the UK charts in 1996
TTO: Were you disappointed when The Class was canceled?
SM: Oh, of course, yeah. They were an incredible bunch of people that I’m still very close with. We all get together about once a month and have dinner, all of us. It was an incredibly tight group and I thought they were an incredible bunch of actors as well. And I just thought that we had a lot of the hallmarks of something that was going to be very good, but you know, that’s television. Despite getting seven million viewers a week and winning the best new comedy award from People’s Choice, it still wasn’t enough. Because it’s CBS, and CBS demands very high ratings and it was very sad that it went that way.
But, you know, you begin to come to terms with these things as an actor, that you know, as one job finishes, another began. If The Class hadn’t finished, I probably wouldn’t have been able to do Spartans, and then if I hadn’t done Spartans, it wouldn’t have led me to Krod, so, you know, you have to just make your peace with the river gonna’s flow where it flows and you just gotta go with it.
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