Craig Horner has had quite a year.
It wasn’t a year ago that he flew to New Zealand to star in his own show, Legend of the Seeker, the latest fantasy romp from the visionaries behind Xena: Warrior Princess, Rob Tapert and Sam Raimi.
Craig, an Australian native, has been at the center of a media storm.
But that doesn’t mean he has been a total trooper. Craig, 25, spoke to me by phone from New Zealand. According to a publicist, to determine the time there compared to the U.S., “You just subtract four hours and move forward one day.”
My math is terrible, but I think that means was up very early, and squeezing me in before a grueling day’s shoot.
But you never would’ve known it during our chat. He couldn’t have been more charming:
TheTorchOnline: I know you had a successful film and TV career in Australia before landing this role, but I’m wondering if you can’t relate to the character of Richard in that your life was much simpler a year ago, and then the producers of this show showed up and changed everything, just like with Richard.
Craig Horner: Oh, man, you hit the nail right on the head right there. It was just that big kind of leap into the next level of my career. I was forced to step up into the lead of a show with 22 episodes, move to another country, set myself up, and yeah, you couldn’t be more right. I’ve really grown up.
TTO: There are leads, and there are leads. You are in almost every scene, and it’s a very demanding role. How are you holding up?
CH: I’m holding up, man, I’m still going. I’ve got three weeks to go, and then I’ll probably collapse and vegetate and go into a coma. It’s been pretty full-on. It’s been long hours. There’s not a day when there’s not horse-riding and sliding and just running around. And every episode, almost every scene, it’s like the end of the world. And you can’t just walk through a scene where the whole world is at stake. You can’t just sit around and go, “What’d you have for breakfast?”
But it’s good. I love it.
TTO: Sometimes when I do something in life that I really enjoy, it seems like everything that came before it was leading up to that moment. Does it feel a little like destiny getting this role, a really good fit?
CH: You couldn’t be more right. You can only only live in the moment, and allow whatever the moment’s doing to move through you. But when I do look back on it, I was just being myself by using my imagination as a kid, and running through the house with a sword. And then I got into acting, and then I got into this, and I couldn’t do what I’m doing now without my enthusiasm for acting and sword-fighting and imagination and filmmaking and creativity.
Yeah, you’re right, everything’s led to this moment. Hopefully there will be more roles as well, but it’s a snowball effect.
TTO: I asked my readers to help me with questions to ask you, and I was really surprised by how many responses I got. A lot people asked what it’s like on the set. Who’s the biggest cut-up? Is it serious? Is it funny? What’s the tone?
CH: Well, we’re trying to shoot feature-film quality on TV turnaround schedules, so there’s not a lot of time for goofing around and blooper reels. Me and Bridget can’t come out and start jumping around. We just can’t do that, but we really want to.
There’s an element of pressure, but we try not to let the stress come in. But generally, everyone on the set is pretty chill. They’ve been doing this for ten years, since the Xena days.
TTO: So it is all the Xena crowd?
CH: Yeah, and Lord of the Rings. When you’re the lead of the show, you sort of set the tone of the set, along with the director. If the lead is a brat or a princess, and just a stuck-up idiot, then no one’s going to want to show up to work on that show. No one’s going to want to do his make-up or put his clothes on him.
People won’t care about the show or his character, and it’ll fall part. So I try to show that enthusiasm, but it’s not hard, because I’m genuinely enthusiastic about the show. Sometimes I can be tired, I can be exhausted, but generally I’m being enthusiastic, because I love being here.
TTO: I’ve heard Lucy Lawless say the same thing about her days in Xena, how being the focus of everything, she soon realized she was setting the tone for the whole set. Speaking of which, is there any chance she’ll guest on the show in the second season?
CH: I have no idea, but I can ask Rob [Tapert] and get back to you!
TTO: A lot of people asked me to ask you how you manage to stay in such great shape.
CH: For a year before I did this, I had a job where I played a character who was supposed to be a good shape. I think it’s generally a good idea for people to do some sort of bodybuilding or exercise, just for general well-being.
And I fell in love with it, so I kept with it even after that. Fortunately, when Legend of the Seeker came up, in the books, the character is supposed to be quite muscular and strong. So I had a reason to keep it up and amp it up even more. I love training five times a week, now I’m trying to [get in] two days a week.
You know what I did yesterday? I said to my runner, he drives Bridget and me home, she was running late, and I said to my runner, “Greg, pick me up, matey, I’m running down the road now, I’m getting some exercise!” And he was like, “Are you mad?” And I’m like, “Yup,” and I started running. The crew’s seeing the lead actor running down the road and going, “What the hell? Dude, do you need a lift?” And I’m saying, “No, I’m fine!”
TTO: In researching you, I quickly learned that you’ve becoming something of a sex symbol. How does that make you feel?
CH: I don’t think about it, to be honest. It’s great get to people’s attention, briefly, and then hopefully they can appreciate my acting. And I can bring them something, more than just eye-candy. But it’s all just fun and games, I guess.
TTO: I’ve noticed that the show is shot in HD, and you really see everything. Do you ever wake up with a zit and think, “Oh, God, I can’t go to work!”
CH: You know, I don’t even look in the mirror. I get up and go to work and don’t think about it. I’ve got a make-up artist, and they’re going to do my hair properly, to make me look decent.
And you’re right, for those reasons, once you start thinking, “Oh, I’ve got a zit,” you can’t go there.
TTO: Down that road lies madness. Do you have any idea what’s going to happen in the next season? Do you have any input, any idea?
CH: No one knows. I think they’re going to take the three months and sit and try to decide the arc. I don’t know, but I’m going to pitch to direct an episode. I’d really like to do that.
[Editor's Clarification: While the producers of the show are moving ahead with a second season and it is likely to come back, it has not yet been "officially" greenlit. It's a syndicated show, which mean commitments must be received from local markets. So far, 48 of the 50 top markets have committed.]
TTO: I know you said you’re going to collapse when the shooting is done, but do you have plans for the hiatus after that?
CH: I’m going to head over to Los Angeles for about two months with a friend or two. My new agency is there, and I’ll scope out what they want me to see, what’s going on.
It’s getting cold here now, so it’ll be good to head to a warm environment like Los Angeles.
TTO: Where’s your posse? Your friends must be back home. Are you single? Do you have a group of friends who travel with you, or do you just make friends wherever you go?
CH: It’s kinda cool. I am single, but I’ve got a lot of good buddies, I’ve got two or three good buddies, two or three really close blokes, really good boys, one from Brisbane as well as me, one from Rock Hampton. We all moved to Sydney to be actors together.
TTO: Have they been cast in the show?
CH: Yeah, I flew ‘em over, and they stayed with me for a month, and I got them on the show. Rory was a soldier, and Glenn was, like, the village idiot. It was nice just to have them on the set.
TTO: My final question. If you, Craig, talked to the Confessor, what do you think she would say you’ve learned in the past year? What wisdom have you gained about yourself and the world?
CH: I guess how to withstand pain. There’s a line from the show, I think from Zed, which is, “Don’t think about the past or what will be. See only what is.” And I’ve learned to do that, because I’ve been through a lot. I’ve learned to accept what is is what is.
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Special thanks to Eef, Ashley, Dana, Ethan, Stephen, Carmencita, LostinDarkness, Amanda, Caroline, Carrie, Annie, Bethany, Maria, Gina, Omar, and all the others who suggested questions, which I tried to incorporate into my own!
- Farewell, LEGEND OF THE SEEKER: A Eulogy
- The Results! The Sexiest Man of Fantasy, 2009-2010
- Rob Tapert Interview: The Fanboy Behind LEGEND OF THE SEEKER and XENA
- Interview: The Two Sides to LEGEND OF THE SEEKER’s Bridget Regan
- Ted Raimi Interview: “We’re Living in a Golden Age of Fantasy Movies and TV”