THE popular fantasy drama His Dark Materials comes to a rousing close with Season 3 currently showing on HBO.
Based on The Amber Spyglass, the final novel in Philip Pullman's award-winning trilogy, Lyra Belacqua, the prophesied child, and Will Parry, the bearer of The Subtle Knife, must journey to a dark place from which no one has ever returned.
As her father's great war against the Authority edges closer, they will learn that saving the worlds comes at a terrible price.
Below, lead actors Dafne Keen and Amir Wilson, who play Lyra and Will respectively, talk about their adventures in the 8-episode season.
Set the scene for Lyra and Will at the beginning of the ﬁnal season
Keen: Will's been told that he needs to give the Subtle Knife to Lord Asriel (James McAvoy). So he's searching for Lyra while keeping in mind that his mission is one that requires him to give the knife to Asriel. Lyra is currently being kidnapped by her mother (Mrs Coulter, Ruth Wilson) and being held hostage and drugged. And Asriel's planning to build the Republic of Heaven. Because he's crazy. That's where we're at, basically.
Wilson: Will was at the lowest of lows at the end of Season 2. He met his father again (John Parry, Andrew Scott) and his father died in front of him, but not before telling him that he needs to get the knife to Asriel. He goes back to tell Lyra but Lyra's gone. And so we pick him up in Season 3 on a mission to ﬁnd Lyra.
K: And Lyra is having weird vivid dreams of her dead best friend Roger. I should have mentioned that.
As performers, when you're acting, how do you distil it down to what your character wants?
K: My approach to doing fantasy has always been don't think of it as fantasy. Because if you play fantasy it's gonna' come out fake. So just play it as natural and as real as possible. And then the talking animals will speak for themselves!
W: And also we ﬁlmed in chronological order in the sense that we did episodes, one and two, and three, and four, and ﬁve, and six, and seven and eight. Then we would have new directors for each block of ﬁlming and each new director meant a new world that we're ﬁlming in, whether it's Land of the Dead, or Suburbs of the Dead, or our world, Mulefa world, wherever it is. So I guess that's an easy way to keep up with things and get yourself on the right track as to where you're at in the current part of the story.
We know that Lyra and Will do ﬁnd each other again. How much time did you guys spend working together on this ﬁnal season?
W: Pretty much all day, every day for the six months we were ﬁlming. Episodes one and two are me obviously looking for Lyra. So I guess we have less stuﬀ there. And I come across angels and bears and all sorts.
K: Amir started ﬁlming a couple of weeks before I did. So I got to sleep for about a month, which was great.
W: But once she came back I don't think we had any days where we weren't with each other ﬁlming. Except when she did her ﬂashback scenes where she was screaming a lot.
K: But we mostly did that when you'd wrap and then I'd stay an hour longer but just shouting.
W: Every time Dafne had to shout 'ROGER!' I wasn't there. Thankfully.
After two seasons were there still moments in the shoot – locations, set-ups, costumes — where you'd arrive on set and go 'Wow'?
K: The sets are crazy. Joel Collins (production designer) did such a good job. We were so privileged — the sets we ﬁlmed on felt like we were in the real place, which was really, really good as an actor to get to experience that.
W: They were really immersive. Often people assume when you're ﬁlming fantasy in terms of a lot of visual eﬀects that you're just sat in front of a green screen all day. This wasn't that at all. Joel Collins and everyone who was involved in designing and building these sets did an incredible job. The Land of the Dead set was literally a huge hall and as far as you can see it's this black, empty pit. When they shut the lights oﬀ and blew a bit of smoke in there you couldn't really tell where you were. That helped us.
K: It was really interesting to be able to work on that set. It literally sucked the energy out of people; it was really fascinating. We also got to go to Malaga in Spain where we did episode eight – but we're not allowed to talk about the end!
His Dark Materials is generally quite a serious watch – the themes it deals with are intense. Did you manage to have some fun on set?
K: I just honestly feel like me and Amir never take anything seriously. I fully remember me and Amir were doing this really emotional scene. It was my close up and I'm crying. Now have you ever watched Whiplash? When he goes, 'Are you a single tear kind of person?' It was like that. Horrible. That was literally me ﬁlming.
W: You can't take yourself too seriously when ﬁlming something that's meant to be serious. Otherwise it just won't be fun at all.
How do you feel now that His Dark Materials is coming close to ending?
K: The ﬁlming is over and for me that's the most fun bit. That's a bit weird because we've been doing this for years now. It's crazy. I'm ﬁlming something at the moment and it's just so diﬀerent. It's such a diﬀerent experience.
W: I'm ﬁlming something next year and it will be one of the ﬁrst things I've done that's a drama based in London — not a fantasy — which will be a nice change for me actually. To do something more realistic. It won't be on these huge, massive sets but it will be diﬀerent. And hopefully really fun.
Have you met Philip Pullman, who wrote the books?
K: I have met him a couple times. I met him on set on the second week of ﬁlming on Season One. And it was really surreal because I was on set and I was like, 'Oh my God, he's going to come and I'm going to be acting and this is my second week on set. I don't know what I'm doing. I'm 13 and literally have no experience…' It was very intimidating. He arrived on set and he was really lovely. I didn't know how to relate to him. I was just trying to talk but being really awkward.
Watch the 8-episode His Dark Materials S3 on Tuesdays at 10am on HBO or HBO GO, with 2 new episodes premiering every Tuesday, and the finale on Dec 27.