MTV is bringing the world of Terry Brooks’ novels to life in The Shannara Chronicles. Austin Butler stars as Wil, a mostly human with some elf heritage, though the small ears are a sore subject. Wil becomes embroiled in an adventure when Allanon (Manu Bennett) tells him he is the son of a great magician who let magic destroy him. Wil has a chance to learn to control his magic.
We got to speak with Butler this week about his role bringing Wil to life on The Shannara Chronicles, and we asked him a few questions from fans on Twitter too. The Shannara Chronicles premieres with a two hour episode Tuesday, January 5 at 10PM on MTV.
Austin Butler The Shannara Chronicles Interview
What intrigued you about The Shannara Chronicles?
Austin Butler: “My first experience with it was reading the script and I loved it. It was captivating and exciting and it really took me along for the ride. Then meeting with the whole team, [Jon] Favreau, Al [Gough] and Miles [Millar] and Jonathan Liebesman, showing me the imagery and storyboards and everything, that really showed me it such a cool thing to be a part of.”
What made you want to play Wil?
Austin Butler: “I love Wil’s journey through the story. I love how he starts out naive. He’s never been more than five miles outside his village and we get to see him find the hero within himself and realize that there is more to him than he ever knew. I just love the humanity of that.”
How do you relate to Wil?
Austin Butler: “When he starts out, he has no idea what he’s doing. He’s got to find within himself the strength to get through and do these incredibly tough challenges. I think that’s something that I and probably everyone else who’s gone through challenges can totally relate to.”
What do you like most about Wil?
Austin Butler: “I like how he uses humor to get through tough situations. I like how he steps up to the plate and he doesn’t give up. He really didn’t have to go on this journey but he does. I respect that about him, that courage to look fear in the face.”
What are some things you don’t like about Wil?
Austin Butler: “There’s an awkwardness to him and an unheroic side to him that I, while playing him, I want to be the hero, I want to be able to fight with a sword. I think that side of him, I want to be able to do those things but it’s what makes the payoff so wonderful when he is able to. In the moment, you go, ‘I wish he was cooler right now,’ but it makes it so much better when he finally does step up to the plate.”
Do the small ears take just as long to put on as the big elf ears?
Austin Butler: [Laughs] “I believe they do. They actually were at times a little tricker because there’s not as much surface area to get glue under. So they’re a little trickier but by the end it took about the same to get them on as everybody else’s.”
What have been the most challenging things to do while filming The Shannara Chronicles?
Austin Butler: “There were certain physical challenges, there were times where I was in the river for 13 hours and cold water that was coming down from glaciers. So that day sticks out as a particularly rough day. My lips started to turn blue.”
When you’re dragged behind the horses, even though it’s fairly slow, did they ever go too fast?
Austin Butler: “Oh, that was pretty rough. That was funny because they had a rig on that horse where if it started to run into trees or something I could pull something and it would detach me from the horse. So it’s sort of a safety rig. We tried it multiple times with the safety rig and the way the horse pulled me, I didn’t realize I was going to bounce so much. So I’m bouncing on hard dirt and the bouncing caused the safety rig to pull apart and this metal thing whacked me in the face and cut my nose. It cut the bridge of my nose and then we ended up having to just do it with the regular rope because the safety rig was actually hurting me worse. That was another rough day. I thought I broke my nose that day.”
What’s involved with using the elf stones?
Austin Butler: “That was interesting to figure out how to, when Wil is using them, how does he hold them? We all got to decide but it’s a hard thing to show them while you’re using them because if you just open your palm, they could fall out of your hand. So I ended up holding them in a fist. The thing about them is that magic always has a price. That’s a theme in the show so it ends up causing physical pain to Wil. You have to take the good with the bad with the elf stones.”
Did you read the books after you got the part?
Austin Butler: “Yeah, I read them after I got cast and I love them.”
How accessible is The Shannara Chronicles to people who haven’t read the books?
Austin Butler: “I think it’s very accessible. I think the whole world is so beautiful and it really sucks you into the environment and to the story. The themes that we’re dealing with, the themes of love and loss and rising to challenges, these are all things that we feel in the year 2016 and they feel in Shannara.”
How close will the show follow the books?
Austin Butler: “Well, there are inherent challenges with adapting a large novel to a TV show but the awesome thing that we had was Terry was a part of the entire process. So if little changes had to happen, they all went through Terry and he gave his blessing on things and he decided things. It was cool because we had the guy who wrote the novel helping to write the scripts, helping to make decisions.”
How do you like New Zealand?
Austin Butler: “New Zealand is an absolutely breathtaking country. I love getting to work there. It’s serene and magical in and of itself. I felt very grateful to be there.”
What are some great spots in New Zealand you’ve discovered?
Austin Butler: “Oh wow, there’s an island called Waiheke Island where they have all these vineyards and great restaurants. You take a ferry from Auckland out to the island. I got together with some of the other cast and some of the producers and we rented a big house out on this island that had its own private beach, so we got to get up in the morning with the sunrise and ride kayaks out into the water. It was just absolutely magical, so that was a really cool spot.”