Season three of Starz’ high seas pirate adventure Black Sails kicks off on January 23, 2016 with Captain Flint (Toby Stephens) still reeling from the devastating events in the season two finale and prepared to wage a campaign of terror. During Starz’ Television Critics Association’s winter 2016 press event, Stephens revealed details on Captain Flint’s state of mind in season three.
“I mean, it is what happens at the back end of season two that propels him into this particularly nihilistic phase,” said Stephens. “But I think that what is great about the journey of this character, and it is really a journey, is that although he goes to these depths of trying to negate his human side, he can’t really escape it. His struggle is really with himself and his own humanity and that trying to remove [himself], trying to isolate that from himself, he can’t do it. He’s constantly reminded that he is a human being. And I think it’s far more interesting than just playing somebody who is relentlessly dark. It’s got to be a struggle. I think this particular series is really him finding his purpose again. That’s the story for his arc, but particularly for Flint.”
Black Sails’ showrunner/executive producer Jonathan E. Steinberg expanded on Stephens‘ description, saying, ”I think if season two was about, at least in terms of Flint’s story, a guy who was at war with himself and trying to figure out which of these two identities that both inhabit him is the one he wants to identify with and then you reach this endpoint where he decides, ‘I’m just going to be the monster everyone thinks I am.’ We wanted to tell the story about how his humanity was going to resist that and that, at the end of the day, is part of what I think makes Captain Flint this tragic figure is that he is seen as a monster by everyone but himself and that there is this war going on for him to reconcile that and try to find a place for his humanity in it.”
I think as we got through what became structured as an odyssey for him through the third season of a guy who went off to war and couldn’t find his way home, it became a story about him locating that humanity through people he loves, who are not with him anymore, and, then, finding a place to point it. And I think part of part of this is about trying to, for him, find meaning in the violence and meaning in the sacrifice he’s made and a way to stand up against civilization and not have it just be nihilism. To try to find a way to, sort of, apply that.”
Steinberg continued, “I think underlying all of this story is this idea that when they were just thieves, everyone tolerated it, and it was just factored into the way you did business in that world. When they start talking about wanting to unwind the social order and it starts to stick, that’s when people get scared and when London gets scared and when somebody has to step in and do something about it. And so I think both of those stories are on a collision course, you know, Flint and Teach [Ray Stevenson] and Vane [Zach McGowan] on one side and the new character of Woodes Rogers [Luke Roberts] on the other of this governor who is coming in to finally stamp this down and try to make it go away and push the frontier back a little bit further.”
The sets, costumes, and special effects on Black Sails are first-rate and at the TCAs Stephens was asked about being on the set and acting knowing much of what’s happening in a scene will be added in later. “I think it’s probably an act of faith because, you know, you can see the storyboards, but you don’t know what it’s going to be like when it’s fully rendered,” explained Stephens. “But having worked on various other seasons of this, particularly season two, for example, where there was a lot more special effects, you kind of know that it’s going to be of a very high standard. But it is a bit of an act of faith. You have to work in all of the stuff that’s happening into your performance without it actually being there to a certain extent, although, for example, in the storm sequence, it was pretty easy to do that because you had jet engines propelling water sideways at us at about a hundred miles an hour. So that didn’t take much imagination. But some of the other stuff, you have to kind of figure that in. But I was extremely proud and impressed by the end result,”