Luke Arnold is in Santa Fe shooting a western when STACK speaks with the Adelaide-born actor, who recently returned Down Under to work on the second season of Glitch.
“Now that Black Sails is all done and dusted, I’m trying to take more Australian jobs so I can get more time back home,”
Having played Robert Louis Stevenson’s iconic pirate John Silver in Starz’s hit series for the past four years, Arnold admits that life after Black Sails has been somewhat bittersweet.
“Black Sails is the best job I’ve ever had, or can imagine having. It was such a great group of people and the most exciting and challenging role. And at the same time, that was most of my life for four years. It was the best job ever, but it’s nice to have life open up a bit more.”
Arnold notes that there was a sense of closure when going into the fourth season. “At the beginning we thought this might be the end, and once we were a couple of episodes in and things began to progress, it started becoming clear that the characters were ready for this part of the journey to end, and starting to overcome the things they’ve been struggling with since the very first episode. As much as the actors were probably ready to take a break from the tough pirate life, I think the characters were more so than us.
“We were all so sore and exhausted by the end,” he adds. “There’s so much action in the fourth season, let alone for me when I’m on one leg, so by the time the finale came around, I think we were too tired to be sad about it. It was kind of a relief that we’d made it to the last day. Now that the final episodes have aired and it’s all wrapping up, the melancholy is setting in.
“The best thing about it is we gave it an ending. When you work on a show like this and give as much as everyone in the cast and crew did, it feels like an entire story. We spent as much time telling Black Sails as the story deserved.”
At the heart of the series – and one of its major strengths – is the relationship that develops between Silver and Captain Flint (Toby Stephens) after an initially fractious association, and Arnold agrees that, unofficially, it has been the through-line of the show.
“It’s one of those strange things of playing the long game – in season one we hardly spoke. So it was slow burn going from a thorn in the side to [Flint’s] offsider/sidekick to quartermaster and then to this strange place where we’re at in season four. We’re best friends and allies and all these pressures are put upon us. By the time we get to the end, while there are so many things going on, the Flint/Silver partnership, struggle and everything that goes with that, really comes to the centre of the show, which for me was very rewarding. Toby Stephens is one of the most incredible actors around, so to go on this journey with him for four years has been a real treat.”
Silver’s own journey reaches its conclusion in season four when he becomes the legendary pirate king Long John Silver, a mantle bestowed upon him by Billy Bones (Tom Hopper) at the end of the third season.
“His personal journey in season four is about whether he believes he can take that on,” notes Arnold. “Does he want to take it on? And what can he do with that power once he has it? I’ve played a different version of the character every season and there’s almost three different versions again in season four. That kind of pressure of being a young leader is really put on his shoulders in the middle of a huge revolution that’s setting out to change the world. When he began the story he was just a guy looking out for his own skin and wanted a bit of gold for himself, so to get to the point where he’s now the leader of a revolution is a pretty significant journey.”
Having made the role of Silver his own, Arnold reveals he was actually cast in the series without reading for the part. “I actually auditioned for Charles Vane. I was signed to the show for about six weeks, I think, before they found Zach McGowran and decided he’ll be Vane and I’ll be Silver. Charles Vane is undeniably Zach McGowran – what he did with that character is so unique, although I’m still curious to see what my Charles Vane would have been.”
Black Sails was conceived as a prelude to Treasure Island by creators Jonathan E. Steinberg and Robert Levine, so does this raise the possibility the story could continue in a spin-off series?
“The way we see Black Sails got solidified in season four – if Black Sails was the history then Treasure Island became the legend,” Arnold offers. “We don’t get right up to Treasure Island but we allude to a lot of things and do our own kind of version of the prequel. There’s been a lot of talk about whether we could do a Treasure Island. In a lot of ways it feels like it would be hard not to diminish what we’ve done with Black Sails if we just did a Treasure Island version that stuck close to the book.
“One of the big strengths of Black Sails is the amount of strong women in the show, who don’t really appear in Treasure Island. I think the way we end Black Sails is pretty satisfying and haunting, and I’d almost be scared to go back and do any more after the way season four finishes.”
Black Sails: Season 4 is out on May 24.