With Halloween this past week, it’s no surprise that a variety of fright flicks have flooded the channels including actor Craig Horner’s See No Evil, a gruesome horror featuring a bunch of teenage delinquents being targeted by a sadistic psychopath while cleaning a rundown hotel.
“I thought See No Evil was great!” offers an enthusiastic Horner. “That was the first American production I had done. We shot it in Australia at the Warner Brothers studio there with a fellow friend and former roommate, Rachel Taylor, who is actually doing well in the U.S. market. It was a six week shoot and a lot of fun.”
These days, Horner has more to worry about than having his eyes gauged out. On November 1st, the Australian native assumed the lead in the new syndicated fantasy Legend of the Seeker, a television series based on Terry Goodkind’s beloved Sword of Truth books.
“I was fairly into fantasy as a kid and then I had other interests as I started reading,” explains Horner. “When this audition came up, I hadn’t heard of the book Wizard’s First Rule. I was mentioning it to a friend, who is also a writer, and he said ‘Wow! Wizard’s First Rule! Craig, you have to do this! It’s a really, really good thing. I’ll lend you the books.’ That is when I went and touched up on the material.”
Executive produced by Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert, Legend of the Seeker finds the fate of the world thrust upon the unlikeliest of saviors, the hunky, yet normal, Richard Cypher.
“The series has got that ancient Earth kind of feel,” explains Horner. “There are no guns but just blades, steel, and brawn. My character, Richard, is a simple woods guide who lives in Westland, a land of no magic. What you see there is what you get. It’s a simple life style. There’s a magical boundary that separates Westland from the Midlands. In the Midlands, it’s all magic but the two worlds don’t really know too much about each other. One day, a woman named Kahlan, who looks something like a princess, is running and on some kind of mission. They stumble upon each other and she says to Richard ‘You have a bigger destiny than what you think. You are a Seeker. There is a prophecy that you will defeat the evil taking over our country. This man, Darken Rahl, is the one you will kill with the Sword of Truth.’ Then we go on this journey to find this man.”
As expected, Richard isn’t prepared to fully embrace any crazy prophecy.
“You see a wizard with a crazy looking woman in a white dress and they are telling you that you have to kill people with a sword and Richard’s like ‘I’m not going to do this!’” says Horner. “He fights it for a while but he starts seeing things that change his mind. Things are breaking through this boundary. Richard sees a horrible creature as well as a man who represents the Dharan army and is after him for some reason. And something big happens in the pilot that is really a turn around for Richard which is he loses someone quite special to him. That’s it. When someone is after you and they are taking your loved ones, you start to believe.”
Thankfully, along for this adventure of a lifetime is the courageous and beautiful Kahlan.
“They almost have a love at first sight relationship,” notes Horner. “These two are in it together and are really good friends. Early on, Richard gets told by the Wizard Zedd that she carries a burden and it can never be the two of them. He doesn’t know why and he doesn’t like that because he doesn’t trust magic and feels it’s dishonest. That is where he comes from. He is unsure of any kind of magic because it’s illusional.”
On a weekly basis, Legend of the Seeker will expand on the bestselling books while Richard and Kahlan continue their dangerous quest.
“We do a really good adaptation,” reports Horner. “I’m a massive fan of the books and the show. I really enjoy both. What they’ve done for the series is taken the mythology, the characters, the relationships, a lot of the stories, and the general narrative of the first book. Wizard’s First Rule is what the first 22 episodes of Legend of the Seeker is going to revolve around but in each episode, we are going to take Richard and Kahlan on new adventures and to new places. If there is a place mentioned in the book, let’s just go there! We have to fill 22 episodes and we need to give fans something to be excited about.”
“And Richard is discovering more about himself each time,” he adds. “I guess what makes a hero are the decisions he makes in these challenges. He is alone in this world and doesn’t have to be here really. He could go home at any time really to the life he once knew. Once he starts seeing the corruption in the Midlands and a place run by evil, he has to help. It’s in his nature and he’s almost lost everything so why not go forward?”
In order for Richard to defend himself or take the offensive, Horner had to brush up on his battle skills.
“When Bridget [Regan] and I got to New Zealand, we got pushed back six weeks because the scripts weren’t ready, they wanted to redo them, and make them really good,” recalls Horner. “Bridget and I had six weeks to kill so we made use of that time by doing some sword fighting and horse training. When I was a kid, I was obsessed with sword fighting. I was running around the backyard by myself, with a plastic sword, and chopping up imaginary baddies. Having that kind of background can help. It’s like ‘Oh great! This is what I’ve been waiting to do my whole life! Woo hoo! Bring it on! Give me that sword!’ It’s very physical but Bridget and I are quite coordinated.”
Further enhancing their performances was New Zealand’s beautiful countryside.
“It’s like the third character!” agrees Horner. “Sometimes you don’t even have to act standing in front of one of those mountains. It’s like ‘If I do anything, it will probably take away from that. The less I do, the better.’ Especially as actors, if you are in the forest, if you are picking up dirt, touching a real tree, or standing on top of an island, you can get into it. It really helps.”
One interesting difference between filming in New Zealand and North America is the seasons are reversed.
“We are going into summer now while you guys are going into winter,” says Horner. “When we first got there, it was freeing! We were getting chucked on the top of this mountain, which was higher than the clouds. You have your big jacket on, the chopper comes around to get the shot, and it’s like ‘Take the jacket off, throw it under the bush, jam that sword in the top of the mountain, the camera flies over, you chuck the jacket back on, and you get warmed up for the next shot.’ It’s cool and all part of the job.”
All the long hours seem to have paid off because Horner couldn’t be prouder of Legend of the Seeker.
“Man, I love this character and it’s a really, really good role to play!” he enthuses. “What’s great is in 22 episodes, I can take him from boy to man. Especially for me in my career, that’s what I’m going through. I’ve played a lot of boy and teenage roles before but this is that coming of age project. Richard has a good heart and his face is always honest. I’m not going to lie or deceive people. What you see is what you get and it’s amazing to portray that.”
The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter franchises have proven that the fantasy genre means big bucks but Horner insists you don’t have to know your Middle Earth from your Hogwarts to enjoy Legend of the Seeker.
“It’s really about the characters, the relationships, the love story, the politics, and all that,” he concludes. “When you are in another world that represents nothing of what you are used to in your own life, you can escape and start believing in these characters. Before you know it, you are invested in this world and buying it. The stakes become real. Okay, sure it’s the end of the world, but you get it because you are engaged by these characters.”Related: Popular Fantasy Books Inspire Sam Raimi's New TV 'Legend'