ATLANTIS WEEK: We Meet Robert Emms AKA Pythagoras

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With less than a week to go until BBC’s Atlantis stakes its claim as the new king of Saturday night prime time adventure, we joined actor Robert Emms (War Horse and Kick Ass 2) at the Atlantis set in Wales to discuss his character Pythagoras, babies and triangles.

“Pythagoras’ wide-eyed innocence and awkward naivety belies his brilliant mind.” So says the BBC official site but really, who is the man who would be a founding father of modern day mathematics and one third of the trio that includes Hercules and Jason?  

“He’s a loyal friend. He’s the smart, geeky, intelligent one who comes up with all of the smart plans. He doesn’t really do any fighting. Obviously it is Pythagoras of fear and fame.” Emms declares with a beaming smile that says he is having fun with the character after 5 episodes in. Through the arc of the whole series there will be developments of his theories. Little things will be dropped in where you hear about his theories. Mostly he’s a genuine, nice, loyal friend, if sometimes a little naive.”

The team of heroes include Pythagoras, Hercules and new boy Jason. Being the brainy one on the team has its advantages but also it can lead to others taking advantage of him.

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“Sometimes they do as a bit of a joke, but a lot of the time he knows a lot about everything. He’s uber, uber smart and he’s kind of innocent. He hasn’t really got any idea about anything other than practical studies. He wouldn’t really know anything about girls. He’s sort of asexual in that sense. Things that excite him are knowledge and friendship as well.”

He also did some research into Pythagoras, as he’s the only character who was actually a real person as opposed to being part of a myth or legend:

“With this obviously you have to take a lot of it with a pinch of salt because Hercules would never have known Pythagoras.” In answer to what makes it exciting for the actor to play him he replied. “It’s nice to play a real character in the sense that dramatising a mathematician and a philosopher because for kids and people studying that, it kind of makes it cool which is really nice and I don’t think he’s ever really been dramatised.”

The show is heavy with myths, legends and mystical beasts so you would expect a lot of special effects and green-screen work. Emms describes what he has had to do so far:

“I learnt quite a bit of wire-work where we’ve been jumping things that we wouldn’t be able to jump ourselves. In episode five which we’re shooting right now, there’s quite a lot of wire-work that goes on because there’s lots of wind in it, so there will be more of that yeah. It’s great because you’ve got one element of the house and street, which you get completely immersed in and it’s completely real, and then another element where you have to imagine what’s surrounding you which is kind of like being in the theatre, being on the stage, so you get really stretched as an actor which is nice.”

A central theme of the show is the relationship between the three male leads which carries on after the cameras stop rolling. “It’s that threesome, the three guys and how they interact with each other. The relationships are very dynamic; you don’t feel like you are being two-dimensional. We hope it doesn’t come across like that, but you never know.” Emms carried on to talk about how the bonding started before filming even began.

“Before we started shooting there was like a month where we did rehearsals, and then we went to France for three days together to horse ride. That was pretty good because we were thrown into staying in a tiny village in France together in the hotel, and eating with each other all the time and that really helped. I think we actually had three meals with each other every day apart from the weekends, non-stop for four months now. I don’t even do that with my best friends, so we really have bonded. Although they’ll probably tell you that I irritate them, I think they’re both great and we genuinely get on really well which really helps. We have a lot of banter between the three of us.”

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After walking around the set of Atlantis, we had to chance to ask Robert some more questions:

GS: We’ve seen a few of you and your extras today in costume. We know some of the characters only have one costume, which they’re wearing. How about yourself? Is this the only thing you wear or do you get to change it up?

RE: This is the basis of it and then sometimes I have a cloak. I have a housecoat kind of thing, but they keep it pretty much to this,  I think especially with us three it’s about trying to keep it instantly recognisable to people.

GS: I noticed all of the extras are in brown and you guys seem to have slightly different colours going on.

RE: The colours in this are amazing. Seeing this off screen you’re like “erm, well” and then you see it on screen and the colour scheme is amazing, especially with the sets; the colour of the rocks and our costumes against that. It looks fantastic.

GS: You mentioned about the sets. We took a tour this morning and I think one of my favourite ones was Hercules’ house. How much time do you spend on that one?

RE: Usually we’re in there every day doing something, especially at the start. We were in there all the time. As we go out on our adventures, we venture out into the next door along or we go out onto a location in Morocco or wherever we’re shooting. It’s great that house because you do start feeling like it’s your home and between takes, and sometimes I’ll go for a nap, I’ll just go into my bedroom and sleep in my bed. I’m developing asthma because it’s so dusty. But it’s quite nice because you really do get a feeling for it and when other people come up there I’m like “this is my room! Step away!”

GS: The producers of the show described the band of brothers as the ancient Minoan version of the A-Team is that correct?

RE: Yeah that is actually, yeah. That’s quite a good little comparison actually. That’s the good thing about the three characters, is that you can place them in lots of different things and you recognise that formula. Everyone has different skills and they’re best mates. They will do anything for each other, which is a really lovely thing to play because we like each other in real life. I think it would be really difficult if we hated each other but we really get on and have a great time.

GS: Is the series only set in Atlantis or do you actually veer out of Atlantis on adventures?

RE: At the moment we’ve only been in Atlantis, but after a while I think…well there are episodes where we do get to go to other places, but not other cities. I’m not going to tell you too much.

GS: This morning I think they were mentioning about a Three Men and a Baby episode?

RE: Yeah, Three Men and a Baby is, we find a baby and we have to look after the baby and then it turns out not to be what we thought it was, and we get ourselves into quite a dangerous situation. It starts out quite funny and cute; the three hapless guys trying to look after a newborn baby.

GE: How was it working with a baby? Was it a real baby?

RE: It was a real baby, they were brilliant actually. It was twins and they were fantastic and did everything on cue. They kind of showed us up a bit actually!

GS: So no mistakes happened?

RE: There was one time. I actually had a bet with one of the camera guys that if the baby would wee itself that day; we got a bit bored on set so we were just making bets. It was so funny because the baby, we had to put it down, and it was just lying there and Jack had to do something and then the baby has to wee on him, so we had the props guys doing a little tube thing, but it was so funny because in rehearsal the baby did literally wee. And I won the bet as well so that was great! I got a free pint!

GS: What’s been your favourite episode you’ve shot so far and why?

RE: I think episode one was great because it was new and fresh and because there’s quite a lot with us three developing our relationship, so that was quite nice to play. Episode five is quite good because I have a nice storyline in that. I think four, the baby one as well I’ve enjoyed which was a surprise because when I read it I enjoyed it but I was more excited about five and then suddenly four was a real surprise. They’re all great actually.

GS: Do you have a favourite myth or legend from Greek mythology that you’d like to see on the show at some point?

RE: I like the Oedipus one which I think might turn up eventually. I think they’ll do them all! There are so many characters from them to use which is brilliant. I’m already learning a lot which I didn’t know already, and then finding out that it’s not true.

Atlantis premieres this Saturday at 8:25PM on BBC1 and in the US on November 23rd on BBC America.

Source: BBC Atlantis
Reporter: Montoya

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