[NYCC 2014] Black Sails Interviews with Zach McGowan & Toby Schmitz

[NYCC 2014] Black Sails Interviews with Zach McGowan & Toby Schmitz

October 19, 2014 0 By Steph Mernagh

This past weekend at New York Comic Con, fans of the Starz original series Black Sails had a chance to see a panel featuring their favorite scoundrels from the explosive first season of the pirate series. The series will return to television on January 24, 2015 and announced at the convention was news that the show has been renewed for a third season.

Black Sails is an ambitious and visually appealing show that showcases the more brutal side of pirate life as opposed to the almost romantic allure we received with such works as Pirates of the Caribbean. We had the chance to sit down with fellow media members, Zach McGowan (Captain Charles Vane) and Toby Schmitz (Rackham) for a roundtable discussion about their characters and some exciting new things we will be seeing in the coming season.

How much training did you go through for the fight scenes?


Zach McGowan at New York Comic Con 2014.
Photography by Marc Daniel Delledonne for Geek Chic Elite.

Zach: A lot. When we got to Cape Town originally we did a ‘pirate bootcamp’ kind of thing where we started working on sword work and stunt assessments and that sort of thing. We’re lucky we have the resources to do a long period of fight rehearsals for every kind of sequence and that’s important because just like anything, when you are given the resources to to the job right, it will be done right. It was fun though, it was a blast.

Toby: I hadn’t stepped into a gym in my life until two years ago so it’s been a learning curve for me, but it’s been fun.

What is it like to work on the ships?

Toby: We have three now and there may be a fourth one being built.

Zach: I think all of us were looking forward to our first scenes on them. It’s pretty cool. They’re very big.

Toby: In season one, our characters lose their ship really early on and we were like “awww… when do we get to do that again?” and we eventually do but it’s not as fun as it looks – there’s no shade, there’s nowhere to step off, you can get seasickness and it’s a lot different than the brothel of the first season where I spent most of my time. I wasn’t very happy to step out of it! Our characters don’t like to be in the brothel, but it is quite fun to shoot in there.

Zach: I think that’s a cool thing about the show; that there’s so many little sets that we have – the ships, the brothel, the tavern – and how different it is working in each location and yes, working on the ships is very warm, especially when you are wearing leather jackets.

Is there a specific theme as to where we will see everything go in season two?

Toby: There must be some kind of talk like that going on in the writers room but for me it felt like a natural continuation. It’s time to expand and develop. Now that we [the audience] can care about these characters, it’s time to do some emotional stuff.

Zach: I think you’ll start to get a little more about what’s driving these people to do what they’re doing. We just watched how hard this world is that they’re living in so what kind of motivation they have and what’s behind it.

Toby: I like how you said before that they all have an idea of what freedom in a new democracy might seem like – it’s a nice idea, to step outside the law and make our own, but that ideal utopia for each of them is going to be different.

Zach: The only thing they all have in common is that they don’t want to be under those people’s rule.


Isn’t that the allure of pirates? That they live by their own code?

Zach: I think that’s something that’s resonated about the show; for people who get tired of dealing with the ‘same ol”, it’s a good escape from the boxed in, corporate environment.

Toby: And the flip side of that is that they had their own rules. They couldn’t gather everyone together outside the law and just have fun. They had to create their own laws.

Zach: You have to add some kind of order to it or else everyone would just kill each other on the streets. That’s another thing that may be cool about season two. We show this place as shifting between a lawless environment and a place where things are structured and there’s a lot of new characters that come in. You start to rearrange what you think about people because maybe someone else is more brutal and it’s really interesting. What you think is normal starts changing as the season goes on.

Toby: I think a really nice example of how rules and laws creep in no matter what is that you have all these criminals living outside society yet it’s still 1715 and they wear frock coats and corsets in this tropical heat. Even these bad guys back then had some sense of…

Social Moree?

Toby: Yeah social moree, completely! Back then they still wore their hat when they were outside with three layers…

Zach: At least some of the characters, I don’t have to wear a shirt or anything. [laughs]

It looks like Black Sails is an incredibly physically demanding show.

Zach: It is very physical. Sometimes the sweat is really just our sweat.

Toby: If you look at the town they’ve got of built, it’s not like at a studio where you can just leave set and go back into your air conditioned room.

Zach: I don’t know how big the backlot is but it takes a long time to walk or travel around it so once you get onto a location and you are shooting at, you’re going to be there all day until it’s done.

Black Sails premieres Saturday, January 24th on Starz. You can also visit the official Black Sails website for all kinds of information about the show, actors and episodes.