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Interview: Actor Blake Ritson Talks 'Krypton,' 'Da Vinci's Demons' and 'Bricks'

March 10, 2018Ben Mk






In popular culture and beyond, the villain often gets a bad rap. But for an actor, it's sometimes more satisfying to play the tortured antagonist than to play the clean-cut good guy. Of course, there are always exception to the rule. But as actor Blake Ritson can attest, the line between playing a villain versus playing a hero is often purely subjective.

Best known for his role as the scheming Girolamo Riario in David S. Goyer's Da Vinci's Demons, Ritson can next be seen playing one of DC Comics' most infamous villains, Brainiac, in the upcoming SyFy series Krypton. I caught up with the UK actor to chat about these roles, his role in the short film Bricks, and to find out which type of part speaks to him more — protagonists or antagonists.


First off, how did you come to be involved in Bricks?

Ritson: Before [director Neville Pierce and I] ever met, we had a friend in common, a lovely director (Debs Patterson,) who I was at university with. She introduced us to each other over email. Nev sent over the script for Bricks, and I remember thinking that the the writing was really fresh and exciting. The relationship between the two characters, and the simmering disquiet was really expertly handled. So I met up for a cup of tea with Nev, and he discussed the layers of the script and the tone of the piece as he imagined it playing out.

It sounded like a really fun project, and Nev's delightful, so I jumped on board. Jason Flemyng was already attached at this point, but had quite a number of ongoing filming commitments, and I was filming a couple of things at the time, so it became a kind of waiting game for us both to have a weekend free to shoot while we were in the same continent. Nev was very patient.


Your character in Bricks is a tricky one to play right. Not to give away anything, but you kind of have to play him one way and then turn on a dime. What do you tend to gravitate more to as an actor, antagonists or protagonists?

Ritson: I suppose I'd have to concede that at the moment, I'm more drawn to playing antagonists, as I've been playing a succession of somewhat dark, morally dubious characters over the last few years. But I also think that the distinction between antagonist and protagonist is purely a question of perspective. Most individuals sees themselves as the hero of their own narrative. I've played characters who've objectively committed monstrous actions, but from their perspective they are entirely justified, as they are undertaken for the noblest of causes.

These days, there are a number of TV shows and films which embrace the moral complexity of individuals, and with it, the dissolution of a binary order of heroes and villains. 'Good' characters do terrible things. 'Terrible' characters act heroically. With a show like Game of Thrones, the distinction between antagonist and protagonist is incredibly fluid and indistinct. At some level it then becomes a question of semantics. Many of the great characters on-screen right now are antiheroes. As long as you're fighting a greater evil, you're essentially deemed a protagonist, however questionably you act.

From a performance level, the other thing about antagonists and antiheroes is that, more often than not, they are deeply disturbed or broken at some level, and playing characters with layers of inner turmoil and complexity is always a fun challenge!


Speaking of antagonists, you're best known for your role on Da Vinci's Demons. And back when the series ended in 2015, creator David S. Goyer talked about the possibility of bringing the show back as an event series in at least 3 or 4 years time. Have you heard anything about what might be in the works? Is there anything you're personally hoping to see if such a project were to happen?

Ritson: I'm actually working with David at the moment on Krypton (he's the creator of the show and exec producer). We've talked quite a bit about the potential of returning to the world of Da Vinci's Demons in a few years time. There's definitely more fun to be mined out of that world and those characters, and I'd certainly relish parachuting back into it all. So, as yet, there are no concrete plans that I know of, but the ongoing conversation may yet materialize into something one day...

Speaking of Krypton, you're playing Brainiac in the new SyFy series. Can you tell me more about that, in terms of what viewers can expect from the show, your character, and how this Brainiac compares to his comic book counterpart?

Ritson: Krypton is an epic drama, following Superman's grandfather, Seg-El as a young man on the legendary Man of Steel's home planet, and his struggle to save Krypton's destiny and the legacy of Superman. This is not a shiny utopian Krypton, it's a hard, morally complex world with a rapidly unraveling theocracy. It's set 200 years before the birth of Kal-El (Superman), and there isn't a huge amount of DC canon for this period, so this will be a huge extension of the DC universe.

One of the framing devices of the series is a character who has the capacity to travel in time, and is attempting to rewrite history by going back from the present day to the past, to prevent Superman's legacy from ever happening.

So, while the show takes place centuries ago, it's also about a conspiracy in the present day. Whatever you thought you knew about Krypton and how it ends is going to be radically challenged! The time travel aspect also allows the writers to bring in some well-known characters you wouldn't expect to see 200 years before Superman's birth.

I'm playing the Brainiac, one of Superman's oldest and most formidable and indomitable nemeses. He's a hyper-advanced alien android with unfathomable intelligence. I can't tell you precisely what he does in the show, but I can say that in the DC Universe, he is known as the Collector of Worlds. He traverses the universe in a giant skull ship as he attempts to catalogue and absorb all of creation. He regards planets as vessels of data, and rips out whole cities and shrinks them down to place in the collection on his ship.

There are many different incarnations of Brainiac from the comics over the years, dating all the way back to Action Comics no. 242 in 1958 created by Otto Binder and Al Plastino with the iconic pink spandex outfit. Over the years, he's appeared as a Colluan scientist known as Vril Dox, and even a stream of sentient molecules, which migrate to a living metal skeleton when his humanoid body is dissolved. In animation, there have been quite a few Brainiacs over the years, often depicting him as a kind of artificial intelligence.

In every version he is unimaginably powerful, terrifying and implacable. In live action, you will certainly never have seen a Brainiac quite like this before, and I'm hoping that people are going to be excited and terrified in equal measure. He truly is the big bad of the show and I look forward to haunting your dreams.


Bricks is now available for streaming on Vimeo, and Krypton premieres March 23rd.




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