The Star Wars star is trading his lightsabers for swords as the newest cast member of History's Knightfall. He joins the upcoming second season, telling reporters at the network's Television Critics Association winter press tour on Sunday that he was attracted to the opportunity to "transform into something completely different" -- despite the Knights Templar (which the show is based on) serving as part of the inspiration for George Lucas' Jedi Order.
"Not until after I had accepted [did I realize the connection]. I didn’t really think it through," Hamill confessed. "The truth of the matter is, I’m sure George Lucas drew from so many different inspiriations of his own, both from the movies and literature. He was probably thinking more King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table… but there’s no question that his inspiration was rooted partially in this mythology."
It was announced last August that the 67-year-old actor would be joining Knightfall as Talus, a "battle-hardened Knight Templar veteran of the Crusades, who survived captivity for 10 years in the Holy Land and is tasked with training the new initiates to the Order."
"I’m playing the equivalent of a medieval drill sergeant," Hamill explained, calling the role a huge "challenge" for him. "That’s what I look for, challenges, to try not to repeat yourself."
The actor said he had "no intention" of taking on the role, but after watching a few episodes of the History show, he was "hooked." "It transports you into this whole other world, and it’s so relatable. Seeing through Landry’s eyes, and I just thought, ‘I’ve never done anything like this before,'" he recalled. "I was flattered that they would think of me in such a diverse character part, and I thought, ‘I have to do this. I really do have to do this.’"
It took upwards of two hours for Hamill to get camera ready behind the layers of costume and makeup. "It's not makeup," star Tom Cullen cracked, getting a laugh out of Hamill, before the actor clarified that he really was grateful for his time in the makeup chair.
"You look at yourself and Mark Hamill disappears, and you can transform into something completely different," Hamill said.
Cullen, meanwhile, had to put in a little extra work in the gym to get back to looking like fearless knight Landry. "You have to look like you’ve been training six hours a day," he shared, adding that he and his other co-stars were on a diet which consisted mostly of chicken and broccoli. "It’s grueling, and we finished the show in December, and I’m only just starting to feel normal again."
The 33-year-old Welsh actor dedicated so much of himself to his character that he broke both of his big toes on the first day of filming season two, while shooting a battle sequence. Cullen insisted that with an "incredible" stunt team, his injuries were the worst it got for the cast. Aside from Hamill, season two also brings in castmembers Genevieve Gaunt (Princess Isabella), Tom Forbes (Prince Louis) and Clementine Nicholson (Margaret).
"It’s a really great, very complex relationship [between Landry and Talus], and I was thrilled to work with an actor like Mark on it. He’s just brilliant on the show, and it was so great to get a chance to play against something like that," Cullen expressed. "The relationship is everything you want it to be. It’s complex, but it’s got a lot of heart and soul to it."
"I think [my character] is much more surface [level] and one dimensional, and then you discover more about him, his backstory, and why he is the way he is," Hamill chimed in.
Knightfall also has a new showrunner, Aaron Helbing, for season two, taking over from Dominic Minghella.
"Season one was more of a peaceful season," Helbing said of the series' new vibe. "Because of the story we were going to tell, we wanted to embrace the grittiness [that occurred before the Templar Order met its demise in] 1307... [We wanted to] embrace that brutality."
Knightfall season two premieres Monday, March 25 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on History.