The Terror Q&A — Ian Hart (Thomas Blanky)
Ian Hart, who plays Blanky on AMC's The Terror, discusses Blanky's friendship with Crozier, his face-off with the creature, and why he'd much rather not be the captain.
Q: How familiar with Dan Simmons’s book were you before this role came along? What interested you most about this project?
A: I’d never seen the book before. The script was the first thing I came across. It was the writing as always. With any project, it’s the writing that gets people in. This was so well-written with really good storytelling and really eloquent language. It captured everyone quite clearly. You understood who the characters were and that’s quite a difficult thing to lay out at the very beginning of a longform project.
Q: How would you describe Blanky? Why do you think he's never pursued becoming a captain himself?
A: He’s the best friend and confidant of Crozier. Those two have known each other prior to this expedition. He could have been a captain himself, but he’s taken a step down because this is what he loves. He loves the ice and the serenity and calm, and also going up against the elements. You can sometimes do more from a lower position. I think he has all the abilities and the necessary means to become a captain, but it’s politics and not everyone wants to engage in that life. You have a hell of a lot more freedom with a different position.
Q: Blanky and Crozier are old friends and the most experienced men on the ice. Why do you think Sir John and others refuse to listen to them? How do you think Blanky and Crozier handle the situation differently?
A: I think there’s almost an expectation from both parties that they will be shut down because the nature of the hierarchical system and the class system within Britain is so entrenched and so ingrained. It’s not the right thing to do, intellectually. You should always listen to the experts –that’s why they’re the experts – but we don’t. Time and time again, we ignore the experts in favor of politics and the power structure. Crozier is trying to fight this to get to the conclusion that he wants, but there’s a certain acceptance from Blanky’s point of view. He knows it’s taken Crozier three or four times to get his own ship. That story of the hierarchy is laced throughout the early episodes.
Q: What is Blanky feeling when he learns Crozier is planning to basically stage a mutiny and send out a rescue party? Does he admire the move, even if he worries for what it means for his friend?
A: I think he knows what this could mean. He knows it’ll lead to court-martial, but you’re never going to get home to go to court unless somebody does something. [Laughs] They both see the writing on the wall. They’re in a make or break situation. It’s obvious that if they stay any longer, the consequences are awfully negative.
Q: How does Blanky process Sir John's death? Is he happy to have Crozier in command?
A: It might be an odd analogy but when [Princess] Diana died, people who never had any kind of feelings towards her mourned her. It’s a conditioned response mechanism. When a leader dies, there’s inevitably a sense of loss and mourning. [As Blanky,] I’m aware of the fact that there’s extra pressure imposed on Crozier. As much as I didn’t agree with the expedition leaders’ view, I’m still aware of the added pressure now towards my friend.
Q: In Episode 5, Blanky and Crozier have words about the handling of Lady Silence. How does Blanky feel in that moment? How much does he blame Crozier's drinking?
A: Any good friendship should be based on a certain amount of mutual respect, but within the hierarchy of that moment, the mission and their relationship, he’s stepping outside of the norm. There are elements of “You can’t get respect without giving it” and “There’s only so much I can bite my lip. If you want me to be a good friend, here’s my opinion.” He’s seen this before in his life, so it’s like “How far down the rabbit hole are you going to go? Because now is not the time.” Crozier’s thinking is clouded. It’s easier for someone who’s not under the influence to be clear in their thinking.
Q: Blanky has a huge showdown with the Tuunbaq. What do you think that moment shows about his heroism? Why do you think he is able to keep his wits about him rather than be afraid?
A: I think he’s a hugely practical human being. He doesn’t allow emotions to get in the way of the thing that has to be done. If the thing that needs to be done is to run, stand, jump, sit, start a fire – he’s going to do that thing. You have to have a certain mindset. The pain can be unbearable, but you have to carry on through it. That’s why people like him go to places like this. When anything happens, that response mechanism kicks in. That beast is just another obstacle for him to get over. It’s a series of problem solving. I don’t think he sees it as bravery. He’s in fear, but every experience he’s had in his life has led him to believe that the best way to survive is to keep your cool.
Q: Blanky jokes that he and the creature "are engaged." Does he really believe they have forged some sort of connection?
A: I think there is an almost religious exchange in the midst of death. We are most alive when we face our fears and come out on top of them. This mystical, physical being is connected to something bigger. It’s overly complex to process, but there’s something transcendent about it.
Q: How hard was it working out that scene given all the visual effects required?
A: I quite enjoyed the whole thing. When you’re a child, you can quite easily pretend there’s a dog or that you’re being chased. You pretend willingly and it’s not particularly difficult. The physical challenge was difficult, but imagining being chased by the bear was not. These things are put together from multiple shots and you might have to do six or seven takes of a particular jump or a land. Physically, I found it incredibly tough – and you’re wearing all the clothes you’ve ever seen in your life. [Laughs]
Q: What was your favorite memory/aspect of shooting this show?
A: Oddly enough, I enjoyed the boot camp we had in the beginning. We learned about tying knots and general seafaring. That was a good experience. You have completely different people, like you would have on a ship, who may not have known each other before and who are going to be spending the next six or seven months together. I felt that allowed for a kind of mutual ground where everyone was equally stupid. None of us knew how to tie knots! I thought that was a unique way of learning how to be together.
Read a Q&A with Nive Nielsen who plays Lady Silence.
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