British actor Jack Donnelly is all set to help redefine the Atlantis myth in the BBC’s new fantasy series, and it’s the biggest thing he’s ever done.
Atlantis is a new Saturday-evening family drama series that the BBC hopes will do for Greek legend what Merlin did for the Arthurian one.
Written by the guy who created Misfits, Howard Overman, and produced by Merlin co-creators Johnny Capps and Julian Murphy, Atlantis is set to fill the programming slot created nearly a decade ago by the corporation’s sci-fi juggernaut, Doctor Who.
Speaking ahead of this weekend’s premiere, Donnelly, 28, said, “I was in Misfits, wearing a white rabbit head and no one could see my face. Howard said: ‘That was a great rabbit – let’s see what other acts it can do.’ And here I am.”
When Doctor Who is off the air, the BBC have been keen to keep the momentum going with similar types of dramas that all the family can watch together.
They’ve already done it with updated adaptations of the Robin Hood (Robin Hood) and Merlin and King Arthur (Merlin) legends and, in early 2014, the Three Musketeers will get a similar treatment in The Musketeers. The latter actually stars Peter Capaldi, who was recently unveiled as the person taking over from Matt Smith as the Doctor in this year’s Christmas Day episode of the aforementioned Doctor Who. Away from the BBC, ITV had a go with Primeval, which ran for five seasons from 2007 to 2011.
The BBC hopes that viewers will take to Atlantis as they did to Merlin, in particular, and that it will run for several seasons, too.
As with Merlin, adherence to fact – even the mythical type – has been thrown to the proverbial winds, with various people, places and stories mashed up together to create Atlantis as conceived by Overman et al.
Donnelly explained to Metro: “The whole myth of Atlantis is taken from one line in Plato. So we’ve taken a whole lot of other Greek myths on board.”
Another of the ongoing storylines in Merlin was the bromance that played out between Merlin and Arthur. That is to be emulated in Atlantis, this time as a three-way bromance, however, between Jason, Hercules (played by Mark Addy) and Pythagoras (Robert Emms), leading to the witty line “You’re the triangles guy!” directed at the “creator” of the Pythagorean theorem.
In the series, the three friends will be seen battling an array of monsters, “action movie-style”. To get into shape, a now-rather-buff-looking Donnelly tells the paper, “I did the Insanity programme for five weeks solid with my personal trainer, Matt […] Pull-ups on set and chicken and broccoli for lunch every day. And no cakes. It was tough.”
Ahead of the premiere, Den of Geek asks, “Will families gather for Atlantis ?” Then answers, “On the basis of episode one, a cartoonish caper that’ll have young kids air-sword fighting and parents browsing for last-minute deals to the Aegean coast, quite probably.”
Den of Geek continues, “Tonally, the first half of the episode is closer to a live-action Saturday-morning cartoon than a programme adults can invest in as much as children […] but the second half’s romance and scares point towards a future that will better satisfy all ages.”
The first episode of Atlantis – The Earth Bull – is on BBC One, tonight, at 8.25 p.m. Earlier, it was revealed that a 50th-anniversary Doctor Who ident “sting” and Twitter hashtag would also premiere, immediately before and after Atlantis.