Mira Sorvino and Scott Foley are starring in the four-hour NBC mini-series The Last Templar, which premieres on Sunday, January 25 at 9 PM ET on NBC. We were in on a conference call with Sorvino and Foley and here's what the two leads had to say about this new mini-series, based off the novel by Raymond Khoury's popular novel.
This is actually for both of you: How much did you know about the Templar Knights before this project?
Mira Sorvino: I didn't know that much about them. I had not seen The Da Vinci Code nor read the book. But I had always heard through smatterings of interesting rumors here and there about them. And actually I learned more about them doing the movie then I had known before. And on the set we had lots of books, source material, about them as props for my character in her apartment.
And I started reading them while I was there. And one of the ones that I sort of snuck home with me was something called the Templars in the New World. And its premise is that perhaps the, you know, some bit of the order came over to Nova Scotia and brought the holy bloodline over to Nova Scotia to a safe place and built a castle there and that the early Acadians were actually descendents of, you know, that, you know, married bloodline and all of that. So that was kind of a wild and wacky one and kind of interesting so I still have that here.
Scott Foley: Goodness. I actually didn't know - I didn't know that much either. You know, I had, unlike Mira, read The Da Vinci Code and seen the movie. But, you know, I think the only thing I knew about them was, you know, sort of the pop culture references that you get in, you know, books and films and like that. And there was something growing up, what - Indiana Jones and the - what the hell - one of the movies there's a knight of the last Templar guarding the Holy Grail and you know, but it was a subject that interests me sort of on the level of, oh hey, there's a script about The Last Templar, why don't I look it up a bit, you know. And it wasn't as necessary for me and my character to know that much about them as I think it was for Mira's just because of the characters we played. But I'm glad I did, you know, I did some research and it's sort of an interesting thing; I guess it's more than lore it's factual information but it's interesting.
You play an FBI agent in this, right?
Scott Foley: Yes.
Now how much of (your The Unit's character) Bob Brown did you bring over to Sean Daley?
Scott Foley: You know, I brought quite a bit of Bob Brown. The great thing about doing a show like The Unit is, you know, playing a military guy; it gives you a good base for, you know, a lot of other characters in the law enforcement/military sort of field. And, you know, they're all very similar. I think, you know, you take away sort of the combat stuff, the way that they get things done, the way they operate is very similar so I used, you know, some of that stuff. And there was some gun play also in The Last Templar that I, you know, just because I've been carrying guns for, you know, four seasons on the show it always helps; always lends itself anytime you have (unintelligible).
This is for both of you as well, now how did it feel to be making a movie in the desert of Morocco with Omar Sharif?
Mira Sorvino: I think it was pretty trippy. It was, you know, it's one thing to be working with a legend of the silver screen and then it's another to be, you know, in his stomping grounds from Lawrence of Arabia. And he certainly regaled us with amazing stories from, you know, throughout his filmography. And he's just a very charming man; very colorful, larger than life. When his kids - when my kids saw him they were a little nervous at first and then he told them he was Santa Claus and then they loved him.
Scott Foley: Did he really?
Mira Sorvino: Yeah.
Scott Foley: That's awesome. He was, yeah, he was great and being there sort of where they filmed Lawrence of Arabia with him was, I don't know, something I won't soon forget.
Surreal? A little surreal?
Scott Foley: Yeah, extremely. Extremely surreal. And he's got, you know, like Mira said, he's a character full of stories and history and he loves sitting down and telling you all about it.
You've already touched upon Indiana Jones and Lawrence of Arabia, this sweeping, epic, adventure quest is really timeless. Why do you think this kind of story can still resonate with modern audiences and why did it resonate with you as actors?
Mira Sorvino: I think, you know, the idea of the desert sands still being something of an undiscovered country, a frontier as it were, with secrets hidden beneath them, secrets of the past, you know, mystical secrets. I think all of us want to believe that that sort of unknowable adventure is still possible in this modern world which is so connected via, you know, electronic means and super population and everyone being a world traveler these days. Still being out in the desert and, you know, like Scott's character literally gets stranded in the desert by my naughty character and a camel gallops by him and won't even stop for him. So it's really, you know, a throwback to a different way of life. And I think all of us sort of yearn for that sort of adventure where it's just us testing our mettle against the elements and against the secrets of history.
Scott Foley: I couldn't agree more. Yeah, I think, you know, we all, you know, we all live in these lives where we sit behind a desk or we sit in front of the TV at night. And, you know, we lead comparatively very sort of sedentary lives. And, you know, I remember growing up watching - Mira and I talked about this on the set - the Michael Douglas/Kathleen Turner movies, you know, Romancing the Stone and Jewel of the Nile. And they were these great, fun, sweeping epics and lived on a sailboat. And, you know, like they road camels and it was just fun. And it's true escapism and I think that's what's - you know, and you mix in a little, you know, a little crime, a little mystery. And, you know, and it's fun to sit back and enjoy.
With all the traveling you had a chance to do with this project what was it like on the set? Was it such an intense schedule that you were rushing to complete it or what was the mood on the set?
Scott Foley: Oh, horrible.
Mira Sorvino: No, it was fun. The only problem was once we go to Morocco at least half of us, including myself, were felled by the sort of traveling disease...
Scott Foley: ...stomach flu.
Mira Sorvino: Yeah. Just everybody dropped weight and was completely dehydrated and sun burnt and, you know, it just, you know, it was pretty harsh. I think everyone who stayed at our hotel except for Scott, got sick.
Scott Foley: Yeah, (it beat) Jenny Craig.
Mira Sorvino: The director was ill; the costume, you know, the second in command costume person that - everybody, all the crew members, you know, so it was - that was the only thing that dampened spirits I would say. I mean, we did have a hefty schedule but I think they pretty much tried to keep it to reasonable days so that we could get everything done because the longer you run over your days the more you sort of push your schedule into the next week. And they were pretty organized about getting everything when it needed to be gotten. So, I don't know, I think we had a lot of fun there. It was certainly, you know, difficult working conditions because of the intense heat, as Scott said in our (TCA) thing, you know, what temperature was it Scott?
Scott Foley: One hundred and thirty nine degrees.
Mira Sorvino: Oh my...
Scott Foley: Fifty two degrees Celsius. I think it's 130 it could be 120 - like 52 degrees Celsius. And I say that to people who've, you know, been to Egypt and traveled and they're like, oh my God, what? How much? It's unfathomable. Like it's - it was so hot you didn't sweat and you didn't know that you were hot.
Well that'll quash the hilarity and hi jinx to some extent I'm sure.
Scott Foley: To some extent but we still managed to pull a good bit of it off actually. We had a blast; we really had a good time. And I think - I think the traveling helped. You know, when you're sort of out of your comfort zone and away from home there is that - the thing that we all do where you sort of step up your game, you know, you have to - it's like visiting someone's house. You know, you put on a face and that's what we all did and we had a great time.
Are action sequences - are they fun to do or are they too much hard work to be fun?
Scott Foley: I think you can have both; I think you can have too much hard work and fun. They're both, you know, they're a lot of hard work and a lot of times they're dangerous and - but because of that, you know, the excitement and the adrenaline and everything, it - God, I love them. I think it's so much fun. Now, you know, as an actor what, you know, what sort of drives me is the two person scenes where we're sitting across from each other talking and crying or laughing, whatever the hell you do. But the action things allow you to get away from that for a little bit and it's a great amount of fun. I mean we, Mira and I had between this - all the water stuff on the boat, which just had huge water effects and the boat was this (gimbled) that rocked; I think they said it was 60 degrees back and forth and side to side.
And, you know, there's just this huge pneumatic thing that they had to ship up from - to Montreal from Los Angeles. All the stuff in the desert, we had explosions and, you know, Mira is doing all this stuff on a horse; like it's crazy. But it's, you know, we get to pretend every day and that's the best part about it.
Mira Sorvino: Yeah, I think it gives you that sense of play that you have when you're a child getting to take on some of those scenes like the subway scene where I take on the assailants. I trained for weeks in California on that. And then when I came to Montreal I showed our stunt coordinator what I had learned and then he showed me what he had in mind and we sort of combined the two. And I ended up - I ended up doing every single take with the wide and the close and, you know, the poor stunt double was standing around all day waiting to do it. I was like, I can do it; I really can. I was so proud of myself it was silly. But it was - then I watch it and I'm like, wow, it's so dark it really could have been her the whole time.
Mira, when you read some of those books about the Templar Knights that, you know, weren't - that mixed history with myth and legend and, I mean, did it challenge any of your beliefs or do you just dismiss it as crackpot speculation?
Mira Sorvino: Well I don't - I don't know. My beliefs - my religious beliefs are sort of based on faith rather than, you know, a meticulous dissection of fact upon fact. And so I don't - these things - they sort of intrigue me rather than bother me. And I've always also sort of wondered about the role of Mary Magdalene and the, you know, the whole gospel story. And it wouldn't surprise me in the least if there was a real romance there. And if there were offspring to that, that could be interesting, you know. I mean, I don't find that disturbing; I don't know why but I just don't. But - sorry. But, yeah, so it didn't - I think the only thing that really would have bothered me if - I think it would have bothered me if the film had asserted - well I don't want to give away anything but you know how the film sort of reveals something and then sort of reveals something else about what was revealed... If the second part of that hadn't been there I think I would have been a little bit bothered by what the film was asserting but then the film wasn't asserting that.
Mira, I was wondering, we've seen you in quite a few things, we saw you on House last season, we're seeing you on this now. And I didn't know if any of this was giving you a taste for wanting to maybe do a television series and be on TV more often?
Mira Sorvino: You know, it comes up now and again and thus far I've always turned down the opportunity of - just because of the lifestyle and I have two little, little kids. You know, I don't know what the future holds but right now I'm very content with my sort of project oriented lifestyle rather than a sort of a permanent schedule as long as the series would run.
I mean I grew up with my dad making television series from time to time and know the schedule. And I think there's great, great stuff happening on TV I just, so far, haven't seen my way clear to - signing up for, you know, a lifestyle where I knew I would be working that much every year if the series was a hit because of my children. But, you know...
Scott Foley: I'm trying to drag her to the dark side.
Mira Sorvino: ...in the future, down the line you never know.
Besides the physical challenges was there anything particularly challenging about this - these parts for both of you just from the acting point of view that maybe was something you hadn't had to do before or that was particularly challenging about doing a show like this?
Mira Sorvino: Well I think for me I - from the script to the screen I was, you know, very interested in making the character not be too facile and obnoxious. Sometimes as written she came off a little bit - a little bit shallow and obnoxious and I really wanted to give her more depth and heart and so I tried to do that at every turn. And I think when I watch it I'm happy with the way she comes off because she's kind of fun and even though she does some sort of naughty things at times, you know, she seems to be a real human being. And there's a kind of a delight she has both in her work and at the sort flirtation with her and Daley that makes - it makes the movie entertaining for me to watch when I'm watching my own work, you know.
A lot of times when I'm watching my own work I'm sort of monitoring is that a truthful moment; how is the accent, blah, blah, blah. Well this time I was sort of laughing and enjoying it. And so that made me happy because I think I had never had a role that went from action to serious drama to romantic banter to sort of scary kind of thriller scenes back and forth and back and forth all the time and the one character had to be all those different things, had to encompass all those different things. And I really enjoyed that; it was really fun to play a character that got to have enough charisma to kind of balance those sort of switches.
And Scott, was there any for you?
Scott Foley: Well, you know, as Daley was written he took his faith - his belief in religion and God very seriously. And sometimes I felt too seriously. And, you know, we worked Paolo and I worked a bit on that, on making him not so much a - sort of a strict follower of any specific - I don't want to say discipline, but, you know, he was more so a believer because he believed instead of someone who followed a religion. And that was extremely important to me to not make him a strictly religious God-fearing person but still have the, you know, sort of the dualities of, you know, there had to be a balance between Tess's belief and Sean's belief in order for the story to work out, you know, and in order for there to be a lot of the scenes that there were. And I think - I think it worked. You know, like Mira said, I enjoy it; I don't get too bogged down by the, you know, the whole religious aspect of it. And I think that's - even though it's a big part of the film I think that's important.
Now as far as - for both you - are either of you history buffs or did any - either of you want to be a, you know, archeologist or anything like that growing up?
Mira Sorvino: When I was a kid I sort of was very interested in being an archeologist or an anthropologist. My aunt, (Liddy Davis), had worked for Margaret Mead, she had been an associate of hers. And I just found all of that stuff extremely fascinating. And the way I got into Chinese Studies when I went to Harvard was that I took a course on Bronze Age archeology by the famous archeologist (KC Jong), and that's what got me interested in Chinese Studies. So I was a bit of a history major even though I majored in East Asian Studies it had all started through a Bronze Age archeology course.
Scott Foley: Good God, woman, really? That's fantastic. No I'm neither, you know, like, I think seventh grade I went on a field trip and we - to Mesa Verde and we did an archeological dig and I couldn't have been more bored.
Mira if I could just piggyback off what one of my colleagues asked you about a few minutes ago, in terms of working on a television series. I'm just wondering, you know, is it essentially just the time commitment or do you find that the material you've been presented hasn't been, you know, as good as some other projects maybe?
Mira Sorvino: It's really been the time commitment, maybe a combination of the specific projects and the time commitment. I guess I haven't seen anything yet that has made me say okay I could potentially commit seven years of my life to this because, you know, when you sign up, Scott, I don't know what the standard contract is now but is it five to seven years when you first sign up for the pilot?
Scott Foley: Yeah, it's seven years.
Mira Sorvino: Seven years, I mean, that's a huge amount of time. And, you know, my kids aren't even in elementary school yet so for me - working as much as I have thus far while they've been on the planet has been a real trial for me because I, you know, I grew up with a stay at home mom so I always feel like a terrible person when I go off to work. But, you know, I've limited it to six months or less a year. And I just couldn't do that with a standard television series; maybe with a cable show but even then I think six months would be pushing it, you know, to get everything done in six months. And then, you know, of course my real interest has always been film. And if I did six months on a television show then in the interim I'd be like oh I want to do that film and then I'd all of the sudden be working all the time and not be a very good mother.
But, you know, in terms of House, I mean, I would love nothing more than to come back for an (arc) on it and, you know, to have Kate Milton return to the hospital because she's a teaching fellow there. So we'll see if that ever happens, if I ever come back for a few more episodes. That would be really fun. That's sort of the best of both worlds; I get to piggyback off of their remarkable show and their great writing and, you know, the producers are fantastic and all the actors are fantastic and I had a great time working on it and still not have to commit to the seven years.
From an acting standpoint what did you guys like about working with each other?
Mira Sorvino: I just had so much fun with Scott; I can't even tell you what a funny guy he is. I mean, you can probably glean it from his answers part of the time here. But right now he's being nice and respectful and sound bite worthy, like he is such a funny person and such a nice guy. And, I don't know, we just - we really had fun in and, you know, in and out of the scenes like we just kind of laughed all the time on the set. And that's a real plus when you enjoy working with your costar so much and, you know, I just felt like we could sort of bounce anything off each other. And I think it brought out a zany side in me that, you know, worked for the character once we got to Morocco. Like I just started letting, you know, because the character is supposed to be like kind of realizing more and more that she's attracted to this man. And instead of being so hard edged and fighting him at every turn she's just starting to be a little giddy and weird and crazy with him. And I just - I had fun doing that. I don't know, I mean like when we're sitting there at the camp fire and I start like doing the voice of the newscaster and I ask him if he's got any special little lady and everything and I'm just sort of going off, I mean, and he's just like what is that, you know, and that's sort of a real reaction. But I just felt that comfortable with him that I could be that exposed and kind of wacky.
Scott Foley: The same - the same for me too is as an actor, you know, you're always looking for somebody to sink your teeth into material wise. And I think for me the thing that I was able to sink my teeth into - that's going to get me in trouble - was Mira. No, it's - and, you know, just - I'm going to sort of echo what Mira said, but anytime you have two characters who are written in the way they are and - the way these characters were and, you know, had to, you know, they had to develop a relationship, and, you know, really fall in love. And Mira and I had a great time, you know, sort of not just getting to know each other but working together and, you know, it echoed throughout the entire crew. And we had a - (field story) - we had a blast, how about that, we had a blast.
So Mira, you've mentioned your children a few times already, how did that impact your performance and approach to the role since has a Tess a daughter?
Mira Sorvino: Well I sort of strengthened her feelings for the child. In the original script the child was really kind of more there as a - just a plot point like she would kind of bring in ideas that would tip off a clue, you know. And I just really wanted to make it much more important to Tess that she try and not make the same mistakes her own father made who had left her behind a lot when he was off on his digs. And knowing how much I care about my own children and how sort of excruciating it is to make any choice that involves spending time away from them, you know, I've actually only spent two nights away from my daughter and one night away from my son ever. So, you know, when she says well I've never left you alone before, you know, that's a very real situation that I could relate to. And I just kind of beefed up a little bit her warmth towards her and how much she takes care of her. In the original draft the nanny or the babysitter that's there when I get home from the party puts her to bed. And I was like no, you know, she's waited up for me, I would put her to bed; I would read her a story, you know, like I don't want her to be that kind of mother that sees her child for one minute and then passes off the responsibility again to somebody else, you know, that's not who I wanted to play. And I think that it gives her a little bit more heart than - and some more kind of conflict in the story in terms of her ambition to discover this great secret but also her desire to be a good person and a good mother.
So would you guys consider working together again?
Scott Foley: Oh God, really?
Mira Sorvino: I certainly would.
Scott Foley: Of course.
Mira Sorvino: I certainly would, yeah.
Scott Foley: Of course.
Mira Sorvino: I would love to do a sequel; I would love to do a sequel. That would be my ideal next step from this project if it gets, you know, well received; it would be really fun to take these characters to some other country, to some other great mystery, you know, China, India, something like that.
Scott Foley: Yeah, I agree. You know, we really did have such a good time together. And, yeah, I would work - Mira, I'd work with you in a heartbeat, honey.
You just mentioned that there could be a possible sequel?
Mira Sorvino: Yes, I mean, Mr. (Homy) has certainly said that that was possible. (Robert Homy) Senior, our wonderful producer, for whom I've worked before on Human Trafficking. You know, so that's the distinct possibility. Everything depends on, you know, people tuning in so let's get those viewers to watch it. It is really fun. It is definitely worth - I know Monday night is a toughy because Monday now - House M.D. is moving to Monday and there's other stuff on Monday just TiVo those shows and watch ours.
The Last Templar premieres on Sunday, January 25 at 9 PM ET on NBC.