Colm Feore on ‘The Borgias’

Colm Feore talks about his work on Showtime's The Borgias.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

The Borgias

Colm Feore is on the new Showtime series The Borgias, the story of the 15th century papal family. He’s also in Thor as the frost giant king. I spoke with Feore after The Borgias’ presentation to the Television Critics Association, and he was happy to talk about Thor too.


Crave Online: Have you gotten to see the finished footage of Thor?


Colm Feore: I’ve seen nothing, yet. No, I’ve seen nothing and I’ve been back and did some more pickups, little finesses and fixes so I’m coming back hopefully at the end of the month [January] and do more ADR little bits and hopefully they’ll show me something but I’ve seen nothing.


Crave Online: Won’t you see what you’re adding dialogue to for ADR?


Colm Feore: ADR will probably be just fixes for stuff we’ve already done. I don't think we’re adding a lot more dialogue. I know ADR stands for Additional Dialogue Recording but usually it’s a question of making sure that the microphones are all in the mix, balanced with what they are now putting into the final product, so I don't know, we’ll see.


Crave Online: You were in a full body prosthetic, so will it look that real on film?


Colm Feore: Absolutely and it worked in terms of articulating the muscles and doing all the things that we want to do for a creature of human proportions. That was the miracle of the way they built it but I imagine in trying to keep that creature in context with the others, they had huge ice towers and my throne was up there. We built an enormous amount of it but there still remains hours and hours of work.


Crave Online: You got your own throne?


Colm Feore: We had the throne and they keep moving these things in and out when they change departments. We had a beautiful throne, up some stairs, right behind the ice and it was behind a sheet of water. It was extraordinary.


Crave Online: How does a full body frost giant costume compare to the period wardrobe of The Borgias?


Colm Feore: You know what, they can be equally restrictive but obviously you can take off a Borgias thing for lunch but not Thor. That’s two hours to get out of it. Five and a half hours in, two hours out, obviously you don’t want to be in that if you’re not really focused on the work. You can’t sit around in that because in order for it to sell in anamorphic widescreen and 3D and all the fabulous things they’re doing with it, it’s got to be perfect. That means all of the guys, the makeup specialists who are working on it have to be almost standing right beside you for every shot, every take, making sure, double checking that there are no seams showing, that nothing’s going wrong because it’s very expensive to fix. So it’s enormously complicated. Obviously special effects makeup is a good deal more complex than just wearing a nice red outfit.


Crave Online: Are you really into it though?


Colm Feore: Well, I loved it. I loved it. It’s a pleasure to be able to do something, to bring to real life something that so many fabulous people have worked so hard on. When you see it really come together and work beautifully, I get excited about that. As jobs go, mine’s kind of fun.


Crave Online: That’s why I wonder about seeing the footage when it’s all completed with visual effects.


Colm Feore: Yeah, exactly, 75 feet wide. I’m looking forward to that moment. It’s coming out in May so it’s going to probably premiere a little before that and maybe there’ll be a cast and crew screening before so hopefully I’ll get an idea.


Crave Online: Didn’t you also get an elaborate armor costume for Chronicles of Riddick?


Colm Feore: Yeah, it seems to be one of my things now. I have that. That one, the gloves alone were $10,000. It was an astonishing costume because mine was metal. A lot of the guys standing around me were wearing plastic or foam. Even then they were falling over from heat but mine was the real deal. It had been hammered up by an armor man, beautifully executed. So even though they had to fake these sounds, when I closed or opened my hand, it would be like metal, cutting, crunching, solid, really wonderful mechanical sound. I like that costume too.


Crave Online: When you get a part like Borgias or Thor do you read up on it, whether it’s a comic book or history text?


Colm Feore: Yeah, you try and find out as much as you think is going to actually help you jump in running. Because most of the time there’s no money, there’s no time, you’ve just got to go, go, go. If you don’t have some of that work done before you show up on the set, it’s too late. Then you’ve missed your chance. So yeah, we try and do as much, we try and find out from the directors, the producers how much would they like us to do, what kind of research would they like us to do. Just let me know so I can prep it.


Crave Online: Was there a point as an actor you realized this is too much, I’m never going to use this? Then you got to the point where you knew how much you needed?


Colm Feore: That’s always the case because there’s always only a little bit of room for some of the work that you’ve done. I’ve played all kinds of historical characters but they are stuck in movies that aren’t their movies. Finally you say I can play Adm. Husband Kimmel in Pearl Harbor but it’s going to be about when Ben and Kate kiss and stuff explodes. But I’ll need to know more about his history and the history of this event in order to make it credible in the few scenes that I have to do. So as you mature as an actor, you begin to understand just how much is necessary, not to do so much that you’re blinded by it or that you’re trying to get a Ph. D. in it but that you have a solid foundation for the day you shoot.


Crave Online: Did you shoot just as much on Thor for one part as you did for all 10 episodes of The Borgias?


Colm Feore: I don't know what the ratio is on that. Ken Branagh is a remarkably efficient director. He’s a brilliant guy who just said, “I need exactly this and just that, no more.” And he was very sensitive about me being in the outfit too. He didn’t want to put me into it for no reason. He didn’t let me wait in it. Always the moment I would show up, he would have me on set and working and the moment he could, he would release me.


Crave Online: What about the 10 episodes of The Borgias?


Colm Feore: You know, it was a much longer range view of things. You have to approach it like you have five and a half months to develop the character and we’re going to shoot more or less chronologically. So that was a huge advantage. We could watch the story develop, we didn’t have to do too much back and forth. They’re totally different experiences, both of them fun.


Crave Online: Do you get a juicy face off with Jeremy Irons or a solo speech to dig into?


Colm Feore: Oh, all the time. All the time. As the series develops you’ll see. Most of what happens in the latter six episodes is because I made it happen. I’m out to get him and my being out to get him is what drives him to go, “I’ve got to protect myself. I’ve got to protect this. I’ve got to do that.”


Crave Online: Are you generally good at memorizing long passages?


Colm Feore: I take some pains to learn the material beforehand. I have a bunch of tricks I use to try and hit the ground running. I write everything out. I take the text and I very methodically go through and that tends to put it into my head a little bit more solidly than if I just glanced at it and hoped for the best.


Crave Online: Are you a history buff?


Colm Feore: Oh yeah. If they illuminate anything about the characters and a little bit more history that I hadn’t studied and if it makes me feel smart at the end of it, it’s all a bonus.