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A&E's 2001 Interview w/ Sean Gilder

What sort of man is Styles?

A big one. (Laughs) It's always hard to answer that, because I think if you really start to overanalyze what your character's like, then you lose the spontaneity of what the character is. I think he's somebody who's honest and has integrity. I think he has tremendous integrity. Or I hope he has. And he respects people that are hard working and honest.

What about his relationship with Hornblower?

Oh, he loves him. It started from way back, the first episode. Young Hornblower was put in charge of his prize crew, which were a bit of a rabble. An ill-disciplined lot, as the phrase went. I was the one that was supposedly the trouble-maker-to-be. When he first found me, I was gambling and giving him grief. And slowly, Styles began to admire Horatio, because he's rather like an officer who wants to be part of the team. Which is very much what Ioan's like. And so, if you see your leader take the same risk that you would, then you cannot do anything but admire him.

What's it like being back with the original cast?

That's great fun. It is a bit like a team. We go out together, so it's not like somebody I haven't seen since the last time we filmed. It's just continuous, really.

Do you think that helps in building your characters, that you see each other off set a lot?

I hope so. Particularly in that our characters are quite close to the sort of principles that we hold as people. You know, I think we're all quite decent people. I hope we are anyway. And I think that is reflected in the way that we play the parts.

What is happening to the characters this time around. What's the atmosphere aboard ship? How are the men getting along?

Among the characters, there's lots of tension. There's lots of interesting sub plots. Suffice it to say there's somebody that I don't get on with very well, because basically he's a bad egg. Styles sees that, and this guy tries to cause trouble with Styles, and Styles stands up to him. So I get beaten up, two or three times. A bit like a weevilI don't know if they have them in the Statesbut one of those creatures that kids knock down, and they go bing, boing, and they bounce back up. I think I'm a bit like a weevil. I get knocked down, but I get back up. We're on Hornblower's side. I think we basically try and support him as much as possible. And in turn he supports us. I mean, he tries to defend me, in this fight situation. That exacerbates the situation.

Tell me about Captain Sawyer. What sort of state is he in?

I think he needs to see the doctor. The captain is a consequence of a mental instability. As a consequence of that, he is tremendously cruel. He has a big psychological problem going on.

What kind of relationship does Styles have with the captain?

Well, I have very little. I mean, the captain of the boat is really a god. Even though I'm his closest mate, as it were, he still wouldn't have very much to do with me, and whatever he requested, I would do.

But the crew does register some indignation in one way or another.

Very much so. Matthews, because he's slightly more senior than me, can verbally register his feelings to Hornblower. I don't think Styles would do that. He's so firmly lodged in his principles that I think Hornblower can know what he'd think, but he doesn't say anything, because he would know it's just not right. You don't go beating up people for no reason. Matthews is slightly more diplomatic.

Let's talk about Styles' relationship with Matthews. Are you two, you and Paul Copley, like that in real life? Do you have a similar relationship?

If I overanalyze anything, it's that I tend to overanalyze the script, rather than the character. Particularly in television. This is gung ho boys, and great fun and advantage. It's not a psychological drama. Certainly my character anyway. And neither is Paul's. I think what Paul and I have done, as a consequence of being from where we are, is elaborate the characters, from the similarities that we have as people. Paul and I are quite similar, I think, in character. I'm, probably louder, and more opinionated than Paul, verbally. I think he still has the same sort of opinions as I do. But he may keep them to himself. The characters of Matthews and Styles like each other a great deal. They get on with each other very well. They're there for each other. They constantly look after one another, secretly, without ever, ever showing any affection. And I think that's what Paul and I probably do. I adore his wife.

What was it like to shoot in Menorca, Spain?

The best part was getting back to the hotel and snorkeling, if we wrapped in time, because we worked very, very hard12- to 14-hour days. The worst part was doing 12- to 14-hour days.

What was it like to work on the fight scenes? Did you have to do a lot of rehearsing?

The golden rule of fighting is safety, and you can only gain greater safety by practicing and practicing and practicing. As a stage fighter, you're taught how not to hit. If I'm going to hit you, or if I'm going to hit that hand, you don't think of hitting the hand. You think of hitting the point past the handwhich makes it safer. So safety and practice is very important. And I wouldn't consider doing something unless I felt one hundred percent safe.

But the weapons are real, aren't they?

The swords are real. They're blunt, but they are real. They sometimes give people plastic ones, which look metal. And then they put in "ching, ching" sounds. The muskets are real. You've got to be very careful, because somebody's letting off a musket in the middle of a sequence. The flash can be quite near you. There was one moment, when I almost sensed the gun was going to go off. I turned, so it didn't get in my eye.

Have you gotten to know a lot about life at sea?

We have. Andrew Grieve, the director, was in the Merchant Navy, and has sailed all his life. We did a lot of background when we did the first series. In the first series, we'd spend every day at sea, so we learned how to hold ropes, and tie knots, and do everything else. It's not to say that one gets glib, but there's nothing that we're going to have to do that we haven't really done before. In fact, one of the things I've missed most of all is doing all the rowing. Because we did a lot of rowing in the first season.

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