One of the most exciting newcomers to appear on Starz series Black Sails is Chris Larkin, a British veteran of stage and screen who is bonafide thespian royalty — the son of Dame Maggie Smith and Sir Robert Stephens.
He also happens to be lead actor Toby Stephens’ older brother.
Larkin may be related to Stephens by blood, but in Season 4 of Starz’ swashbuckling ripped-from-the-history-books drama, he is squarely at odds with Stephens’ rogue yet erudite and educated pirate leader Captain Flint.
Larkin portrays Captain Berringer, Woodes Rogers’ Royal Navy right hand who doesn’t take any nonsense from pirates and gleefully sets up a Nassau kangaroo court system that sees the captured pirates on a conveyor belt to the gallows.
In 1967, Larkin was born Christopher Stephens in London but he later adopted the surname Larkin in honor of a favorite poet, Philip Larkin.
Aside from his role as a compelling albeit dangerous new character in Season 4 of Black Sails, Larkin is busy in the UK acting on stage, television, and film, recently starring in the British thriller The Facility.
Monsters and Critics spoke to him about his work on Black Sails and more…
Monsters and Critics: We are loving your Nassau-heavy role in HRM Royal Navy, aiding Woodes Rogers. What do you enjoy most about portraying these complex alpha roles, thinking of your Capt. Howard in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World as well as Black Sails. How did you interpret Captain Berringer from what you read, his nature and weaknesses?
Chris Larkin: It was such fun getting to play Captain Berringer. As far as playing alpha roles goes I am always surprised when they come my way. Believe it or not, I am mostly known for playing nice guys here in the UK.
Maybe it is because I can carry the uniform and I have been blessed with a very loud voice that I can get away with being an alpha male.
I think the secret of it is being able to exude leadership qualities. It is the one thing that sets Black Sails apart. Every character in the show possesses these qualities.
People will follow them to the darkest places driven by that character’s sheer force of will or magnetism.
I am thinking of Flint, Long John Silver, Blackbeard, Rackham, also Eleanor and Max.
Berringer is a man who has served his country, rather like Flint in that respect, but he has chosen to desert, take his men with him and follow Rogers.
It was really interesting to be able to explore the reasons for him doing such a thing with the writers and producers.
M&C: Have you ever worked with your brother Toby Stephens in a television project before? How does it feel to be inhabiting these roles on set together, and is it loads of fun?
Chris Larkin: I have never worked with Toby before so that has truthfully been the highlight of the job. We are very close and went to drama school together, he was in the year above me!
So we know each other’s work better than anyone. We had the best time on set together and the rest of the cast were brilliant.
They were very patient having to deal with two big red-headed blokes giggling a lot!
M&C: What craft element of Black Sails impressed you the most when you arrived on set?
CL: The most amazing thing that struck me when I arrived in Capetown and landed on the Black Sails set was the total commitment to the project from everyone.
From the producers, writers, directors, actors, costumes, set designers and stuntmen. Also all the amazing people in post, CGI and sound.
Everybody was totally committed to creating that world and making the show as real and as exciting as possible.
I felt very privileged to be allowed to inhabit that world with them.
M&C: Berringer appears to be a bit of a sadist. Many actors say playing baddies is loads more fun than playing a virtuous soul. What’s your take and do you tend to artistically gravitate to the morally challenged roles?
CL: It’s true that actors seem to enjoy inhabiting these sort of roles. I have to be honest and say I don’t get that opportunity very often so I relished every moment.
I found that asking the question “why was this person the person he is?” — there must be something in his past that makes him who he is — answer that and you have a key into the character.
M&C: What is next for you, where can we find you after this run on Black Sails?
CL: I have been pretty busy since Black Sails, but you would have to come to a theatre in London to see me!
Black Sails airs Sundays at 9pm E/P on Starz.