The Musketeers talk Cuban heels, horse riding and learning to love their tunics

All for one… Luke Pasqualino, Tom Burke, Santiago Cabrera and Howard Charles try on John Wayne and Oliver Reed’s boots – but how did they find running in heels?

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Stepping into the shoes – or in this case – the boots – of Alexandre Dumas’ legendary heroes is no mean feat. There have been more than 50 adaptations of his 1844 novel and the roll call of musketeers includes John Wayne (1933), a long-locked Gene Kelly (1948) and Oliver Reed (1973). Fans of the latter will be disappointed to learn there are no feathers or tabards in the BBC’s ten-part series: this fearsome foursome favour slick leather.

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What it doesn’t skimp on is swashbuckling – which meant a crash course in horse riding, sword-fighting and yoga for Tom Burke, Santiago Cabrera, Luke Pasqualino and Howard Charles.


What’s the appeal of the musketeers?

Tom: They each have a compulsion – whether it’s women or gambling or drink. I felt that being musketeers is as much of a compulsion for them.

Santiago: The series captures the spirit of Dumas’ book: gritty, dirty but great fun.

Luke: I liked the idea of stretching the story over ten hours; that hasn’t been done before.

Howard: I was moved that this version pays homage to Dumas senior and makes my character, Porthos, mixed race; the novelist’s father was mixed race and was a general in the French army. It was a proud moment for me, as a mixed-race man, to learn of this guy who lived hundreds of years ago and kicked ass.


Did you have to prove your physical credentials in the audition?

Luke: No, but as soon as we got to boot camp, they whipped us into shape. Our stunt coordinator was fantastic…

Howard: A sergeant major.

Luke: A really small guy with a military bearing.

Howard: I remember asking how we were getting on and he barked back: “You’ve all got the right attitude.” A polite way of saying we were rubbish!


Who was the fittest?

Howard: We were all in pretty decent shape.

Tom: I would say you were the fittest.

Luke: At one point I was doing press-ups on my knees, because I was knackered. I looked up and Howie was bounding up and down, barely breaking a sweat.

Tom: The boot camp is just a blur for me. I remember it going on and on, someone counting and knowing I should be counting, too. There is a video somewhere of us all doing yoga.

Howard: I never want to see that. There I was in a compromising shape praying that the yoga teacher would say “rest”. I open my eyes and there’s a camera capturing it all.

Tom: The only way I could get through it was to imagine I was Michael Palin travelling in some alien environment on the other side of the world.


Did you do any of your own stunts?

Luke: All of them.

Howard: We were very well rehearsed, so by the time we got to set it was second nature. You could see sparks coming off the swords.

Tom: Ones that involved multitasking were the most challenging – where you had to jump off a galloping horse, get your cloak off in mid-air and draw your sword.

Santiago: The biggest challenge for me? You learn very quickly to wear the right underwear when you’re horse riding.


Were there any accidents or near misses?

Santiago: I’d ridden horses before, so I was given a temperamental stallion called Lottero.

Luke: We nicknamed him Ferrari.

Santiago: He was great to ride; it was standing still that was the problem.

Howard: Riding in snow can be an unnerving experience when you’re a beginner. There was a hairy moment in boot camp when Luke’s foot came out of one of the stirrups, his horse bucked and he was flipped into the air. I was convinced he was going to hit a tree stump, but he didn’t: he was hanging on to the horse’s neck. How he managed to stay on, I don’t know.


Was that the only horse-related incident?

Luke: Another day it was very icy. When it was my turn to canter, my horse skidded and I came flying off. I rolled and, mid-roll, looked up to see the horse inches away from crushing me. Thankfully, it managed to gallop off.

Tom: I did a similar thing on a highly polished antique floor, which couldn’t have anything done to it to give it a bit more grip. It was the first sword fight I’d done inside and there was a lot of near-eye action. I just had to say a little prayer beforehand.


Did filming in Prague present any challenges?

Luke: In summer, it got up to 41°C.

Howard: The producer promised us a summer uniform, but it never materialised.

Tom: It’s funny: just as that was beginning to look like it might be a possibility, I started to feel quite institutionalised in my tunic. I would have felt really weird without it – it became like a second skin.


What other skills have you acquired?

Howard: Fighting with a fork. The first time you see Porthos, I fight someone with a fork because my sword is out of reach.

Tom: Springing. You’ll see what I mean.

Santiago: Loading, reloading and firing a musket – and managing to speak at the same time.

Luke: Running in Cuban heels!


The Musketeers starts Sunday at 9:00pm on BBC1


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