Tom Burke: why The Musketeers is your perfect January escapism

The 32-year-old actor tells all about "troubled" Athos and the bond he shared with co-stars Luke Pasqualino, Howard Charles and Santiago Cabrera

Give us an introduction to Athos and his fellow Musketeers…


They’re referred to sometimes as the inseparables. Certainly the three of them are – D’Artagnan (Luke Pasqualino) is a new arrival. Athos, Porthos (Howard Charles) and Aramis (Santiago Cabrera) have known each other for some time and are inseparable and Athos is a little remote. At first glance he seems the more indepenent one but I actually think he’s the most dependent on the others – he has a troubled past which weighs heavily upon him and he gets a great deal of release, both from the others and from the regiment and the missions they go on. I think they’ve found something that makes their lives work and it’s as much an appetite for adventure as it’s an intention to do good. They all have a vice. Athos’s vice is drink – he drinks to function and he’s kind of the leader. We each have a different strength in our version – he’s a brilliant swordsman and a tactician and very much takes charge.

Tell us a bit more about Athos’ troubled past.

The troubled past involved a woman and we never know what the nature of his amours are but he’s pretty much renounced the idea of a relationship and is wary of women. There’s a feeling that there’s a deep, dark hole he might get sucked into.

Playing a swashbuckling musketeer sounds like a dream gig for a young male actor… 

My first shot was galloping across a field of snow with all these bits of kit on me and I just was loving it. I was trying to look compelling and serious and I just had this big grin on my face by the end of every shot. 

Did your co-stars feel the same? 

It wasn’t something we ever discussed that much but you just caught each other’s eye occasionally and we had a big grin our faces and you just knew that’s what we were all thinking.

Having spent months filming together in the Czech Republic, was it strange when you all went your separate ways again?

I adore those boys and I felt that very early on. It really hit home to me about a week after I got back when I suddenly realised I felt a bit anxious. I think Howard was the first person I saw – we were watching one of the episodes and I just had a moment about ten minutes into the episode when I suddenly felt very aware of Howard’s presence and I felt fine again. I thought, “God, what on earth is happening? I’m co-dependent”. 

You all did your own stunts – were you accident-prone?

I got a pommel in my eye. A pommel is the end of a sword – not the sharp end, the other end. It wasn’t actually a sword fight. I was rugby tackling somebody but we hadn’t rehearsed with all the kit on so suddenly there’s a whole other part of the equation and that did really hurt. We all had a few scrapes. 

Did you get a black eye?

I’m slightly ashamed to say I didn’t after really expecting to but that might be because I immediately applied frozen peas – I was hoping there would be a black eye after the fact that I’d stopped the take. I wanted a bit of empathy. 

Do you reckon you’d make a good musketeer in real-life? 

I think I feel drawn to it because the people who become the musketeers in our version are certainly people who can’t quite handle normal life. I’m coming round to the idea of normal life or reality as I like to call it but I certainly understand that need for something else, something other. 

The Musketeers is inspired by Alexandre Dumas’ story, not a direct adaptation – are you worried about the reaction you’ll get from literary purists?

What I’ve gathered from people who are big fans of the musketeers, they adore the books to the degree where an awful lot of them, even if they have problems with an adaptation, normally still lap it up because they just love the whole idea of it. That’s not to say they’re not discerning of it – they are – but it’s such a big thing there’s always an appetite from what I see of fans saying online. This is different from the book – it’s inspired by it, it’s not an adaptation.

Do you think it’s going to offer your audience some much-needed January escapism? 

I think it’s probably a nice way to end the week and it’s ideal that it’s a Sunday evening. I think it is escapist. There’s an innocence to it but what we’ve tried to do is give that innocence a depth and we’ve tried to examine these people’s motivations. Even if their motivations are inherently good, we’ve tried to say, “Well, why are they inherently good? What do they get out of it? What does it feed into them that’s not this wonderfully moral intention? What is it about them that craves it?” So I think it’s an upbeat escapist show that we’ve brought and indeed a show that has depth and a healthy amount of thought gone into it. 

The Musketeers begins on Sunday 19 January at 9:00pm on BBC1

Watch the trailer here: