The Musketeers on bravery, heroism and whether women still want chivalry

Actors Luke Pasqualino, Santiago Cabrera, Tom Burke and Howard Charles on whether fighting villains in the BBC1 drama has made them stronger in real life...

Luke Pasqualino – D’Artagnan

How brave are you?

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I’m a bit of a wuss really! The musketeers are like brothers and would do anything for each other, and I can relate to that. I’d do anything for my family and friends. But – touch wood– I’ve never had to run someone through with a sword for them!

Has playing D’Artagnan made you braver?

It’s funny you should ask that, because we were having dinner in Prague during filming and heard shouting at the other end of the restaurant, and Santiago, Howard, Tom and I all jumped up! These big dudes were fighting in the corner. That instinct to get involved is definitely there now. Did we actually get involved? No!

Does being chivalrous come naturally?

I’m from an Italian background, so I’ve always had that instilled in me– be a gentleman, be respectful. You’re not born a gentleman. We’re all born kicking and screaming, it’s something we’re nurtured into.

Do women still want chivalry?

I think it’s still wanted – and the more you put it into practice and exercise it, the more people realise how important it is.

Who is your hero?

My grandfather Giuseppe was a soldier during the Second World War. His boat got blown up and he was in water for 24 hours, he was a prisoner of war in Scotland for years, then was released in the middle of Sicily with no money – to me, that’s a really heroic act. To go through that and start again and build a different life… You don’t get more
heroic than that.

Santiago Cabrera – Aramis

Has playing Aramis made you braver?

I’m a complete pacifist. But the other day I was doing a fight scene with a stuntman and caught him right on the nose. There was a crack, blood started to spill out, his eyes went up and he went straight down. I’d knocked him out! At first I felt bad but then I felt pretty good – I felt like a musketeer that day.

How brave are you?

I really admire the heroic element of our characters. You see us draw our swords against someone in a fight without hesitation. But the reality is, they never knew if that would be the day the other guy would be stronger.

Does being chivalrous come naturally?

I have Chilean heritage and spent some of my childhood in South America, and there being a man and being chivalrous is a point of honour. But it’s also a very chauvinistic culture, so a lot of women nowadays want to be independent. You have got to find the balance and be respectful. Would you draw your sword for a damsel in distress?
Instinctively, yes. When it comes to the honour of a woman, and a man is being disrespectful, I have a very strong visceral reaction. 

Would you make a good musketeer?

I played football a lot growing up, so I’m used to being part of a team and in male environments, so in that respect I think I would… if I had the training! I rode shotgun with a policeman for a part a while ago and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it – the exhilaration of it was the closest you could get to being a musketeer today. 

Were you ever scared during filming?

I had one scene in which I’m very bravely climbing up a building and at the top it was a 50 to 60-foot drop. I was on wires and it was safe but I’m scared of heights and was really freaked out. I nearly slipped and the terror on my face – there was no acting required!

Who is your hero?

I’ve always been attracted to strong women, I like that challenge. My mother’s a very strong woman, so is my wife [theatre director Anna Marcea]. She has such a strength of character and an extreme sense of righteousness, but
without being self-righteous. She’s very driven. We’ve never worked together; that could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship – or the end of it!

Tom Burke – Athos

Has playing Athos made you stronger?

Physically, yes. I wax and wane with exercise. I have a trainer called Suzie, who makes me do laps around the park, and I’m running and thinking, “I’m just going to carry on running, change my phone number, she doesn’t know where I live…Anything’s better than this.”

Would you make a good musketeer?

I’m not an incredibly consistent person. I have a short attention span and get very passionate about one thing and then move on. So I probably wouldn’t be the best! How brave are you? Bravery for me is linked with a sense of injustice. I’m not a recreationally brave person. If somebody goes, “Let’s go and climb up that wall,” I’d say, “No, you’re all right.”

Is chivalry still valued?

A friend said recently that men today suffer from “white-knight syndrome” and suggested it was quite perilous, wanting to save people for the wrong reasons. We have a different way of looking at motivations now, whereas in the musketeers’ day it was thought to come from a holy place. It was a calling.

Howard Charles – Porthos

What’s the bravest thing you’ve done?

Daring to become an actor. I grew up in Brixton, where it wasn’t on the cards. I’m a working-class, mixed-race man, you know? But my drama teacher at Kingston College, John Davey, encouraged me. He was the first person to show any belief in me, other than my family.

Does being chivalrous come naturally?

Chivalry is dead; we – both men and women –killed it. But there are still some embers there and I think we can re-ignite it. That’s why we, in the theatre, in films, should inspire people to be loyal and kind, to fight for what they believe in.

Isn’t chivalry outdated?

No – it’s about being polite, but people aren’t taught that nowadays. The best part of being a musketeer is protecting those that cannot protect themselves. I have always been attracted to that. If The Musketeers encourages people to
do that more, to effect change…Do you identify with Porthos? I identify with his vulnerability, or knowing how to hide it. I have learnt there is strength in vulnerability. Like him I’m also in a constant state of readiness. Porthos wears his heart on his sleeve, which has been said of me too.

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The Musketeers is on tonight (Friday 2 January) at 9:00pm on BBC1