Some archaeologists believe the remains of the lost city of Troy lie under a mound on the north-west coast of Turkey, but BBC1’s drama series was filmed in a different hemisphere – in South Africa.
The palace interiors were constructed in a studio in Cape Town, while the huge exteriors were shot among the vineyards of the Winelands, with Stellenbosch Mountain providing the dramatic backdrop.
Menelaus in action (played by Jonas Armstrong); pictured above: an extra keeps fit on set
“When I first arrived I was blown away by the landscape,” says Tom Weston-Jones, who plays Hector, Troy’s golden boy. “There was only one occasion where we finished work and went straight to a vineyard, but we went out on our days off a few times. The wine is incredibly good.”
South Africa has long been a favourite with TV producers because of the sheer variety of terrain on offer: mighty peaks, pristine beaches, desert, forest, jungle.
“One day we filmed on a stunning beach, and to top it off we went swimming in the sea afterwards. Another scene looks like we were in the Scottish Highlands. It was so bizarre.” The climate did present challenges, however. “It got to 35 degrees when we were filming some of the battle sequences and I had to wear armour and a lot of layers underneath that. The sweat was all genuine.”
Weston-Jones and the rest of the cast lived in Green Point, which is like a leafy, outdoorsy Soho with great coffee shops and restaurants. “We all got on very well so there was a lot of eating out and exploring together, and occasionally we partied hard! Five months is a brief period of time in your life but you do form very close bonds with people.”
He enjoyed it so much, he’s already returned – he’s out there at the moment filming a San Francisco-set drama for HBO network Cinemax.
Here are Tom’s tips for things to do in and around Cape Town.
“I’m not really a hiker but I got into it while I was here because the view from the top of Table Mountain is amazing – as is the variety of different climbs you can do. I also climbed Lion’s Head four or five times. Apparently you can even climb it when the full moon is out. You can also paraglide off the top of it, which I didn’t pluck up the courage to do.”
Table Mountain and Lion Mountain overlook Cape Town
Order steak, bring your own wine
“You get a lot of bang for your buck out here, and in 90 per cent of the restaurants, you can take your own wine and just pay for corkage. I try to eat a vegetarian diet but when I came here it was very difficult because the meat is so very good. They love game – springbok, kudu, impala – and a braai, which is what they call a barbecue. The traditional thing to eat at a braai is boerewors, an enormous beef sausage with spices. It’s delicious. You can also eat very healthily because there’s a lot of focus on health and nutrition in Cape Town – it reminds me of Los Angeles.”
“I hired a car and drove out to the seaside town of Hermanus with my wife and friends. The beaches are beautiful and we did some whale-watching, which is one of the best things I’ve ever done. We happened upon a pod of four whales mating – one female and three male southern right whales. It was the most unbelievable sight and the sounds were incredible. When it’s mating season, you can drive the Indian Ocean side and spot whales – they were absolutely everywhere.”
Tick off the big five
“They don’t really have a proper game reserve in the Western Cape, but there are a few safari parks about three hours’ drive from Cape Town. They’re conservation areas, so you know that your money is going to help the animals. They have the big five [lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo] and all the animals that you would get in Kruger National Park, but it’s a much more controlled environment. I’m also planning to fly up to Johannesburg and then drive to Kruger this time round – it’s one of Africa’s biggest game reserves.”
Catch a game of rugby
“I’m a big rugby fan and they’re rugby-mad over here, so I’m in good company. I try to watch every home game of the local Super Rugby team, the Stormers. Even for people who aren’t enormous rugby fans, I’d suggest getting a ticket because the quality of rugby is so high.”