Everybody knows the story of how the Titanic came to sink. But ever wonder what went into bringing the Ship of Dreams to fruition in the first place?
The new 12-episode series, "Titanic: Blood & Steel," explores the blood, sweat, tears and politics that went into bringing the colossal ship to life. Don't worry -- it's not just a recreation of the actual construction. It's actually a juicy period drama by some of the producers behind "The Tudors."
The show revolves around a fictional character named Mark Muir (Kevin Zegers, "Dawn of the Dead") a metallurgist who helps oversee the construction process. The eager young scientist encounters a lot of interesting characters along the way, including JP Morgan ("Sex and the City"'s Chris Noth), a saucy American journalist played by Neve Campbell ("Party of Five") and an alluring young Italian copyist (Alessandra Mastronardi, "To Rome With Love").
Zegers called us from the Toronto set of his new movie, "The Mortal Instruments," to fill us in on what sets "Titanic: Blood & Steel" apart from other Titanic stories, the show's elaborate Serbian and Irish sets, and how shaving his mustache turned into a big event.
Is your character inspired by a real person?
He's loosely inspired by a couple of people. Obviously the dramatic story that we have for the 12 episodes was created, but there were a couple of guys who had his job. A lot of the issues that he finds with how the ship was being constructed were based on real events.
What did you do to prepare for this?
I just did as much research as I could about what his job is. Not a lot of people know what a metallurgist does and what that entails, especially at that period in time. I also had an accent, so I needed to work on that sort of stuff. I only had a few weeks until we started filming so I crammed in as much as I could as quickly as I could.
What was the set like?
We did six weeks in Serbia to start off with, where they built the whole skeleton of the ship, so you got to see the size. People don't appreciate how incredibly big it was, and how huge an undertaking it was for men to build this without any machines. They obviously had some cranes, but there wasn't the technology that we have today. In Dublin, we got to work at the Guinness factory. The production quality -- and I think people will see it when they watch it -- is really high. We tried to shoot it like a film.
Do you like your period wardrobe? Did it take a while to get used to wearing all those suits?
Yeah. It's different. This designer out of Italy made all the clothes, so they were all made for me. You definitely walk a little differently when you have this beautifully made Italian suit on. It's not something I normally walk around in.
Are there any elements of the wardrobe that creeped into your everyday life?
I definitely learned to appreciate there is something about looking good. I think it's been sort of lost in the last 50 years, this idea of looking very nice and very put together. I'm a jeans and t-shirts kind of guy, but there have definitely been moments where I'm like, "You know what? I need to upgrade a little bit." I've tried to snazz things up as much as I can, with me being as lazy as I am.
I noticed your character has a little mustache. What was it like growing that? Did you feel comfortable in it?
[Laughs] It took some getting used to! When we shot this, I was only 26 and the character is meant to be in his mid-30s, so the mustache was the best we could come up with at the last minute to make me look a little bit older. But yeah, we had a ceremonial shaving off on the set as we did the last shot of the show. It was a fun way to bring him to life.
Do we get to see a lot of your character's personal life?
Yeah. Obviously you can't have just 12 hours of people building a ship -- people aren't going to be that interested in that. The story follows the secret life that he had before he went back to Belfast. You realize that he has a whole back story there. There are a couple of love stories. There are all sorts of shenanigans that go on.
I know this takes a very different approach to the Titanic story, but playing devil's advocate, what would you say to people who say they're Titanic'd out?
I've seen the movie, and I don't want to see another story about the sailing and sinking of the ship. This show has nothing to do with that. This is more of a drama, and more about the politics in Belfast in the early 1900's. The focus is on the characters and the politics behind something that kind of changed the landscape of Europe.
What are you working on right now?
I'm shooting a film called "The Mortal Instruments," which is a big fantasy movie. It's a totally different thing, running around with swords and fighting vampires and werewolves. I've been having a really awesome time here. It's good to switch it up.
Titanic: Blood & Steel premieres Wednesday, September 19 on CBC at 9 p.m. ET/ PT.