Starz is about to launch a new swashbuckling, high-seas adventure in “Black Sails,” a sort-of prequel to “Treasure Island” that sees literary characters Long John Silver and Captain Flint plus real-life pirates Captain Charles Vane, Anne Bonny and Calico Jack Rackham living and working (as it were) in and around Nassau, Bahamas, which is overseen by proprietor Eleanor Guthrie.
Zach McGowan, formerly of Showtime’s “Shameless,” is Vane, one of the captains determined to find the gold by any means necessary and very much at odds with Silver and Captain Flint. But he tells Zap2it that he doesn’t see Vane as the villain of the piece.
“He is definitely not a villain in his own mind,” says McGowan, “and I do not
see him as a villain. I see him no more as a villain than
a lion who eats a gazelle is a villain. This is very much
a place where the laws of the jungle apply. It’s about
surviving in a very tough world.
He will act as a villain sometimes, in your mind, and he
will act like a hero sometimes, in your mind. But that’s true for all the characters.”
“[Vane] comes from a very different place than most of the characters,” McGowan continues. “Without giving too much away, in many ways I turn out to be one of the most honest and good people on the show. There are a lot of ways to survive. One way is by lying and cheating and the other is by fighting whoever wants to fight, and Charles is really a throwback to that old world idea of this code that he lives by. I definitely do not think Charles Vane is as bad as everyone thinks he is.”
As the various pirate ships prepare to find this massive fortune, relationships and alliances play a key role. For Vane, one of the most important relationships he’s had is with Eleanor (Hannah New), which pre-dates the events of the premiere episode.
“Eleanor and Vane have a history, a long history, that you’ll find out a lot about,” McGowan teases. “You’ll come to understand that there are two forces at play in most of these people’s lives: There’s the civilization and the idea of what they’re going to do with what they have and then the idea of freedom and doing whatever you want.
“Vane is on the side of the true romantic idea of freedom, which is when there’s no one telling you what to do. But relationships, just like in this world today, play a key factor in who is getting what information and who is in the inner circle of decisions, etc. etc. Sex and relationships play that role that they have always played.”
But regardless of if Captain Vane is a hero or a villain, involved with Eleanor or not, McGowan says that the series (which is already renewed for Season 2) has been a joy to work on.
“Captain Charles Vane is an uncompromising man and I’ll tell you, it’s very fun to play an uncompromising man,” says McGowan. “Especially following up the role I was playing on ‘Shameless’ — Jody was amazingly fun to play, but a very different character.”
“And, you know, who doesn’t wanna be a pirate?” he says with a laugh.
“Black Sails” premieres Saturday, Jan. 25 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Starz, but the first episode is available to watch online now.