Most people can quote The Three Musketeers’ motto: “All for one, and one for all, united we stand divided we fall.” But beyond that, their knowledge is likely hazy about the swashbucklers.
“People think they know more about it than they actually do,” Adrian Hodges, creator and lead writer of “The Musketeers” tells Zap2it.
His vision, an updated, lush version of Alexander Dumas’ tales premieres on BBC America Sunday, June 22, and does a wonderful job of bringing the audience to 17th century Paris.
While the basis of “The Musketeers” remains true to their legend, and some of the stories are the same, there are also new adventures relayed in the 10 episodes. The most basic element, that the Musketeers, bodyguards for King Louis XIII, stood for truth and honor, remains constant.
“Ultimately for me it is a story about loyalty until death because these men will die for each other,” Hodges says. “There’s a nobility to it.
“This is not a heroic age,” he continues. “Having something happen to you is not heroic. What is heroic is what you do about it. They take life and danger lightly, but at the end of the day, they are men who don’t want to die. They have no animosity to people. They are men of war.”
The actors trained for the physically demanding roles at a castle in Prague.
“I cleaned out stables and saddled up horses and brushed down horses, and would go out for a couple of hours and start sword fighting,” says Luke Pasqualino (“The Borgias”), who plays D’Artagnan.
“He is a very hot-headed young man,” Pasqualino says of his character. “He is driven by his appetite for justice.”
For those very familiar with the story and the different Musketeers, Pasqualino says, “The D’Artagnan I’m playing is very different from the D’Artagnans that preceded him. These are real people in real situations. Nothing is sugar coated in any way.”
The series opens during a rainstorm. Men, who say they are the Musketeers, burst into an inn. One identifies himself as Athos, and says, “Kindly empty your pockets of money and jewelry. If you want to live, do it now.”
Those being robbed are surprised because the Musketeers are, rightly, known as good guys. The one who says he’s Athos, fatally shoots a man. D’Artagan’s father dies in his arms, in the driving rain, and D’Artagan swears revenge.
He goes off to find the Musketeers and when he does, he learns that the brigands, who robbed the folks at the inn and killed his dad, were not the real Musketeers. Of course first he tries to fight the trio before learning this, and they see what a brave — if a bit foolhardy — swordsman he is.
They invite D’Artagnan to join them as they work to free Athos (Tom Burke, “Great Expectations”) from a death sentence. Word that Athos had killed D’Artagnan’s dad has reached the king, a petulant man/child, who feels he must set an example by condemning to death one of his own men.
The Musketeers rescue Athos at the absolute last moment. They are a fierce, fun bunch. By definition, the Musketeers have to be dashing, but Aramis (Santiago Cabrera, “Merlin”) is just a bit more dashing than the others.
He is the lover, not that any of them suffer for lack of female attention, but Aramis’ lover is also the cardinal’s mistress and in the pilot Aramis has to jump from an upper floor to escape the cardinal. Just as they always seem to, the other Musketeers show up precisely when most needed.
Porthos (Howard Charles) radiates danger and fury, but there’s a definite twinkle to him.
Like Pasqualino, Charles had not read the book or seen earlier movies.
“The script is the bible,” Charles says.
And the tales are timeless.
“These are stories that have been told for hundreds of years,” he says. As someone who came from a rougher background, like his character, Charles says he relates to Porthos at a gut level.
“The essence of Porthos is he knows the value of life,” Charles says. “After seeing death and destruction all around him, it brings out the fun and he enjoys the moment.”
And there is plenty of death and destruction. After all, it is 1625 in Paris. “It is a world falling apart at the seams,” Charles says.
Though that world of old Europe, royalty and peasants and swashbucklers may seem far removed, the more creator Hodges considered it, the more he thought the time was ripe to revisit it. He considers how 21st century viewers might react.
“The thing that is making it fun for them is it is not something locked up in the past, and it has a fun feel,” Hodges says. “It is the same fun from Robin Hood. It’s not as unfamiliar as I would think.”