Fans have patiently waited for 2 years since “His Dark Materials” season 2 finished in December 2020. The last time we saw Will and Lyra, things were looking grim. Will’s dad John Parry was murdered, while Lyra was found and kidnapped by her mother Mrs. Coulter.
With the third and final season currently underway, viewers will finally learn the fate of the multiverse. In this interview with Jamie Ward, the UK star talks about his inspiration for playing the villainous Father Gomez and how he defers from the book materials. Although Father Gomez was never explicitly described as handsome in the book, fans are pleased that this TV version priest is easy on the eyes.
Q: Who are you playing in “His Dark Materials” Season Three?
“Father Gomez is a young, zealous fanatical priest who, after proving his worth to the Magisterium through devotion and self-ﬂagellation, is sent on a very important mission. Initially that mission is to bring back Mrs Coulter [Ruth Wilson] and Lyra [Dafne Keen]. But actually his main mission is to kill Lyra. He forms a relationship with Cardinal, or rather now Father President MacPhail [Will Keen] and MacPhail begins to trust Gomez deeply. I’m warned by MacPhail of Mrs Coulter’s wild ways but ultimately he sends him on a mission to kill Lyra.”
Q: What sort of character is Gomez?
“I guess Gomez is quite a complex character in the sense that he believes 100% in what he’s doing and he morally justiﬁes everything that he’s doing. What he’s doing is all in the name of the Magisterium and everything that they believe. The story of Adam and Eve really means a lot to him and I guess he sees sin as the most important thing to protect people from.”
Q: Do you think of him as evil?
“I don’t think anyone is evil. In his mind, he’s not evil. Everyone has their reasons for doing something or doing the actions that they do. I imagine that what Gomez went through as a child informed how he can even be part of the Magisterium. Cardinal MacPhail has taken him under his wing in a sort of paternal way but no, I don’t think it’s evil.”
Q: Gomez is in the books. Did you go back to the books when you were cast?
“Well, I actually read the books as a child at school. So I was already a huge fan. But I didn’t realise that this – “His Dark Materials” – was the TV series of the books until the second series. And then I sort of devoured the whole thing, and then the audition came through. So it was kind of like fate that I’d started watching. As soon as I got the part I reread ‘The Amber Spyglass’ and got through it pretty quickly. I think they’ve built the character of Gomez up a little bit. There are certain things that he’s doing here that he wasn’t doing in the book. For example, there’s a moment where Gomez is sent on another mini mission to cut Mrs Coulter’s hair and deliver it to MacPhail, who’s going to use it as part of a bomb. So for a lot of the series Gomez and Mrs Coulter are together. Mrs Coulter is such an intelligent character and she’s so witty and she has such personality whereas Father Gomez is almost intellectual and quieter; the language Mrs Coulter uses is really exciting and witty and she sort of gets under people’s skin in a way. So I think Gomez is kind of losing the battle with Mrs. Coulter. But who knows who will have the last word?”
Q: Did you base Gomez on anyone or anything?
“I started with the text, obviously, and with Philip’s book. And then I drew comparisons with Nazi Germany and with the Spanish Inquisition, I suppose. I think there’s parallels in the way that Father President MacPhail goes about his business. And I think Ruth [Wilson, Mrs Coulter] and I also found in our scene that the dynamic between us worked best when we sort of channelled into a Nazi Germany kind of world – just in the way that Gomez brings Mrs Coulter into the scene, instructs her to sit, treats her inhumanely. I think there are a lot of parallels. And then I started researching every sort of evil character that’s been portrayed on screen and drew inspiration from that. But my way in to the character was through my voice and through physicality, really. That’s what excited me during the audition phase: I was able to just play around with those things and that’s what created my take on Gomez.”
Q: What kind of physicality is that?
“I suppose being a priest is enough of a start. It informs the posture and playing around with that in the audition phase allowed me to lower my voice. I’m Australian, but I had to do an RP accent and that really helped me in ﬁnding the character.”
Q: What was it like coming on as a new character in an established hit series?
“I was really nervous. I actually had to call an acting coach and sort of get some advice on how to deal with that. Because I have this great scene with Ruth and a couple of moments with some other actors that I really look up to. And I was worried that I would kind of get nervous or something on the day. But funnily enough, it was just exciting and I wasn’t anxious, wasn’t nervous when the moment came. It’s just an incredible honour to be on screen with people that I’ve watched for such a long time. When I grew up in Australia, I was acting there and I was watching James [McAvoy], Ruth and Will on screen in shows that I still love. So yeah, it’s beyond surreal.”
Q: What was it like arriving on the set, seeing things you had imagined from the book?
“It’s hard to put it into words really. You start picturing everything in the book and then when you eventually see it for real it’s very rare to be an actor and get to actually have a world created for you. I’ve never really seen anything like this before. The script, the sets involved blew my mind. I called my parents straight away and then tried to FaceTime them – but got told oﬀ straight away. My ﬁrst scene ﬁlming was with Will Keen who plays Father President MacPhail and we were in this gorgeous hall with this almost Sistine Chapel vibe. You’ve got to check it out. They’ve painted the roof and it’s stunning. That’s probably my favourite set in here on the studio. But then we also ﬁlmed on location at St. Govan’s Chapel, which is about two hours away. That was unreal. We got to ﬁlm in a chapel has been there for 1500 years.”
Catch “His Dark Materials’ Season 3 on HBO (Astro Ch 411) and HBO GO, with 2 new episodes premiering every Tuesday, and the finale episode on 27th December.