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 Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje opens up about Commander Ogunwe’s motivations in this season and having to work with Asriel (played by James McAvoy) despite their differences. Check out the interview with the 55-year-old British actor below:
Q: Who is Ogunwe?
“Basically, as you know, in “His Dark Materials” we have the Authority that’s been oppressing thought, creativity and any kind of spiritual, religious belief. Commander Ogunwe has managed to create an opposition to that by gathering various people and armies together, and they’ve formed their own kind of colony called the Resistance. He heads that up. In that Resistance there is free thought, there’s the expression of creativity, the reading of poetry – all things that might not seem big in our everyday world, but in this world they are a violation. In Ogunwe’s world they are the absolute expression of freedom.
“Ogunwe has two daughters, and one of his daughters has been a victim of the Authority’s brainwashing. She’s unable to communicate with anything other than the Authority’s propaganda any longer. So basically, she’s lost her mind. Ogunwe just keeps the daughter as a shell, hoping one day that he can recover her mind, body and soul. But it’s quite a painful experience and a reminder of what his cause is about. He’s about saving the sons and daughters, because the Authority have taken an interest in taking the children. So it becomes quite a prominent stance in the show.”
Q: How does he come in to contact with Asriel?
“So Asriel’s on this intergalactic… head hunt, for want of a better word. He’s just blasting holes through worlds! As you know, he has his Committee, you know, including Queen Ruta Skadi [Jade Anouka] and Ruta has been tapping into these worlds and ascertaining who’s doing what. Asriel is trying to amass the best army for his purpose, which is to take on the Magisterium. Ogunwe’s reputation precedes him. Queen Ruta Skardi has heard about him, has informed Asriel and Asriel head hunts him and releases him. Because – spoiler – at the beginning Ogunwe’s been captured by the Authority. And Asriel is so bent on having him and his army join his forces that he breaks in and releases him and persuades him to join him – which he does. So that’s kind of how we come in.”
Q: Why does Ogunwe need persuading to join forces with Asriel?
“He’s very sceptical. Obviously, when you’ve lived a life of oppression and suppression he’s very suspicious as well – of pretty much everybody. Let’s be honest, this guy comes in very cavalier, killing, shooting, and then he has these things like daemons. Now, what’s wonderful about this character is that it’s very grounding in the show, because here’s a guy who’s not familiar with Asriel’s Republic and Asriel’s world. He doesn’t know anything about witches; he doesn’t know anything about angels; he doesn’t know anything about daemons. So the audience gets to see it from a very grounded perspective through his eyes. From that perspective, Asriel has to convince him that there are other worlds. He also has to show Ogunwe, to break down how the hierarchy is set up, you know: the Magisterium, the Authority.
“And then there’s all the propaganda: because prior to all this, Ogunwe is of the belief that there is such a thing as death. He believes some of these thoughts that the Authority have put out there. Asriel comes in and goes, ‘I’m going to kill death, I’m going to show you it’s a big lie.’ There are these vast ideas that he shares with Ogunwe that are the complete antithesis to what Ogunwe’s known before.
“It’s not just that Ogunwe has to get his own head wrapped around that and the supernatural world of daemons, witches and angels, but he also has the onus of the responsibility of his people. He can’t just jump on board – he has to win his people’s trust, and sell it to them as well. He takes that very, very seriously and you’ll see this throughout the show — the diﬀerence in the two characters of Asriel and Ogunwe is Ogunwe is all about the individual, looking out for the individual as well as the cause. Whereas Asriel has a single-minded conviction that it’s all about, only about the cause. He’s like, ‘Listen, to achieve our cause, there’s going to have to be sacriﬁces; there will be deaths.’ But those deaths are going to come from my – Ogunwe’s – people. So you know, I got to sell this to them, if you’re going to ask them to lay their life down for it. That’s why he needs convincing on that level.
“Then, on a philosophical, supernatural level, it’s like, ‘Well, what are you talking about? What is this snow leopard?’ [Asriel’s daemon]. You know, imagine if somebody just walked in with a snow leopard that talks. And you’ve never seen that before. And then he blows a hole through his world, literally. It’s like, ‘Alright, I’m sold!’ Yeah, so that’s how they meet.”
Q: What is the nature of their relationship?
“It’s a great relationship in that it’s a partnership. He’s joining forces with him: he doesn’t work for him, he works with him. Philosophically, sometimes there’s a bit of a jarring because Ogunwe’s got to wrap his head around a lot of what Asriel is thinking, and most of the time that’s in Asriel’s head. He’s really on a bullet train, and doesn’t really share a lot, so it becomes somewhat frustrating for Ogunwe because each of these moves he is going to have to sell to his people. Without transparency that makes it quite diﬃcult.”
Q: Is Ogunwe’s world more like our own world – a bit more normal?
“It’s very normal. My people are warriors and survivors, very skilled militaristically but very grounded. Our world is quite meagre. It’s an encampment set up with tents. Obviously we have equipment to protect us. But they’re almost like scavenge warriors. They’re not technologically advanced, other than the weaponry that they utilise. It’s nothing like the Republic, our guys, and that’s quite refreshing to have that grounded perspective – it’s as if you and I had suddenly entered that world.”
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.