I..uhh..I'm just borrowing this article. It ain't mine, and I swear I'll put it back when I'm done! :-) Thanks Marie!
TV Zone Issue 129, by Steven Eramo. Order your own copy of TV Zone HERE, complete with pictures!
It’s good to be the king!
In his imposing role as King Zad on the hit syndicated Fantasy series Beastmaster, Steven Grives commands the attention of all creatures, both great and small. Recently, the actors was in the middle of filming a scene when one of the king’s littlest admirers paid him a unexpected visit.
“There I was shouting at a group of Zad’s minions when all of a sudden the director said, ‘Cut!’ I thought I had done something wrong but then he asked me, ‘Steven, what’s crawling up your arm?’ I looked down at this lizard, which promptly jumped off my body and scurried away. Obviously, we weren’t a match made in heaven,” he jokes.
“I never know quite what to expect when I come to work every day, but what I do know is that I’m having a great time. As actors in this show we’re so lucky because we get to perform in a Fantasy land here in Australia. With Beastmaster we’re dealing with everything from Greek mythology to medieval folklore. One week we might be doing a story on the Phoenix, then, perhaps, one about unicorns, followed maybe by the Shadow of Death. We did a marvelous episode involving a Minatour, which was the mythical creature slain by Theseus, the king of Athens. So these stories can go in many directions and that makes doing this show such a treat.
Since moving to Australia several years ago, the British-born Grives has become one of that country’s leading film, television and theatre actors. He was already well known to television audiences around the world for his work on such popular British shows as The Sandbaggers, Danger UXB and The Flambards. As a child, the actor excelled in math and science and wanted to grow up to be a nuclear physicist. “I was fascinated by protons and neutrons,” he says.
Going to Camelot
Ultimately, Grives chose acting over atoms. He made his professional debut at the age of 14 playing the young boy in a production of Camelot at the Drury Lane theatre in London’s West end. “I don’t think I’ve ever again quite experienced the magic of that first night when I heard the orchestra begin to play and watched all the actors take their places. I truly felt that I was in Camelot. After that there was no looking back. I just had to be in this business.”
The actors was appearing as Creon in a production of Sophocles’ Antigone for the Queensland Theatre Company in Brisbane when his agent put him up for the part of the mean-spirited despot King Zad in Beastmaster. Grives had shaved his head to play Creon and this “new look,” plus his impressive list of credits, instantly won over the producers and they offered him the role of Zad.
Leader of the Gang
“We’re seen people like King Zad throughout history,” notes Grives. “they’ve always been there from Genghis Khan to Adolf Hitler and have had this tremendous control over the masses. I think the hardest part about playing Zad is finding that fine balance between the seriousness and viciousness of the individual and that sort of Caligula-type craziness that can be quite amusing at times. You have to be careful, though, because you don’t want to go the wrong way with the character and make it cheesy. Sometimes I’ll run the [acting] choices I’m planning to make past my wife and other people whose opinion I also respect and ask them, ‘Is that too over-the-top?’ I like to push the envelope, to coin a phrase, as far as I can but not enough to ruin the piece.
“Going back to my days on Flambards, playing the villain is always a marvelous opportunity,’ continues the actor. “they invariably get the best lines and they’re rarely boring. Of course, as an actor I’m looking at the inner life of Zad on Beastmaster, and as long as that keeps developing I’ll be very pleased. I think the writers have taken great care in creating the show’s characters and plotting out their interaction. For example, Zad doesn’t meet Dar the Beastmaster [Daniel Goddard] until episode 16, A Devil’s Deal. I thought, ‘That’s very good,’ because by the time this comes around the audience will have already seen 15 stories that have established the characters. There’s a great deal of anticipation built up as to how the meeting will go and, obviously, it goes with a bang,” laughs Grives.
King Zad is the ruler of a realm known as the Territories and the leader of the Terrons, a brutal band of warriors. Long ago, the king’s troops killed Dar’s entire tribe, the Sula, and kidnapped his love Kyra (Natalie Mendoza). Since then, Dar has been searching for her. In the show’s pilot episode, The Legend Continues, the Beastmaster arrives at a Terron camp and saves several prisoners, including his sidekick-to-be Tao (Jackson Raine), from being mauled to death by tigers. At the last minute, Zad escapes with Kyra and the hunt continues.
Getting it Right
”The first episode of any programme is very important because you’re laying the groundwork for the future and saying, ‘Well, these are the parameters of my character.’ In this story, Zad had a great deal to do with Kyra. There were some pretty sensuous moments between the two and I kept wondering, ‘How far do we go with this sort of thing?’ Obviously, the producers knew which audience they were aiming for, but I wasn’t quite sure. I certainly don’t want to upset any kiddies or teenagers out there. So that was an interesting challenge for me right from the start.”
In his efforts to thwart Dar, the king sometimes employs the services of the beautiful and powerful Sorceress (Monika Schnarre), a protégé of the Ancient One (Grahame Bond). However, it is not long before the womanizing Zad tries to mix business with pleasure. “We’re not exactly sure where the relationship between the Sorceress and Zad is headed at the moment, but I’m having fun,” jokes the actors. “It’s lovely to be playing opposite young ladies who are not only beautiful but can also act, and it’s a joy to be with Monika, especially, because both out characters interact a fair amount in the series. She’s a terrific person and very easy to get along with.”
Unlike some rulers who are content to sit on their thrones and let their underlings do their dirty work, Zad likes to get out and about and be part of the action. “I do most of the horseback riding on Beastmaster,” says Grives. “If you saw The Flambards you’ll remember that I was sitting on a horse most of the time, so it’s a skill I’ve horned over the years. Obviously you have to do a certain amount of stuntwork on a programme like ours, but at my age the bones don’t heal quite as fast and the bruises don’t fade as quickly. Sometimes, I’ll look at Daniel and thing, ‘Oh, boy, wouldn’t it be nice to be 27 again.”
“I have quite a lot of scars on my body, all done by the make-up people for whenever Zad has to take his shirt off. They did this marvelous one on my shoulder, and one day at work I walked out to the catering truck to get my lunch. I couldn’t put a shirt on because of the make-up and the poor girl doing the catering saw this scar and asked, ‘Whatever happened to you?’ I went on for 10 minutes about this tiger attack that took place two years ago on a fictitious set. I was lucky to get away with my life after I told her I was just kidding,” laughs the actor.
According to Grives, sometimes Zad does not even have to lift a finger to be menacing. “In The Chameleon it’s revealed to the king in a nightmare that a child has been born that will eventually grow up to kill him, so he decides to find this child and kill him first. There’s a scene with a group of four and five-year-olds in Zad’s tent. My youngest son was one of these kiddies and he’s used to seeing daddy as Zad. However, when the director said, ‘Action!’ and I started yelling, all the kids, except for my son, ran out of the tent.
“We coaxed them back in and tried again. This time I played Zad like a demented Santa Claus. I picked up my son, sat him on my lap and asked, ‘What’s your name?’ He told me, ‘Jeremiah.’ I looked at him and said, ‘No, he’s not the one,’ and the director said, ‘Cut!’ The scene was over but the next little boy decided he wanted to come and sit on my lap, so I asked, “What do you want for Christmas?’ He told me and I said, ‘Well, tell mommy that King Zad said you could have it.’ The rest of the children came up one by one and I told each of them the same thing,” chuckles Grives. “Their mommies must have loved me!”
Although he did not receive and requests from department stores to play Father Christmas, the actor kept busy doing theatre after Beastmaster wrapped production on its first season last December. The show begins filming its second year in July and Grives is looking forward to reprising his role of King Zad. “I’ve got the best of both worlds tv and theatre. I couldn’t be happier,” he says.
Text copyright 2000 by Lori Swanson
Screen captures and collages courtesy of Laurie Allen and SapphireMage. Please ask before using!