In the pirate driven series Black Sails, Hannah New is Eleanor Guthrie, an iron-willed saloon owner who must navigate the social and political goings on in the always turbulent environment of Nassau. The Starz series starts its second season on January 24, and its first season was just released on Blu-Ray and DVD.
During the interview, New, who was seen last year in Maleficent, talked about the joys of playing a determined woman who doesn’t back down from a challenge.
Eleanor Guthrie is a woman who’s rarely intimidated, even in the midst of pirates. That must be a fun character to take on.
Playing someone who has that amount of responsibility and that amount of drive can be pretty exhausting sometimes but very exhilarating at the same time. It’s a lot of fun to play a young woman who has such strength and is always going to aim to come out on top.
She has to be ingenious in the way she interacts with the pirates. Hopefully, you get to see her being satirical and funny and occasionally she has to be really hardcore. Having the full range of emotions is just such a pleasure. She’s also really human – there are moments of real vulnerability there too.
What are the joys of shooting on a location (the production shoots in South Africa) that’s filled with a high level of production design?
That’s one of the incredible advantages of being on the show. We have a set that is a whole world. It’s completely one piece. I can be sitting in my tavern and look out and see down the beach and I can also look out and see what’s going on in the brothel. All of these elements that add to not having to suspend belief. (Just) really being there and feeling the energy of the place. That is the biggest luxury.
One of Eleanor’s many strengths is her ability to navigate in dangerous waters and deal with different types of people.
Yeah. She’s really a prototypical, worldly woman. She does really position herself to deal with lots of characters. What’s really interesting is that she doesn’t have to fit into these cultural norms that were put on most women during those times.
She’s really forward thinking in regards to an egalitarian society and what she thinks democracy should be. She’s a young visionary who believes in a completely different paradigm. And for me, that’s really exciting.
She’s running a meritocracy. She values people on how well they perform. Doesn’t matter where they’re from – she’s a visionary in that sense and that’s really inspiring.
How rewarding is it to know that season two is coming up and a third season is also set in stone?
It’s awesome to know that you have all that space and time and play out all those details with this character. Being in a series like this is kind of like living and growing with your character – you never know what’s going to happen them next. And you may not like what’s going to happen to them next. You can’t change that but you have to accept (it) and that’s a really exciting and creative environment to be in.
Knowing that (Black Sails) is going to grow for a long period of time is awesome.
Was learning Spanish and traveling at a young age important aspects in your growth as an actor (along with her work on Disney’s Maleficent, New also starred in the miniseries El Tiempo Entre Costuras).
Absolutely. I couldn’t recommend it more to aspiring young actors – to get out there and really experience (life) before deciding to do training.
You need to come into education and the idea of becoming an actor after being a sponge from different cultures and people. To me, that’s what learning another language is about. It’s communicating with people who have a completely different upbringing to me and getting perspective on what other people’s lives are like.
When I finished school, I told my mom I wanted to go to drama school. She said, “Get a proper degree first.” I said “I don’t know what to do” and she said “Why don’t you learn a different language so you can work in two markets?” That was actually the best piece of advice I ever got.
What’s the key to playing Eleanor Guthrie – since she always seems to be focused with the task at hand?
I think it’s very much about listening (since) she thinks on her feet. She has to kind of think outside the box to be one step ahead of all the characters. She’s a woman who stands her entire ground. She knows what she wants when she comes into a room – there is very little that will move her off that position. She always has to maintain what her objective is but her tactics must change minute to minute in order to achieve (her goals).
Thank you so much for your time and good luck with season two.
Thank you so much! Take care.