During today’s Comic-Con@Home panel for HBO and BBC’s His Dark Materials, fans got to see the first official trailer for the upcoming second season of the series.
Included in the trailer is the very first glimpse at the mysterious city of Cittàgaze as well as footage of new season 2 cast members Andrew Scott (“John Parry”), Jade Anouka (“Ruta Skadi”), and Simone Kirby (“Dr. Mary Malone”), who join returning cast Dafne Keen (“Lyra”), Ruth Wilson (“Mrs Coulter”), Ariyon Bakare (“Lord Boreal”), Amir Wilson (“Will”) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (“Lee Scoresby”).
SPOILERS AHEAD if you haven’t seen season 1!
The plot for season two is: “Lord Asriel (James McAvoy) has opened a bridge to a new world, and, distraught over the death of her best friend, Lyra (Dafne Keen) follows Asriel into the unknown. In a strange and mysterious abandoned city she meets Will (Amir Wilson), a boy from our world who is also running from a troubled past. Lyra and Will learn their destinies are tied to reuniting Will with his father but find their path is constantly thwarted as a war begins to brew around them. Meanwhile, Mrs. Coulter (Ruth Wilson) searches for Lyra, determined to bring her home by any means necessary.”
During the Comic-Con@Home panel, executive producers Jane Tranter and Jack Thorne were joined by cast members Dafne Keen, Ruth Wilson, Ariyon Bakare, Amir Wilson, Andrew Scott, and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Even though he’s the newest cast member, Scott had the biggest announcement of the panel. One of his favorite aspects of the show is the daemons, which act as a physical manifestation of a human’s soul. “So much of the stuff that’s so beautiful to me about the book and the series is the relationship with the daemons,” Scott said.
And someone familiar will be voicing the daemon for Scott’s character, John Parry: Phoebe Waller-Bridge. She and Scott were most recently seen in the award-winning second season of Fleabag. “I’m really thrilled about that because it’s all about companionship and friendship and loyalty, and that’s what I feel about Phoebe in my real life,” he said.
He also spoke about being excited but slightly intimidated to join the series. He had good reason to be. The first season was extremely well received, including by longtime fans of Philip Pullman’s award-winning fiction trilogy. Tranter was relieved and pleased with fans’ reactions to the first season.
“Obviously, the most gratifying thing is that fans of the book have become fans of the adaptation,” she said. They took a few risks with the adaptation, such as including Will in season one although he does not appear in the first book of Pullman’s trilogy. Thorne made the decision to use Bakare’s Lord Boreal as the connection between Lyra’s story and Will’s after watching Bakare’s performance during filming.
The actor, who had never played a villain before, chose to play Boreal as cold and emotionless. “I don’t think he cares about anybody else except for himself,” Bakare said.
As for Amir Wilson, playing Will came with some pressure but he rose to the challenge. “When you’re bringing any character to life that’s based off someone in a book, there’s a pressure to make sure you present them how they are in the book but also you’re adding a bit of yourself to that character. You’re making it your own.”
The world Pullman created is so dense, Thorne said, that viewers are asked to actively engage with every part of every episode. The same is true for the actors in the show. “The more you dig, the more you find,” Ruth Wilson said about her character, Mrs. Coulter.
Looking incredibly glamorous during the virtual panel (“That’s just how she looks,” Miranda quipped), Wilson teased that in season 2 we’ll see Mrs. Coulter on her own with her daemon and get to dive into her past a bit more, even beyond what is provided in Pullman’s books. She also explained what drew her to the enigmatic character.
“She is constantly challenging me and confusing me and her intentions are always mixed up and different from moment to moment… She does such horrific things, you need to balance that with reasons why or potential reasons why. We know that by [book] three, we see her as a completely different person so you need to find the journey through the [books/series] to discover how she gets to who she is by the end of the books,” Ruth Wilson said.
Aside from the trailer, the cast and executive producers teased only a little of what is to come in season 2. The theme seems to be “trust,” as echoed by Thorne and Keen. At the start of the series, Lyra is very outgoing and trusting but in season 2, she has to learn to open up again. Keen says that Will is instrumental in pulling Lyra out of her shell. Will’s father, John, will be spending much of season 2 with Miranda’s Lee Scoresby as the latter searches for Lyra.
Miranda has been a fan of the books for 15 years and even has a special connection with them because of his wife. “We kind of fell in love with the world as we were falling in love with each other,” he explained. To be part of the show now feels like “space camp,” though it was hard in season 2 to be separated from his frequent season 1 partner, Dafne.
“Dafne and I both speak Spanish and we love showtunes so that was a very quick foundation to form our friendship,” Miranda said. In season two, he missed her so much, he would run over to the soundstage she was shooting on just to say hi.
While many television series and film productions are stuck in limbo during the COVID-19 crisis, His Dark Materials was fortunate to have finished filming season 2 in December 2019. Throughout the coronavirus lockdown, post-production has safely continued, meaning season 2 is on course to debut as originally planned.
The only difference will be showing seven episodes instead of the planned eight. In March, the production was filming a standalone episode following Lord Asriel’s journey after going through the anomaly at the end of season 1. Thorne had gotten Pullman’s blessing to imagine this story, something that isn’t addressed in the novels. When production was halted due to COVID-19, this episode was unfinished. However, as a standalone, it won’t affect the story of the season and they hope to revisit it sometime in the future.
His Dark Materials is available on HBO and to stream on HBO Max. Watch the full panel from Comic-Con@Home below.
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