Exclusive Interview with Austin Butler of The Shannara Chronicles at NYCC

As one of the top trending television shows of the New York Comic Con weekend, The Shannara Chronicles is generating a lot of buzz amongst fans of the books and fantasy worlds. With an incredible cast and an equally amazing set in New Zealand, MTV has created the perfect post-apocalyptic show full of action and adventure. Talk Nerdy With Us got the opportunity to talk to Austin Butler about what to expect from the new show when it premieres in January.


How much does the story deviate from the book?

“I think with a different medium, with it being television there is natural deviation that has to happen. Also, like the producers were saying in the panel, they had to pick their battles figuratively and literally. It’s hard to do super epic battles every episode, but then you get them and the pay off is so worth it. It’s hard to even remember now what was in the book and what was in the script for me, because it all kind of interweaves.”

What drew you to this role?

“I think it was the humanity of the character. I wanted to tell that story of a guy who wasn’t the hero, who didn’t feel like the hero and didn’t know if he could overcome the challenges that were in front of him. I know I have felt like that in life, that feeling of I don’t know if I can handle this. When you get through that, that’s powerful. The show is almost a metaphor for that, but at the same time he’s actually going through those things. That was the biggest thing for me.”

Did you read the book in preparation for the role or did you just go off the script?

“That’s something I thought about as well. I initially thought it’s better to know as much as I can and then if there’s anything that I need to forget then I can do that later, so I read the book for that reason. The fans of the books grew up with them, so to hear people in the audience talking about it, you want to do that justice. You want to respect the fans and respect the material.”

 Have you had any interactions with any of the fans of the book so far?

“Yeah, I think without anybody having seen the show it’s hard to get an accurate gage on it. A lot of people, like my dentist, read the books when he was in second grade. (Laughs). He was the first guy that I told ‘maybe doing this show Shannara’ and he told me that he read the books in second grade. When people saw the trailer they seemed really excited about it. That was cool.”

 Besides the books did you use any outside sources in reference to your character?

“One of the biggest things for me is that a lot of the character just resonated with me in general. I think in part I just felt really in tune with him,. The big things were the physical challenges. I hadn’t ridden horses or lived in a world where I live in a tiny shack. (Laughs). So, I went out into the woods and camped and tried to live off as little as I could. I got to New Zealand a month early and spent almost everyday with my horse. I really got to know him, washed him, pet him, and learned how to saddle him up and everything.

That way when I’m doing it in the show, it’s not like all they did was just teach me how to ride, I knew how to do everything with him. We had this bond and he was a very skittish horse. Actually the first time I met him, he had a cut above his eye. He had stitches because when they moved him he would move his head because he gets very agitated. He wouldn’t let me anywhere near his face when we first started together. By the end I could just walk up to him and put my face against his face and hug him. We really had a bond at that point and that was really cool!”

 Coming from Los Angeles, horses must not be very familiar.

“No, my grandfather was a cowboy and legitimately roped cattle so it may be in my blood. I have ridden with him maybe twice or three times before, but I picked it up quickly when I got out there. I love animals and I love horses, but I haven’t moved to a shack yet. (Laughs).”

 Are you going to get your own horse?

“I hope so! I really wanted to keep my horse! My horse’s name is Cricket and I wanted to keep him.”

 How many episodes have you filmed so far?

“We’ve filmed 10 episodes. We’ve finished season one at this point. We had the amazing good fortune of not having to film a pilot and wait for it to get picked up, so we went straight to series. I’ve never done that before. That allowed us to keep the momentum going from those first two episodes and not have to pause for a long time and come back. I’ve filmed pilots before and you watch the pilot then you watch the second episode and you go ‘I look different, I sound different, I feel different.’ With this, it continued with a nice momentum.” 

Where there any tough stunts that you had to do?

“For the most part, because we had that time to train and my body was in the place where I thought I could handle a fall, I tried to do as much as I could. There were certain things that they did make the stunt guy do. I had this amazing stunt double named Beau. We trained together so we also had a bond. For the most part, he would maybe do the rehearsal and kind of just show me the challenges of it, like you’ve got to watch out for that stick right there, you don’t want to hit your face on that, or do this. But I would do the rolls and run. It was awesome!”

 Is the fantasy realm comfortable for you?

“Yeah! I love watching fantasy and I love science fiction. I remember my uncle would take me to go see the re-releases of Star Wars. I went into the theater and I couldn’t even read yet, so he had to read me the beginning credits that go up. I just remember being engrossed in that and I played pretend. I was a very very shy kid, so playing pretend was the place that I came out of my shell.”

 So does acting empower you?

“It does! It’s almost therapy for me in some way. The character had gone through similar things that I had gone through in life. I was out there isolated, away from everybody that I knew. I got lonely and homesick and all of those things came about, so to be able to channel that through make-believe was a therapy session in a way.”

 Since Wil (Ohmsford) is the center of a love triangle, how much of the romance will be featured in the show?

“Quite a bit. The core of the show is the quest that they’re going on. On that same note he is surrounded by these two girls that he is completely confused by, as most men are by women (Laughs). Especially when you’re isolated in a shack.”

 So what do you hope to build on this role in upcoming seasons?

“I think it’s going to be interesting for me to see. I won’t know until I see scripts, but to see how the loss and the overcoming of the challenges make him stronger. To sort of unveil that hero more within him.”


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