Exclusive Interview with The Bastard Executioner’s Danny Sapani


Photo Credit: Alex Rumford.
Photo Credit: Alex Rumford.

Talk Nerdy With Us recently chatted with London actor Danny Sapani. Danny is best known for his roles on Penny Dreadful and The Bastard Executioner.  Keep reading to see what’s in store for Berber the Moor and follow Danny on Twitter at @DannySapani.

Tell us about your background?

I was born in November 1970 to Ghanaian parents who had moved to the UK in the late 60s and set up home in Hackney, East London. I am one of 6. My parents both worked very hard, my Mum was a nurse and often worked double shifts so we were taught to be independent at a very young age. My Ghanaian roots are incredibly important to me. The culture, customs and sense of community is very prevalent in our lives. My full name is Danny Kwasi (pronounced Kwesi) Sapani which comes from the words (Osa = War peni = Elder).

How did you hear about The Bastard Executioner?

I was approached through my agent by Amy Hubbard who was casting on behalf of Kurt Sutter and Paris Barclay.

What was it that attracted you to The Bastard Executioner?

The historical element certainly. Particularly, the history of the ancient Berbers and Moors of North Africa who colonized half of Europe from the 9th to 15th century. Then the human story, the bonds that exist between this band of outlaws who are forced to act and stand up to oppressive, evil authority.

Tell us about your role as Berber the Moor?

Berber is a joy to play as are the times and world we are creating to explore. He is a rock,family man, Muslim, Moorish scholar and stands up for what he believes in against the odds, especially in continuing to practice Islam in a hostile Catholic state. The theme of personal, religious and political conviction is important in this show and recurring for all the characters. How these convictions are challenged by personal loyalties. Berber represents a very interesting part of that embodied in his history, race and personality.

I noticed that in a past episode, Berber appeared to be translating a document? So clearly he can read and write which is rare for people in medieval times; is there more in Berber’s backstory that we don’t know and if so, will we see some of that? He’s quite the interesting guy.

I am glad you think so. I would agree. There is clearly much to be revealed about his past. Berber lived a very different life before he came to Wales as reflected in his adept skills with a scimitar and the fact that he can read. He is of noble birth, part of the Moorish aristocracy that occupied Spain for 700 years ending in 1492, when he and his family fled. In between that and coming to Wales he has had to convert to Catholicism, face loss and great adversity. As a result he has become most reliant on bonds he has forged in this new world and his faith. He continues to strive to for life and remains open to change in everyone.

Another thing that struck me with Berber is that he can also fight. (As shown in the pilot) How much weapons training did you do prior to filming?

We have a stunt coordinator Lee Sheward, who I actually worked with on Ultimate Force, and it’s very intensive. There’s a lot of period weaponry–maces and swords, and in particular the scimitar–the Moorish weapon that Berber uses. It’s a sophisticated weapon for the time, with a blunt edge and a sharp edge, and there’s a particular style to using it. And that’s what a lot of the training is, everybody has to look like they’re a master of their discipline, they really strive for authenticity.

How is it working with the cast, and working in Wales?

It’s been great fun. Wales is so beautiful, but its a little too wet for my liking. Working with Kurt and Katey have been great as they have an amazing commitment to the work; a great sense of humour; professionalism and their years of experience in the business whilst remaining very humble which has spread throughout the team.

Any funny stories?

None that I can share! (Laughs).

Is there anything you can share (without spoiling) about the upcoming episodes in terms of your character? Or the group he’s with and of the secret they share with Milius (Stephen Moyer). How close is someone finding out?

Sorry guys. You’ll just have to keep watching!!

Will we see Sembene again on Penny Dreadful?

Season 3 is still being written so I will have to let you know!

What attracts you to a role?

A number of things – good writing is absolutely key, especially if the character takes you on a journey. Good directors, of course, are always an attraction as you know you will learn something new.

Any future projects?

I was recently featured in a film called Jadotville playing Moise Tshombe, a Congalese business man/ politician who becomes a self-styled military dictator. He stands up to the UN; with the help of ruthless western government forces. They are hell-bent on maintaining the imperialist status quo and mining interest of the country. He is cultured, educated and murderous; a frightening combination. It is a brilliantly realised historical piece with a great cast, directed by Richie Smyth.

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