MaHB / TV: This Son Of Liberty

Esquire Malaysia, June 2015

This Son Of Liberty
Ben Barnes plays an old-school freedom fighter on television, and he tells us all about it.

By Sophia Goh

Ben Barnes is the latest movie star to feature, albeit briefly, on the small screen. In the mini-series Sons Of Liberty, he tackles the role of Sam Adams, ringleader of sorts to a group of defiant, radical young men – John Adams, Paul Revere, John Hancock and Dr Joseph Warren – who made America a nation. Although based on true events, all ye traditionalists be warned: this one is more mainstream entertainment than history lesson. Among the contentions regarding the accuracy of the show is Adams’ age. He was almost 50 when the events depicted in the mini-series took place, and Barnes, at the ripe old age of 33, was an unlikely pick, to say the least.

The actor admits to having initial reservations about such creative license taking, which he realised when he looked up Adams on Wikipedia. “That was the only thing that made me pause, so I spoke to the director, who explained that they wanted to capture the spirit of young revolution,” he recalls. “I figured that if they weren’t worried about it then I wouldn’t too.” The priority wasn’t to make everything exactly right, although there is a lot in Sons of Liberty that is accurate; it was to make a fun mini-series that would, hopefully, attract a broad viewership.

Of Adams, Barnes (who is British, by the way) didn’t know much about him at first, other than “he seemed like the most intriguing character”. Information that he came across in the course of his research helped – “I saw the statue of Adams in Boston, and it said, ‘A statesman, incorruptible and fearless.’ What a great jumping off point.” But other areas required a personal touch, so to speak. “There were a lot of lines in the script about people needing Sam Adams, and I wasn’t clear exactly why everybody wanted him as a sort of figurehead. That was something I wanted to work out for myself,” he says. “I eventually came up with the theory that he was a man who was able to really deliver a direct truth to people, whether in a bar or in a meeting in Congress.”

The blend of guns-blazing action and thoughtful political discussion was a great experience, but audiences hoping to see more of Barnes on the telly might be disappointed. Even though he was thrilled to be working with TV stars such as Ryan Eggold of The Black List (Dr Joseph Warren) and Michael Raymond-James of True Blood (Paul Revere), Barnes, best known for his role of Prince Caspian in The Chronicles of Narnia series, relishes performing different characters and seeing the world through their eyes. “The scary thing for an actor taking up a television show is that you could end up playing only that character for a long time, which some people are absolutely fine with. I like variety and that’s why a mini-series is very intriguing to me,” he says, before adding, “But that’s not to say I wouldn’t do a longer series if it was something I passionately believed in.” Spoken like a true politician.

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