Being part of two adaptations of literary sensations, Enzo Cilenti knows what he’s talking about when it comes to high fantasy and passionate fanbases.
The “Game of Thrones” actor, who played Yezzan on two recent episodes of HBO’s George R.R. Martin adaptation, believes there should be a lot of crossover between that mammoth hit and his newest project, which premieres on BBC America Saturday, June 13.
“Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell” is about magic being rediscovered in 19th Century England, and Cilenti, who plays Childermass on all eight installments of the miniseries, said there’s plenty of elements for “Game of Thrones” fans to enjoy.
“‘Game of Thrones’ fans have been reared on extremely high quality writing, extremely high quality acting and extremely high quality production and that is exactly what they’ll find in ‘Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell,'” Cilenti said. “They’ll love the set pieces and the magic and the effects and the worlds in it, that kind of escapism. There’s also these very human stories as well. The scale of it, there’s a similarity there … I don’t think it’s a big leap by any stretch of the imagination.”
As many of these things go, the book by Susanna Clarke was a literary phenomenon. Cilenti himself hadn’t been one of its ardent fans, but knew people who were.
“My brother-in-law got it for Christmas the year it came out and we basically didn’t see his face for the rest of the year,” he said. “I just heard it was something like ‘Harry Potter’ for grownups. Flash forward 10 years later and I have the script in my hand. When I got the audition I bought it and remembered how big it was and what kind of tome it was. I read about 75 pages before the first audition and then I managed to get through all of it before the final audition. The more I read, the more I fell in love with the book and the more I fell in love with the character of Childermass. The more I loved him, the more likely it seemed that I wouldn’t get to play him. In the end it panned out, and it’s been a real labor of love.”
Cilenti is still alive on “Game of Thrones,” declining to answer who he’d like to see win the Iron Throne for that reason. He is also busy with a modernized take on “Jekyll and Hyde” and big screen roles as well.
“Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell” premieres on Saturday, June 13 at 10 p.m. ET on BBC America.