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The cast and writer of 'Willow' take us inside the return to Nockmaar
The stars of the new Disney+ series Willow unpack Chapter 4.
In the latest episode of the Disney+ series Willow, "Chapter 4: Nockmaar," the wizard (Warwick Davis) and his fellow questers ended up in a key location that was first seen in the 1988 film: Queen Bavmorda's Keep in Nockmaar. Once the place of power for the black sorceress (Jean Marsh), the long-since-abandoned structure serves as the resting place for the group to tend to some wounds and figure out their next steps. But, there's some 'ole black magic lingering in the halls and tower of the cursed structure which gives all of the characters a run for their money.
There's so much to explore in this episode so SYFY WIRE collected producer/writer Julia Cooperman and cast members Erin Kellyman (Jade), and Amar Chadha-Patel (Boorman) to assess some of the big themes and moments inside the hour.
***Warning: There are spoilers for the Willow series episode, "Chapter 4: Nockmaar," below.***
Nockmaar: The Haunted House
Arguably, this is the darkest episode yet of the season. Was this an episode you particularly wanted to write or was it just assigned to you in the rotation?
Julia Cooperman (Writer): It was an assignment. But let me tell you, it was an assignment that absolutely was tailored to play to my strengths and my interests as a writer. I have a lifelong fascination with horror and as a genre storyteller, I'm always drawn to the darker, more gothic, macabre side of science fiction, fantasy, you name it. When it came time to tell a haunted house story, I think I was the first and only writer mentioned for this particular episode.
How did returning to Nockmaar become a story point?
Cooperman: Nockmaar is a huge bridge back to the original film. It's a place of great history and firsthand experience in the case of Willow. It was always a contained horror story that we envisioned this episode being. Jon Kasdan, our creator/showrunner, mentioned it represents this inflection point in the story where the characters leave the territory that's been established and illustrated by the original film, as well as the pilot, and then cross into the Unknown. It felt like the perfect place because of both the malevolent energy that's still saturated in its halls and also because of its history with our leads. It's the perfect place to put down roots for a second.
The hallways also beckon each of the characters to have a quasi-dark night of the soul?
Cooperman: Yeah, that's sort of in the DNA of a scary story. Even with something as cartoonish as, like, Scooby-Doo, you've got characters going off, exploring dark hallways, and wandering around the corridors by themselves together. The pleasure was all mine to break and find those moments.
Talk about the early breaking of this episode.
Cooperman: I vividly remember the episodic pitch for this episode coincided with the COVID-19 locked down of 2020. It was the first of our pitches over Zoom. I was so, so nervous and went away over the weekend with some input from my fellow writers on how best to crack it. At the heart of it is this triangle of Graydon (Tony Revolori), Willow, and Elora (Ellie Bamber) finding new inroads. They're all the most magically attuned of our characters. They all obviously have very different histories with magic and with this place, and so that just felt ripe and rich, sort of the pole between these many different faces of magic and magic ability.
Two Women at War
Let's talk about how much Nockmaar gets under the skin of Kit (Ruby Cruz) and Elora.
Cooperman: Yeah. For Kit, it's representative of this maternal bloodline and the shadow that's been cast over her through this lingering hereditary influence of Bavmorda that she's been warned about from the pilot. And then for Elora, who's still figuring out who she is—and is she The Chosen One—it is this perverse confirmation by digging into this infant past that she had here. She was born in the dungeons. She was nearly sacrificed on the 13th night up in the Tower. Where better for these two leads to really dig into those questions of identity and selfhood and who they will become than in Nockmaar? But, hopefully, in success it pits all our characters against some of their darkest fears.
One of my favorite scenes in the episode is when Jade breaks down to Boorman, of all people, in the aftermath of killing her mentor/father figure Commander Ballantine (Ralph Ineson).
Cooperman: I'm so glad to hear that resonated with you because that was one of my favorite scenes to write as well. Given how real the characters felt, how much time we'd spent with them already, it just felt right to find those moments and unexpected conversations that might take place between two characters who have yet to really connect. And what would the two characters, who are also perhaps the most magic adverse, going to be doing during this time? For Jade and Boorman, these are two people who are probably of the group, the most pragmatic, hands-on characters who have some life experience to share. And in this case, you get to see one of them comforting the other over this traumatic first that they've just undergone. That was really special and was always something that I was interested in seeing.
Erin Kellyman (Jade): I was very surprised by that [scene]. From what we'd seen of Jade and Boorman so far, I think they both get very irritated at each other. [Laughs.] They're very opposite at the start of the journey. But this thing that Boorman has already been through, and that Jade goes through, I think connects them. And Jade is reaching out because she knows that Boorman has been through this. Boorman is seeing Jade experience this for the first time and remembers what that feels like.
Amar Chadha-Patel (Boorman): I think Boorman spent a lot of his life being, not overshadowed, but guided and led by other very powerful, famous characters in the Willow world. And he's understanding that he might have some knowledge to impart and he doesn't really give it away very quickly. But in the first scenes in Nockmaar, when Kit is saying she'll kill Graydon if it gets too dark, there's a lovely moment where Boorman says, "Killing someone who is not trying to kill you back is pretty hard." And he looks at Jade because she has just gone through that and that journey starts there. I remember reading that episode and I was like, "I can't wait to do this" because that softening of the two of them is so lovely.
Kellyman: Also, I feel like that was Boorman's way of saying to Jade: "I see you."
Chadha-Patel: Yeah, he pushes things down and he doesn't know how to commit, so he contextualizes it through his own experiences because he's an emotionally closeted man.
Grayson really goes through it with the ritual in this episode. But it's also a moment to prove what he can really handle, right?
Cooperman: The wonderful thing about all these possession and exorcism stories that we looked at to inspire this story is that perhaps there's always some kernel of truth or id coursing beneath that experience, as traumatic and terrible as it is. I think that certainly for Graydon. And there's a lot that is revealed in the course of this that may not have otherwise been unfurled until much, much later in the season. I love the brutal truth behind something like this taking over your body and putting you in a real sort of crucible.
Elora is on a quest to save her love, Airk (Dempsey Bryk), but are we supposed to be getting some vibes between her and Graydon?
Cooperman: As much as this adventure at Nockmaar serves to set them back on their heels a bit and leave them in an interesting place going into the back of the season, it also brings them together. From the very earliest discussions of this episode, we always knew that Elora would feel some sense of obligation and empathy for Graydon and his situation, whereas other members of the ensemble might not be as sympathetic. We're on a war footing now and this is just part of what comes with the territory. But she would be committed to working to heal him and in doing so, digging deep into her own magical abilities. And maybe leading to some things that we haven't seen her capable of doing before this.
Having come through this experience, how does it set the company up for what's coming next?
Cooperman: When the enemy is that hot on your trail, I would say it can lead to some interesting detours and diversions. Looking ahead, get ready for some exciting detours for our characters which take them to some cool places.
New episodes of Willow premiere on Wednesdays on Disney+.
Looking for more fantasy? Stream the Harry Potter films on Peacock.