The Last Templar stars uncover a rollicking mystery

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

The stars and producer of NBC's upcoming miniseries The Last Templar told reporters that the show is both a rollicking adventure and a serious look at what constitutes faith.

"I think the great thing about this movie is ... it's a romp, and, ... yes, there are serious religious discussions and scenes and things that are dealt with," star Scott Foley said in a news conference last week in Universal City, Calif. He added: "I relate this movie to those Jewel of the Nile and sort of the Michael Douglas-Kathleen Turner [movies]. ... It's a good time, and it's an enjoyable sort of escapist television."

The Last Templar —a four-hour miniseries based on Raymond Khoury's best-selling novel —stars Oscar winner Mira Sorvino as Tess Chaykin, a Manhattan archaeologist who reluctantly teams up with FBI agent Sean Daley (Foley), and the pair are drawn into a fast-paced, romantic adventure as they attempt to uncover the lost secrets of the legendary medieval Knights Templar.

The miniseries also features Victor Garber as Monsignor De Angelis, a high-placed Vatican envoy, and veteran actor Omar Sharif as Konstantin, a Greek savant who rescues Tess and Agent Daley after they are shipwrecked and wash up on the beach at Symi.

Muse Entertainment Enterprises is producing the miniseries. Paolo Barzman directed from a script by Khoury and revised by Suzette Couture. Robert Halmi Sr., Robert Halmi Jr. and Michael Prupas executive-produced the miniseries. It debuts on Sunday, Jan. 25, at 9 p.m. ET/PT and continues the following Monday at 9 p.m.

Following are edited excerpts from last week's news conference, which was part of NBC's portion of the Television Critics Association winter press tour. Look for more excerpts later this week on SCI FI Wire.

Mira, was there more appeal to do this for the action part of it or for sort of the mystery part of it?

Mira Sorvino: I think for me it was the totality of the character and the situation she's in. I had never before played a role that had all of these different elements to it. It's light and deep. You know, she is fun. She's a little crazy, but she's also got a very serious side, a very scholarly side, and then she's also a black belt. And I actually got to do all the training for that. That's actually me in the subway scene doing all the fighting. I just think it appealed to the sort of adventurer inside me. But it was a really well-rounded female character with a lot of personality. And I loved the subplot of the kind of romance between me and Scott, the sort of Nick-and-Nora-type banter. It felt like a '40s movie. ...

I would love to play her again. She was really fun. She was vulnerable enough to have heart, but, you know, not without her naughtiness and a little geeky, not unlike myself, but also sometimes this sort of zany fun. So I really enjoyed playing her, and felt like I could be a big range of who I am as her, which I enjoyed.

Robert Halmi Sr.: There was spiritual side of it, too, which is talking to an audience looking for that kind of depth. And I think we'll do a sequel or a series of it for sure. ...

Scott Foley, you say that Mira's somewhat like Indiana Jones. Does this make you Karen Allen, or what was your role?

Scott Foley: I think it does make me Karen Allen, yes. You know, I think my role is exactly that of Karen Allen. I'm the love interest, as Karen Allen was to Indiana Jones, yeah.

Sorvino: No. No. Because there's a whole murder plot going on, and he is the law-enforcement side of the story. He is the investigator. I'm not trying to solve the murder at all. I'm just trying to get to the secret of the Templars. So he's really the Sherlock Holmes of it, rather than the Karen Allen of it.

Foley: I disagree. I think you're the Sherlock Holmes.

Sorvino: I don't think so.

Foley: I think you're out there looking for the treasure of the Templar.

Sorvino: The treasure, but not the murderer.

Foley: Yeah. No. Well, but we both do a little bit of the detective work, don't we? ...

There's been the explosion of The Da Vinci Code and those kinds of stories, but it goes back a lot farther than that. Is there something kind of elemental about these types of stories that seem to capture people's interest?

Halmi: Well, I know for me it is, and I like history. I like all the adventures. I like all the past. I mean, every great book was written over 100 years ago, and so that sparks my interest. And to be based on truth and very serious truth and then still be entertaining and enjoyable, that's a challenge, and I love to do that.

Sorvino: And I think that this story, particularly when you get to what the Templar secret is and the whole debate over it and the church's attempts to guard the secret, I think it touches on the very essence of the question of faith itself and what we hang our faith upon. You know, whether it's on literal history or whether it's something larger and more inexplicable than that. And I think my character undergoes a sort of transformation as she's been falling in love with this more religious man than herself. Where instead of cynic and a skeptic, she starts to hope that there is something more to the universe than just what is knowable on the surface. And I think the Templar secret is very much connected to people's wish to have something more out there.