BBC America's Atlantis

What's next from the guys behind Merlin? The 'Greek A-Team' of Atlantis

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Nov 22, 2013, 4:43 PM EST (Updated)

The guys who brought us Merlin are spinning their reinventing ways again. This time they've taken the legend of the lost city of Atlantis and Greek mythology and thrown in a little bull-leaping and buddy-comedy/adventure, a la The A-Team, to create their newest series, BBC America's Atlantis. The fantasy series premieres Saturday at 9 p.m. on BBC America's Supernatural Saturdays, right after Doctor Who's 50th-anniversary episode, “The Day of the Doctor.”

“I genuinely don't think you've seen a take on Greek mythology like this,” said co-creator and executive producer Julian Murphy. “I honestly don't. I can't remember one. I hope it'll bring all those great stories alive for an audience in a way that we haven't seen before. I hope when they come to see the show, the door will open and they'll see an extraordinary world. A world they hadn't seen before.”

“We came up with the idea of having Atlantis, the city before it sunk into the ocean, as the backdrop. That was the starting point,” said co-creator and executive producer Johnny Capps.

“It just gives us a chance to do great myth, but with our very own individual spin on it,” said Murphy. “We were able to do Merlin and Camelot with our own spin, so this is us embarking on what is actually a very different series. But it still allows us to mine all those incredible stories from Greek myth.”

It was decided that the series, which was created by Murphy, Capps and executive producer Howard Overman, would be based around the friendship of three central characters. “We drew some Greek mythology and created our own sort of interpretations of the same mythological characters. So our main character is Jason, and he's a mixture of Jason and the Argonauts, a bit of Perseus, and also a bit of [Theseus], the guy that killed the Minotaur,” said Capps.

“Then our second character is Hercules, but he's not the strong he-man of legend. Our Hercules gambles a bit, drinks too much, and is a bit of a womanizer, but he's just very, very good at telling stories and tales. Through the series, he creates the myth of Hercules,” he said.

“And then our third character is this young, geeky guy who's very good at math, who's obsessed with triangles. He's called Pythagoras. They're our three main characters. They're basically the Greek A-Team, in a way. They're the go-to guys in Atlantis, and we tell all the Greek legends and myths through our three main characters,” said Capps.

The series begins with Jason in a very different land, who is searching for his missing father. That search takes him in the ancient fabled city of Atlantis, a strange land filled with dangerous creatures, legendary heroes and vast palaces that just may have been built by giants. Jason arrives, and he's befriended by Hercules and Pythagoras.

“In the first story, they find themselves in a situation where they're up against the Minotaur and we do our own version of the labyrinth and the Minotaur, which is an interesting interpretation of that story. So it's a very exciting action-adventure dark tale,” said Capps.

“There's a couple of interesting and unusual love stories, which is rather nice. It's a counterbalance to all this bull-leaping and fighting, of which there is a great deal.”

Bull-leaping? Indeed. “Not a lot of people know that, but in Spain they still do it, believe it or not. It's a very ancient sport that we know about from Crete, from the civilization on Crete, where they literally used to leap charging bulls. We've stolen it for Atlantis, because that's roughly the time we're set in as well. It's an amazing sport. Guys just run at these huge, charging bulls and somersault over them,” said Murphy.

“You're creating a world from scratch. I mean, the world of Atlantis is a complete world. It's a massive city complete with temples, stadiums, houses, streets, palaces, all these things. And costumes and props and all those we have to create from scratch and make the world believable. It's a massive task, actually,” he said.

“When we were making Merlin, it was very easy to transport an audience into a medieval world, because everyone's sort of familiar with knights and armor and swordfighting and all the background and stuff. You didn't have to work so hard to make an audience believe the world. [With] Atlantis we had to create this fantasy world but make it feel real and aspirational as well. I think that was really, really hard in the first few weeks of the shoot, suddenly working at how to make it feel real and how all the rituals would be performed and giving the world a reality,” said Capps.

“The bond between the three guys, which is very different to Merlin, but still very enjoyable. But there's also, as I say, genuine love stories that run throughout the seasons. That I think gives it a very interesting level. They're both very different love stories, but equally good. I hope we've added that layer to it. And there's political intrigue in the world of Atlantis in a way that there wasn't in Merlin. We've had a bit of fun with that. We've got some very nice villains. There's a whole layer of intrigue,” said Murphy.

“And there's humor as well. There is a lot of humor. They're a very funny bunch together, and they're good company. They're fun to be with. [There] are two love stories. One for our hero Jason and one surprising one for Hercules, and they're big themes throughout the whole show. There's mysteries about Jason's origins that we play with throughout the whole season as well. So there's more serial strands than we've usually done in this sort of show, but it's nice. It gives it some intrigue. It gives it some mystery,” he said.

Merlin was about following a young man, his destiny and his realization that actually his role is to help a young man become the king of legend, said Capps. “I think in Atlantis it's very much about a friendship and the group dynamic [of] Hercules, Pythagoras and Jason and seeing their bond and the way that they deal with challenges that are put in front of them. So it feels to us, in storylining it and creating stories of the week, it feels very, very different.”

“It's much more of a gang show. It's more sophisticated in its world. It's a more complex world. I think it's more adult. That's definitely true. Merlin became more adult, but Atlantis has started there. So that makes quite a difference, actually, to what stories we can tell,” said Murphy.

“I guess it's much more of a fantasy world as well. Don't you think, Julian?”

“It is more of a fantasy world, and it has more fantastic things in it, inevitably, because we've built the whole lot. There's not very much that's real. It allows you to use your imagination and have some fun,” said Murphy.

Thirteen episodes have been ordered of the series.

Here's a look at Atlantis:

Do you miss Merlin? Do you want to take a chance on Atlantis?

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