Thankfully for Bakare, Lord Boreal’s presence was beefed up for his small screen debut. If the writers had strictly followed first novel, he wouldn’t have been around much at all until the show’s sophomore year. But no matter how minimal Boreal’s role was in the book, there were other alluring qualities about the character that ultimately drew Bakare to the project. “My agent called me up and said, ‘Oh, look, there’s this thing called His Dark Materials. They want you to play Boreal,'” he explains. “I said, ‘Okay.’ And I was up for quite a few projects at the time: Lovecraft Country, Noughts + Crosses. I was down to the last two for like four jobs — one after another. They gave me a five-page scene to learn and I was thinking, ‘Wow, this is really quite interesting. What is this part that’s got daemons? He’s quite dark.’ And then I read the script. I always go with my first instinct. And so, when I first read the scenes, it was like, ‘Wow, this is creating a physicality in me that I can’t lose.'”
Another interesting observation regarding the role of Carlo Boreal regards the character’s ethnicity in the source material. While it’s not integral to the part, there’s an impression among some readers of the books that Lord Boreal was an elderly white man. It’s true that Boreal was depicted as a man in his golden years, but his race is never specifically stated in the novels, leaving the character open to interpretation. “In the book, it just said he was grayed-haired and that he wore a hat,” Bakare candidly points out. “I didn’t really see the color. When I read a book, my imagination is they all either look like me, or whatever color they want to be. And then really, unless it specifically says, he’s a white man — It didn’t say that in the book once. It just says, he licks his lips a lot, he’s got gray hair and wears really shoddy hats.”
That leaves only one major difference between the Lord Boreal from the books and the 49-year-old actor who played him — their age. “The only thing that was different was the fact that he was a lot older than me. That kind of threw me a bit,” reveals Bakare. “And then I thought, ‘Well, no, if I try and bring that character to a modern audience, how would I play it? How would I be in this world? How would young people expect me to be with all the knowledge that they have and all the reference points they have? Where would you place him?’ So, I kind of stripped away some of the things I felt an older person would do.”
He adds, “In the book, I think he’s in his sixties or seventies — big difference. So, I was like, ‘Well, okay, I’m not going to be so smiley. I’m going to take away the ingratiated quality of him. I’m going to now make him a bit colder, really go for the archetypal villain. But keep him with a still quality and don’t give anything away. Keep all the emotions locked in and contained.’ And I thought that was a more of a modern take on it.”
You can stream both seasons of His Dark Materials on HBO Max now.