We recently spoke with Dafne Keen. She’s such a delight to talk to. Do you have any favorite on-set moments with her while working on His Dark Materials?
I just think Dafne Keen and Amir Wilson are two exceptionally young talents who have really come into their own during the course of filming. And Dafne is such a bright young kid. When you talk to her, sometimes you forget you’re talking to a child. She’s so eloquent and direct and really — she’s in your face. We always had a really good connection. And yeah, it was a really good bonding connection. Her and Amir are still really good friends. Her whole family, we still all see and talk to each other all the time.
Would you say she’s a lot like her Lyra Silvertongue character?
Yeah, she’s as brave, open-minded, and as free as Lyra. I say she is, but there’s other sides of her. She’s a modern-day woman. And that’s what’s really cool. You’re kind of seeing this young girl you’re thinking, “Wow, you really will take on the world.” And I can see that in her.
When you first landed the role of Carlo Boreal, were you already familiar with Philip Pullman’s trilogy of novels or did you have to dive into them right away to research for the part?
I never read the books. My agent called me up and said, “Oh look, there’s this thing called His Dark Materials. They want you to play Boreal.” 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.”
I went off and read the books. I read the first one and went, “Oh my gosh, Carlo Boreal is in one scene. He says nothing. Why is he there?” And then I spoke to the producers and the directors and they assured me that his character would expand in season 2. Then I got offered the part. At the time, I got offered like four different roles, in four different shows, and I had to make a decision. And I really thought about it, “Which one do I think is going to challenge me as an actor?” And I felt this was a role that would challenge me the most. And so I went with this.
Now that you’ve read the books, how well do you think it’s translating to the screen so far?
I think it’s amazing. I think this trilogy lends itself to long form rather than a short form. It means you’ve got more time to tell stories. You’ve got more time to delve into the characters. You’re allowed to go into the backstory. There’s a lot more layers. I reckon this could’ve gone on for eight or nine seasons. Because there’s so much depth to it. There’s so much detail that you want to get in. And you’re still not satisfied because there’s so much in Philip Pullman’s books, his books are just so rich. There’s a rich tapestry of ideas and themes and questions that you just want to keep on asking.