There was a storm in Black Sails fandom earlier this year when Captain Flint (Toby Stephens) was seen to have a gay romance.
But actor Rupert Penry-Jones – who played Flint’s lover Thomas Hamilton – told Digital Spy that the divisive plot was originally intended to be an even bigger part of the series.
“I knew that it would be a big deal,” he said. “Can you imagine… the lead character in a show about pirates – with a famous character like Flint, and you’re going to basically say that he’s gay – that’s kind of massive!
“I mean, the cast didn’t even know [about the twist] until they actually got that episode – it was very hush hush, but I thought it was a great idea.”
Penry-Jones suggested that his role on Black Sails was scaled back after some people were “freaked out” by the storyline.
“I don’t know what happened, but I think maybe there were some people at the top who were uncomfortable about that side of things,” he revealed. “So maybe it didn’t get put into the show as much as maybe it was originally going to be.
“I was certainly led to believe [Hamilton] was a more major character than he ended up being, so I think what happened was, they started seeing [the storyline] and what a major effect it was having and it freaked a few people out, like: ‘No no no, we can have lesbian pirates but not gay ones!'”
On the series, Hamilton was ‘disappeared’ by Flint’s rivals – but Penry-Jones played down fan speculation that his character could still return.
“I don’t think he is! I’m tied into another TV show for a few years to come now, so I can’t, unless they work some dates out. If they have ideas about me coming back, I don’t know about it.”
He went on to describe working in US television as “a lot more cutthroat” than acting on screen in the UK: “It’s weird when you do an American show – there’s no sort of pastoral care around it.
“You turn up and do what you’re being paid to do – and then when it’s done, you go home. It’s not like working for the BBC or ITV where they’re really lovely and look after you and keep you part of it.
“You’re there when you’re there, and you’re paid, and the rest of the time you might as well not exist.”
Toby Stephens recently told DS that Flint’s gay romance on Black Sails had helped to change some viewers’ minds on the topic.
“For a lot of guys, they just can’t get their head around it,” he said. “But then most of the guys that had cried out against it, by the end of [the storyline], they had come round again.”
Rupert Penry-Jones stars in Life in Squares, continuing this Monday (August 10) at 9pm on BBC Two. The first series of Black Sails continues on Tuesdays at 10pm on History.
Meet Captain Flint in a teaser for Black Sails below:
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