With “Vikings” in its fifth year, the History Channel comes out swinging with a new medieval drama “Knightfall,” debuting Dec. 6.
It centers around the legendary Knights Templar, the shadowy Christian sect that has been part of pop culture in films like “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” “The Da Vinci Code” and, of course, “Star Wars.” The knights inspired George Lucas when he was creating the Jedi.
The new series stars 32-year-old Welsh actor Tom Cullen as a Templar leader named Landry – a Lancelot-type figure. (The Templars also inspired the Arthurian myths when they were written down.)
We first meet Landry at The Fall of Acre in 1291, which marked the destruction of the last remaining Crusader refuge in the Holy Land. The action then quickly moves to the early-1300s in France where the Templars are based. While they deal with the French king, Philip IV (Ed Stoppard), the knights serve Pope Boniface VII (“Downton Abbey” alum Jim Carter).
“Landry is a very conflicted guy,” explains Cullen, who plays Guy Fawkes in the miniseries “Gunpowder,” coming to HBO on Dec. 18. “At the battle, he is very brash, very confident, a maverick emboldened by his faith and knowledge that God will always be on his side.
“But when he is in Paris, his faith has slipped on its head and he is deeply conflicted and growing more secular.”
The knight is also having an affair with Queen Joan (Olivia Ross), a la Guinevere.
Cullen, who grew up near a castle ruin where he played swords as a boy, says he always has been excited by history.
“I couldn’t ignore this huge crumbling bit of stone and not want to know what it was,” he says.
Before shooting “Knightfall,” he did research on the Templars. “It was a really exciting journey for us learn about these men, but as much as you think you know about the Knights Templar, they surprise you.”
Historian Dan Jones, whose new book is “The Templars: The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God’s Holy Warriors,” served as an advisor on the series.
Cullen explains that series took from both history and some of the mythology and went from there.
“We’ve used history as the skeleton, so to speak, to hang the flesh of the show.”
As any student of pop culture knows, the Templars were obsessed with the Holy Grail, which has come down refer to the chalice used by Jesus at the Last Supper.
The legend is older than the Templars.