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Merlin star Alexander Vlahos speaks to Hypable about his role as Malcolm in the upcoming Kenneth Branagh/Rob Ashford production of Macbeth.

Alex Vlahos has been keeping busy since the series finale of Merlin in December 2012.

Since the series wrapped, the actor has been on screen in the BBC miniseries Privates, recorded new episodes of The Confessions of Dorian Gray, and launched several Kickstarter projects.

His current venture is a production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which will be performed at the Manchester International Festival from July 5-20. The play is helmed by Shakespeare veteran Kenneth Branagh and Rob Ashford, with Branagh also playing the title role.

Macbeth is one of William Shakespeare’s most tragic and haunting plays. It depicts the rise and fall of a troubled Scottish nobleman and his power-hungry wife, who are slowly consumed by their own ambition.

Doctor Who actress Alex Kingston will be taking on the iconic role of Lady Macbeth, while Ray Fearon is playing Macduff. Vlahos will be playing King Duncan (John Shrapnel)’s son, Malcolm, the rightful heir to the throne of Scotland.

If you’re not one of the lucky few who has been able to secure tickets for this coveted performance, don’t worry: National Theatre Live has announced that the play will be screened in cinemas across the globe from July 20.

In this interview, Hypable speaks to Alexander Vlahos about his role in the production, and how Branagh and Ashford are working to put a unique spin on the tried classic.

Also read the first part of our interview with Vlahos, where he discusses Merlin, Dorian Gray and those intriguing Doctor Who rumours.

‘Macbeth’ is ‘exciting and a little bit daunting’

Hypable: Let’s begin by talking about Macbeth because that’s pretty huge and exciting! How did you get involved with it?

Alexander Vlahos: Through the normal way, auditioning and stuff. They got me in for the first round meeting, and it just sort of went from there. I only went in for Malcolm, and I found out within two weeks that I got it. And it’s incredibly exciting… and a little bit daunting.

Even though Malcolm isn’t one of the leads, I imagine you must have spent a lot of time preparing to take on Shakespeare…

Yeah, well, I’ve only ever done four plays since leaving drama school and two of them have been Shakespeare works, so I’ve had a bit of experience with it. I mean, you know, as much as you can, but everyone has a different way of approaching it. The text is so detailed and intrinsic, and Shakespeare gives you this gift on the page, and then it’s about your way of decoding and working your way through it.

Malcolm is an amazing part and he carries such a lot of weight towards the latter half of the play. He sort of goes into hiding for a bit after his dad gets killed, which is about halfway through the play, and then leaves the play and goes into hiding in England. So I get a little bit of a break, which is nice, I get a little hour off stage to sit in my dressing room and chill.

But no, in the last 45 minutes of the play, Malcolm obviously becomes quite integral, as he’s the rightful heir to the throne. So yeah, I’m having lots of fun playing with him, playing around with the character.

Alexander Vlahos in Macbeth

Can you talk about the setting of the play? It’s very unique.

Yeah, the way we’re setting the play is in a church, a deconsecrated church in Manchester. So if you’re doing quite a bloody and blasphemous play in a church, it already has weight behind it. This is an actual church, that – even though it’s deconsecrated – has had countless years, hundreds of years of prayer, in that building. Any time you walk into a godly place or a holy place the walls, you know, you get a sense of history.

And we’re doing Macbeth in this place, so the idea of toying with that, toying with good and evil… And then for me, what’s really interesting is how actually good Malcolm is. How godly he is, what he represents in this play. Cause once Macbeth turns into that evilness, Malcolm is the only hope for Scotland.

So I’m enjoying the idea of him being quite godly and Christian-like in the play, and we’re exploring all that sort of stuff. But no, it’s fun, it’s really fun.

Working with Branagh and Ashford: ‘Intriguing and incredibly rewarding’

What is it like working with Kenneth Branagh and Rob Ashford as the directing team?

[Laughs] It is… very intriguing, and also incredibly rewarding. I’ve never worked in a play where two people are at the helm, where two people are controlling the work. It’s always only been one person, a male or a female director, so to have two people at the helm is… intriguing, yeah.

When I initially got the part, I was very intrigued by the idea of how that would work in a rehearsal room, having two figureheads in a room and how the balance and the relationship between them two would work… and how that would help us inform us as actors, you know, to collaborate together. But so far it’s been incredibly rewarding, and like I said, very intriguing.

Rob, coming from a choreographer background – also a very good director, but coming from a choreographer background – is working through the blocking and the schematics of the play. Then you’ve got Ken there, who’s a Shakespeare god within himself, and he’s working on the text. And it’s the marriage of the two that seems to be working wonders for all of us, especially for me. Having two people to go to when you’re looking for advice is better than one, you know.

As a ‘Doctor Who’ fan, I imagine you must be excited to work with Alex Kingston as Lady Macbeth?

Yeah, working with Alex is a joy, actually. She’s amazing. And from the get-go, seeing Ken and Alex together, the chemistry between them is electric. I remember the first week of rehearsals, the pair of them were completely off book. They’d completely known their lines. No, not even the first week, about the second day, they knew everything!

So the pair of them together, grabbing this play like a bull by the horns and dragging it through to Manchester, are setting the bar extremely high. And expecting everyone to come and meet them, you know, go with them to that level. So it’s amazing to watch.

Unfortunately I don’t have any scenes with her, and I barely have any scenes with Ken. Malcolm seems to be the person that seems to avoid all this. [Laughs] But it’s fascinating to watch, and I try and grab every moment I can in the rehearsal room to watch them together.

The legacy of ‘Macbeth’: It ‘comes with so much baggage’

Lady Macbeth is such an iconic character, too, it’s a great role.

Yeah, definitely. But that’s the thing with Macbeth I guess, and Lady Macbeth… they come with so much baggage, so many preconceived ideas from the audience. People who haven’t even seen Macbeth know about Lady Macbeth, and they know the moment, all the moments in the play.

My mum’s never seen it, but she was like, “Oh god, Lady Macbeth, that’s a good part isn’t it?” It’s that weird thing that comes with doing well-known Shakespeare works is that, like I said, it comes with a preconceived idea.

That’s true! We actually put on ‘Macbeth’ on once at school…

Awesome! And again, it’s funny because Macbeth seems to be one of the plays that get performed at schools a lot, or is a textbook for English Literature or for Drama. Especially over here in England, some school will be doing it for GCSEs or A-Levels, so again people come at it with a textual view of the play, with that baggage thing I was talking to you about, what they think it should be.

It’s such a good play though, it’s one of my favourites.

Is it really? Why?

Well… mainly just because I did it.

Hahaha because you did it, you have no reasons? “No it’s my favourite play because I did it, I was Macduff, deal with it.” [Laughs.] But it’s strange though, to be fair I hadn’t really looked at Macbeth in a joyful way before, I never thought ‘Oh, this is a great play…’

It’s not one of the fun ones, like ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream.’

Yeah. And my favourite plays are Hamlet and Henry V, sort of being the history plays, rather than this. But obviously then doing the work you end up becoming engrossed in what you’re doing and end up caring for all the characters and stuff like that.

Doing musicals ‘would be more work than joy’

So has doing this play whetted your appetite for theatre, or do you see yourself drifting more towards TV and film?

Hmm that’s a tricky one, I don’t know. I think basically my desire for the back of Merlin was to take things slow, I’ve done 10 months of TV work, you know… I think I’ve told you this story before, where I had just finished Privates and started Merlin the weekend after – I had a two-day turnaround after doing two months in Ireland filming Privates, and I literally started Merlin the week after.

And having that from January up until November when we finished Merlin, doing 10 months of television work, I think my head was a bit fried. And people kept asking me, and I did go up for auditions, for big things and things I didn’t particularly like or fancied … but then for this to come around, it seemed right.

But whether to go on from this now and continue to do more theatre, or to go back into telly… I guess I’ll have to cross that bridge when I come to it. It all depends on what becomes available, you know? Whatever medium you’re working in you sort of get the bite for that particular one, so if you’re working in television you sort of go oh yeah, I’d like to continue working in television, and then if you get a job in theatre you go oh yeah, I’d love to do another play. Does that make any sense?

Yeah, absolutely. Would you ever do musicals?

[Laughs] Ummm… you know what, that was literally the first thing I said to my agent, the agent that’d just signed me when I graduated from drama school, and she said, “Just let me know now if there’s anything you do not want to do,” and I immediately went, “Musicals!” before she’d even finished her sentence. “Musicals, do not put me up for them!”

I mean I enjoy singing, I can sing, it’s just something that… for some reason in my head the filter between doing a musical and acting are massively apart, whereas for some people they’re very close together. Does that make sense? For me, it would be more work than joy, and I do acting because it’s something that I love, it’s something that I enjoy thoroughly. And the thought of doing a musical would be that it’s a lot of work. [Laughs] A lot of extra work.

Finally, tell me about the live streaming of ‘Macbeth’ which was just announced.

Well, we open July 5 with Macbeth, and then we run up until the end of the month. And then it’s gonna be recorded live as part of the National Theatre Live scheme, and it’s going to be shown to a whole load of cinemas around the world. LA, South Africa, France and Germany and the UK and all that sort of stuff, so that’s exciting. A bonus, you know?

Good luck with that!

Thank you!

Read part 1 of our Alexander Vlahos interview for the actor’s thoughts on the Merlin fan base, the next Doctor Who and much more.

On May 2, 2016, J.K. Rowling commemorated the anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts by apologizing for killing Lupin, and telling us that the Grim Reaper almost chose Arthur instead.

Father figures have always been an important aspect of the Harry Potter series, and Rowling always knew that a few of them (RIP Sirius, Dumbledore, Lupin) would have to be killed during the Chosen One’s 7-year journey. Interestingly, Rowling revealed this week that Lupin could’ve been alive today if it weren’t for the fact that Arthur Weasley made it through Order of the Phoenix. As the author explains it:

This is a hard pill to swallow, and the first time we’re explicitly hearing that Arthur living meant Lupin dying. So, we thought we should debate this topic. Did J.K. Rowling make the right choice when she chose to kill Remus Lupin over Arthur Weasley? We asked two of our writers to each defend a position.

Selina: Yes, killing Lupin was the right choice

arthur-weasley-and-harry-potter

Let’s journey back in time. The year is 2003, and you’ve been up for 72 hours straight, ploughing through the overwhelmingly long Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It’s been a bumpy ride, Harry’s fifth year being decidedly unpleasant, and you’re emotionally exhausted. Then you get to the Department of Mysteries, and here we are: Sirius is dead. Just like that, the man who could have been Harry’s adoptive father, his way out of the hellish Dursley household, is gone.

Now imagine you going through all that, except Arthur Weasley had also died in the middle of the book. You wouldn’t have been able to take it.

Ultimately we might argue that J.K. Rowling should just have kept them both alive, but at the end of the day, it was important for her to kill off one of the series’ two fathers, to achieve the symmetry of leaving a child without its parent(s) like Harry had been.

Not only did killing both Lupin and Tonks leave baby Teddy an orphan, perfectly mirroring Harry’s own experience, but it was also — arguably — an act of mercy to kill Lupin rather than Arthur. Teddy Lupin would still get to grow up with people who loved him, knowing that his parents died heroes, while Harry and the Weasleys (who’d already lost Fred) would get to keep their family intact. Considering the lengths J.K. Rowling went to to effectively end Harry’s childhood (killing Sirius, Dumbledore, and Hedwig), leaving both Weasley parents alive allowed us to end the series on a hopeful note. The parents don’t always have to die in order for the children to grow up.

I’m not glad that Lupin died. But if the choice was between him and Arthur, I think Jo made the right call. Knowing that Harry and his friends could still visit the Burrow after the Battle of Hogwarts — and that even if the place was a lot less bright without Fred, it still felt like a safe, loving home — is a great comfort, especially knowing how much Harry valued the Weasleys and the surrogate family they formed around him.

Laura: Killing Lupin was wrong, she sacrificed the last of the Marauders and the keys to the past

lupin-and-harry-potter

Let’s revise the top of this article, shall we? His name is Remus Lupin, not just Lupin, the best Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher that Harry and company ever had. Without Remus Lupin the trio would have been dead: no Expecto Patronum, no recognizing Bogarts, no practical experience with Grindylows, Red Caps, or Hinkypunks. Harry and every student in his year was left with a substandard skill set thanks to Quirrell and Lockhart. Without question, Remus Lupin laid the groundwork for the success that was later achieved by Dumbledore’s Army. He made up for lost time, in a positive and uplifting manner, and was the friendly guidance the students needed.

This week is National Teacher Appreciation Week, and what better fictional teacher to appreciate than Remus Lupin. He never underestimated his students, he challenged them to do more than they ever thought possible. He didn’t just spend time with shining stars like Hermione, but he made time for people that no one else cared to. Would Neville Longbottom have ever had the confidence to succeed leading Hogwarts without Harry, Ron, and Hermione without Remus Lupin having taken a personal interest? Every other teacher wrote Neville off as either incompetent, a fool, or both.

The one thing Remus Lupin provided to Harry that Arthur Wesley couldn’t was insight into Harry’s past. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hating on Arthur, but it’s not a role Arthur could ever fill. Remus Lupin could talk about James and Lily from first-hand experience: funny stories, hopes, sadness, all of it. Harry was left with no one to fill that role. There is an irreplaceable void in Harry’s life thanks to Remus’ death. Harry needed Remus.

Had Arthur died it would have been tragic, but his tightly bonded family would have had each other. His children were well grounded, knew who they were, and were ready to face the world. Arthur had done an amazing job raising them along with Molly. Remus didn’t have the chance to reach his fullest potential. Had Remus lived, he and Harry would have been new parents at relatively the same time. They would have progressed from a teacher/student relationship to just being friends. They would have watched their boys grow up together and been there for each other as parents in the post-war world.

Now it’s your turn! Vote in our poll and hit the comments to debate it

UnREAL season 2 is gonna be amazing, if this trailer is anything to go by.

We were blown away by the first season of UnREAL, the Lifetime drama tracking the inner workings of a The Bachelor-style reality show.

Full of awful people doing awful things, UnREAL had it all: Romance, intrigue, betrayal, death, and love. It unravels the mysticism of reality show culture (tl;dr: It’s all made up for ratings), while telling pretty compelling stories about selfish people.

In season 2, Rachel (Shiri Appleby) and Quinn (Constance Zimmer) are back for Everlasting‘s new season, with new bachelor Darius Hill (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s B.J. Britt) ready to win the hearts of the female contestants.

And if this trailer is any indication, this season is gonna be even wilder than the last:

Refreshingly, UnREAL doesn’t shy away from contentious, real-world issues. Having a black contestant is something The Bachelor itself has not yet managed to do, and of course, the reactions to that on the show are going to reflect both the good and bad parts of humanity.

Related: Why we need UnREAL‘s complicated feminism (opinion)

We’re hugely excited to see how UnREAL handles that, and of course to find out what exactly happened to Rachel after the season 1 finale — where, if you remember her scorned ex-lover Jeremy liaised with her mother to get her back on the medication which Rachel claimed ruined her life.

On the topic of life-ruiners, another returning player this year is last season’s bachelor Adam Cromwell (Freddie Stroma), whose whirlwind relationship with Rachel almost destroyed the lives of everyone involved with the reality show’s production.

Creators Marti Noxon and Sarah Gertrude Shapiro have said there is some unfinished business between the pair, but we can’t exactly imagine them riding off into the sunset together!

‘UnREAL’ season 2 premieres Monday, June 6 on Lifetime

The Tony Award nominations were announced early this morning by actors Nikki M. James and Andrew Rannells. Who has a chance to take home the coveted award next month? Well, Hamilton and a bunch of other people.

Let’s get the lede out of the way: Hamilton was nominated for a whopping 16 awards. The former record stood at 15 nominations, held by both Billy Elliot and The Producers. The latter then went on to win 12 of those nominations, can Hamilton do the same?

James Corden will host the Tony Awards, to be held at Radio City Music Hall, next month. If his prior attendance at the Tony’s was any indication (he won Best Actor in a Play in 2012 for One Man, Two Guvnors) then it is sure to be an entertaining evening.

Check out the below list of Tony Award nominations for a variety of categories in both the musical and play sections. If you want to look at the full list, you can do so on the Tony’s website.

Check out the nominations for the 2016 Tony Awards for musicals:

Best Musical
Bright Star
Hamilton
School of Rock – The Musical
Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed
Waitress

Best Revival of a Musical
The Color Purple
Fiddler on the Roof
She Loves Me
Spring Awakening

Best Book of a Musical
Bright Star
Hamilton
School of Rock – The Musical
Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Best Original Score
Steve Martin, Edie Brickell, Bright Star
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton
Glenn Sltater, Andrew Lloyd Webber School of Rock
Sara Bareilles, Waitress

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Alex Brightman, School of Rock – The Musical
Danny Burnstein, Fiddler on the Roof
Zachary Levi, She Loves Me
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton
Leslie Odom, Jr., Hamilton

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
Laura Benanti, She Loves Me
Carmen Cusack, Bright Star
Cynthia Erivo The Color Purple
Phillipa Soo, Hamilton
Jessie Muller, Waitress

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
Daveed Diggs, Hamilton
Brandon Victor Dixon, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed
Christopher Fitzgerald, Waitress
Jonathan Groff, Hamilton
Christopher Jackson, Hamilton

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical
Danielle Brooks, The Color Purple
Renée Elise Goldsberry, Hamilton
Jane Krakowski, She Loves Me
Jennifer Simard, Disaster!
Adrienne Warren, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Best Direction of a Musical
Michael Arden, Spring Awakening
John Doyle, The Color Purple
Scott Ellis, She Loves Me
Thomas Kail, Hamilton
George C. Wolfe, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Best Choreography
Hamilton
Shuffle Along
Fiddler on the Roof
Dames at Sea
On Your Feet: The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan

Check out the nominations for the 2016 Tony Awards for plays:

Best Play
Eclipsed
The Father
The Humans
King Charles III

Best Revival of a Play
Arthur Miller’s The Crucible
Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge
Blackbird
Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Noises Off

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
Gabriel Byrne, Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Jeff Daniels, Blackbird
Frank Langella, The Father
Tim Pigott-Smith, King Charles III
Mark Strong, Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
Jessica Lange, Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Laurie Metcalf, Misery
Lupita Nyong’o, Eclipsed
Sophie Okonedo, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible
Michelle Williams, Blackbird

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play
Reed Birney, The Humans
Bill Camp, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible
David Furr, Noises Off
Richard Goulding, King Charles III
Michael Shannon, Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play
Pascale Armand, Eclipsed
Megan Hilty, Noises Off
Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans
Andrea Martin, Noises Off
Saycon Sengbloh, Eclipsed

Best Direction of a Play
Rupert Goold, King Charles III
Jonathan Kent, Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Joe Mantello, The Humans
Liesl Tommy, Eclipsed
Ivo Van Hove, Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge

The 69th Annual Tony Awards will be held on Sunday, June 12 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS

This article is a part of Hypable’s inaugural Broadway Week in celebration of the 2016 Tony nominations.