King castle

All hail Atlanta actor Kerwin Thompson as king of Disney+’s ‘The Quest’

“It stayed real for them,” he said. “When you’re dealing with teenagers, Paladins are fantasy fans, and they know they’re on a TV show. They know a lot. But they kinda suspend disbelief for themselves by ignoring the cameras. Otherwise, they know nothing. They don’t know anything other than what our characters tell them.

Thompson said the show accomplished this by never letting teenagers see him or other cast members without a character or costume.

“They never interacted with us at any time except when we were touring with them,” he said. “So we kept the immersive fantasy alive for them. They never met Kerwin or interacted with Kerwin. They only saw King Silas when he summoned them. When we toured with them, it was like theater, baby. One take, and that was it! And the cameras were far enough away that the Paladins could overlook them and just interact with us.

Improvising when necessary while incorporating scripted lines was a skill Thompson said he learned on the Atlanta stages.

“I know for a fact that acting prepared me for this,” he said. “I think great theater actors are perfect for this show because we’re not used to having a second take. We are used to dealing with whatever happens: good, bad, planned or unplanned on stage. We give it meaning.

Though he’s worked at many Atlanta-area theaters, including Essential Theater, Theater Buford, and Aurora Theater, Thompson credits a role above all others with grooming him to play the King of fancy. In 2016, he starred as the powerful Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, who passed the power of the church to King Henry VIII in “Anne Boleyn” at the Synchronicity Theatre.

“The character had all this hold and influence over the king, so I realized my presence had to be huge without being over the top,” he said. “I had to have presence, gravity, power and consistency in my demeanor for the show to work. Whether I have two lines or 200 lines, when I go on stage, people need to breathe and feel that I am in charge. The training for this was the basis of King Silas.

In “The Quest”, King Silas commands respect in every room he inhabits due to Thompson’s physique. He adopts a regal stature and behaves with bold power, causing paladins and other characters to bow before him.

Kerwin Thompson

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Kerwin Thompson

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“It’s a lot in the back and shoulders, perfect posture, being more upright rather than sunken,” he said as he adjusted his body in the Zoom chat. “Being swallowed up seems more subservient. You lift your chest and chin just a little, not too much, just so you can look down on people. Even if you look at them and they’re a little taller than you, you’re looking down at them from above.

The actor’s voice and movements are also key in conveying status.

“You have to lower the register of your voice, bringing in as much of James Earl Jones as possible,” he said. “Many talk about the diaphragm. Your voice should explode without screaming. He commands authority without fear. And sometimes there’s so much you can do with a look, rather than a word. While someone else is talking, the way you engage with them, look at them, or adjust your block without speaking, you can intimidate them.

King Silas is a warm, diplomatic, and heroic character throughout “The Quest”. Thompson said the series was a tremendous challenge for him because his approach to storytelling was new. Despite being a reality show, none of the Paladins speak directly to the camera or break the “fourth wall”. The fantastic story is told in a direct, authentic way, full of urgency and tension.

“Taking up this specific challenge was exciting because it was new; there is nothing like it,” Thompson said. “We were creating a new genre.”

“The Quest” was not renewed but could still return.

The actor also felt it was a huge privilege to play a black king on a family-friendly TV show.

“The only thing I want to clarify is the awesome responsibility I felt to represent black royalty in a dignified, sophisticated, intelligent and courageous way,” he said. “There was a responsibility I felt to play this particular character in this particular medium. Because when I was growing up, you didn’t see black people in anything medieval, like we didn’t exist. I know better because black people exist all over the planet. You can’t go anywhere without finding us. We’re the original people. That’s exactly what it is. So when I don’t see black people in medieval things, I feel like we’re being deliberately left out, and that’s insulting.

“But now little black and brown kids are going to watch TV and see a black king. And it will be normal for them! This will make them realize that not only can they aspire to the heights of power, but that they are already royals. They have these royal qualities in themselves. And maybe they will behave with more dignity. It’s a trickle down effect. »

Now living in Atlanta and Sacramento, Thompson moved back to Georgia after the Disney+ series ended and took on acting roles in front of the camera. But Thompson said he probably wouldn’t return on an Atlanta leg.

“Atlanta doesn’t pay its artists well enough to make it worth performing, and that’s just the bottom line,” he said. “Even when I was on that tour, I was upfront about my opinion of him. The solution is to pay these artists a living wage. Coming back to the theater in Atlanta won’t happen unless they pay a living wage and that’s a show I want to do.


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