Jamie Campbell Bower as Number 11-12 in The Prisoner. Photo copyright of Granada/AMC
Imagine having a life where pretty much everything you want is within easy reach and all you have to do is ask for it. In AMC’s re-imagined version of The Prisoner, Number 11-12 wakes up to that every day as a resident of The Village. The son of Number Two, the overseer of this residential “paradise,” and M2, his idealistic mother, this 17-year-old is among the privileged and is being groomed to one day take over his father’s duties within The Village. It sounds like the perfect situation, maybe not for 11-12, but it was one that actor Jamie Campbell Bower, who plays 11-12, could not wait to jump into.
“There had been rumors of The Prisoner floating about, and then I got a phone call from my agent telling me, ‘I think you should go out for this.’ He’s rarely wrong, so I did,” recalls Bower. “I received four pages of audition sides from one of the episodes, and as I read them something really struck home with me. There was just something quite moving about the material and this idea of family and the connection between 11-12 and his father, Two, played by Ian McKellen.
“So I was very excited about the project to begin with, and it was, I think, a rainy Tuesday afternoon when I went down to London’s South Bank next to the Thames for my audition. Whatever I did must have worked because I received another call telling me that I got the role, which was brilliant.”
11-12 with his father, Number Two (Ian McKellen). Photo copyright of Granada/AMC
While a life of privilege may sound enticing to some, especially a young person, it is rarely all that is cracked up to be. And as typically happens, no one seems to have asked 11-12 what he wants.
“With my character, it’s that classic case of, ‘I don’t want to be the prince any more. I want to be an ordinary person,” says Bower. “But then he also thinks that one day he might inherit The Village, so like most people his age, 11-12 is definitely feeling some angst towards his father. As for his relationship with his mother, M2 [Rachael Blake], it’s very distant. He loves her dearly, but he never sees her. His mother is just this entity in the house they live in, and 11-12 strives to have a much closer bond with her.
“So as you might imagine, 11-12 is quite highly strung and emotionally charged. He also has this feeling that he’s missing something in his life, but he doesn’t know what it is. Acting-wise, maintaining that high level of intensity and emotion wasn’t easy. In fact,there was one particular scene that I did with Vincent Regan [Number 909] that screws up my character in a major way. We shot it over an entire day and I had to be incredibly emotional most of that time. Again, it was tough, but it was also a challenge and one I enjoyed because it really helped me to grow as a person as well as an actor.”
Not a good day in The Village for 11-12. Photo copyright of Granada/AMC
Much to his surprise, a frustrated 11-12′s eyes are opened to an entirely new set of possibilities for his future, thanks to The Village’s newest resident and The Prisoner‘s lead character, Number Six (Jim Caviezel). “Six’s arrival throws a bit of a spanner into the works of The Village,” notes Bower. “He comes along and forthrightly and outwardly says, ‘This isn’t all there is’ and 11-12′s reaction to that is, ‘Well, maybe he’s right.’ So his interaction with Six is one of curiosity as well as questioning and trying to understand why it is that this man is saying what he’s saying. And I think 11-12 ends up believing in and trusting Six.”
While their onscreen personas are caught up in the turmoil of what is happening to them, The Prisoner‘s cast as well as crew could not have enjoyed their time together more, Bower included. “Everyone involved in this project is incredibly talented and fun,” enthuses the actor. “Working with Ian McKellen is an absolute joy and a pleasure. The same is true of working with young British stars like Hayley Atwell [Lucy/4-15] and Ruth Wilson [Number 313]. We all became good mates and helped each other out, patted one another on the back when we needed it, and laughed at each other when we didn’t need it,” he jokes. “We spent four-and-a-half months together in South Africa. Not many people can say that, apart from those who live there, and we had a really nice time.”
Bower was 14 when he decided that he wanted to become an actor, and four years later made his feature film debut in director Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. “I had just turned 18 and was at boarding school in the English countryside,” he says. “I was sneaking out at five o’clock in the morning through my house master’s backdoor and getting into a car that was waiting for me outside the school gates to take me to set. I’d then return to school around seven at night and go back to bed.
11-12 shares a rare moment with his mother, M2 (Rachael Blake). Photo copyright of Granada/AMC
“I did that for about two weeks and then I made the decision that I should probably just leave school and not bum a free bed off them every night. So that’s what I did, and it was an incredibly terrifying experience for me, being just 18 and working alongside people like Tim Burton as well as Johnny Depp, Alan Rickman and Timothy Spall. It was also a phenomenal opportunity and it gave me such an amazing starting point that I could never have dreamt of, so I was very, very lucky.”
Besides The Prisoner, Bower can also currently be seen as Caius in the latest installment of the hugely successful teenage vampire tale The Twilight Saga: New Moon. “I was in Los Angeles not too long ago and they were casting for New Moon,” says the actor. “My American agent asked me if I would like to audition for it, and I said that I’d kill to audition for it. So I met with [director] Chris Weitz and then I got a call offering me the role of Caius, which I was really excited about.
“Caius, along with Michael Sheen’s character of Ar0, and Marcus,who is played by Chris Heyerdahl, are the leaders of an ancient Italian vampire coven known as the Volturi. We shot in Vancouver and I was there for about three weeks working with actors like Michael, Chris, Dakota Fanning [Jane], Rob Pattinson [Edward Cullen] and Kris Stewart [Bella Swan]. It was a real treasure of a role for me and another great set of actors to work with and learn from.”
Change is in the air when 11-12 crosses paths with Number Six (Jim Caviezel). Photo copyright of Granada/AMC
The actor has a lead role alongside Keira Knightley and Colin Farrell in the upcoming film London Boulevard and has guest-starred in an episode of the new British Fantasy TV series Game of Thrones. Harry Potter fans can also look forward to enjoying Bower’s performance in the two-part Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
“I play Gellert Grindelwald, who’s an old friend of Dumbledore’s [Michael Gambon],” he says. “They have this idea that they can create a utopian wizardry world, and then there’s a big fight and something awful happens,” teases the actor.
“So it was another fun project, and ‘fun’ is one of the things about this job that’s important to me. I hope I can continue doing this up until the point that it isn’t fun any more. That’s when people become jaded and become the person that they never wanted to be. I think growing as an actor and a performer is a wonderful thing to behold, and feeling like you’re learning as well. That’s especially important for young actors like myself who have chosen a different path. We haven’t gone to university, but, instead, have decided that acting is what we want to do, and as long as you’re learning while doing it, then I think that’s the main thing that will keep you happy.”
The Prisoner concludes tonight, Tuesday, November 17th @ 8 p.m. EST/PST.
As noted above, all photos copyright of Granada TV and AMC, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!