'Black Sails' Luke Arnold: John Silver's secret is he'll kill you, 'but he does it with a smile'
"Silver's interesting. I think maybe because when we meet him in the beginning, he's not a pirate, he's a sailor, and he maybe doesn't appear as brutal as some of the other characters," says Arnold. "But he's just as ruthless as the rest of them. He's actually one of the first people on the show to take someone's life -- but he does it with a smile. I think that's the secret of Silver."
"No one here is a nefarious character, creating anarchy for no reason," Arnold continues. "It's all a survival situation. It's like a political thriller, but you don't lose your job, you lose your life. The stakes are always really high."
Silver may start out as the "Black Sails" hero, of sorts, but Arnold warns us that there's more than meets the eye when it comes to the "Treasure Island" character. "Even though you start out thinking Silver's not the baddest guy in the bunch, we know from 'Treasure Island' that he's pretty manipulative, pretty ruthless really, so that definitely develops as the show goes on.
"When we meet John Silver, he has no alliance with anyone. He just wants one quick payday and to get out of town. He's not happy-go-lucky at the beginning, but he could turn his back on all of it, so he has that kind of freedom that none of the other characters have. What we'll see as the show develops is to see what makes him get invested in this world, see what makes him become a member of a crew rather than a solo agent."
As Silver plays his part in this race for an enormous ship full of gold, he will inevitably have to take sides between the several captains who are gunning for the treasure as well, but Arnold tells Zap2it it's not about which captain is the nicest guy. It's all about who can get to the treasure first.
"There are allegiances that come up, but none of them are about preferring this captain to another, like one is a really nice guy," says Arnold. "It's all who is most likely to get to the treasure and [Silver's] very open about it. There's an honesty to Silver that's really admirable, it's really fun to play. He's not a deceptive character. He quite openly says, 'Look, I am looking after myself and if you're the person that can help me get what I want, then great.'"
"Really he's a guy that has had to survive on his own for most of his life," Arnold adds. That's why the transition into suddenly teaming up with anyone else is hard for him."
As Silver chooses a side -- and we're not telling which one -- he comes to interact with different characters, which Arnold says is what's really fun for him about filming the show.
"The thing that's exciting for me about the show is waiting for the match-ups between characters. There are so many characters -- you can't wait for Silver to meet Rackham, Silver to meet Anne Bonny," says Arnold. "Some of the writers are even writing these things out of context just because they want to see it, they want to see how it plays out."
When we joke that "Black Sails" already has its own fan-fiction, Arnold laughs and agrees. "Yes! The writers are doing their own fan-fiction for the show, in addition to all the writing they're supposed to be doing. [ laughs] But I think it's a really good sign as to how invested everyone is."
One of the match-ups we didn't really get to see in the first few episodes was Silver interacting with Eleanor Guthrie ( Hannah New), who essentially runs the city of Nassau. Arnold says we won't have to wait too long for that one.
"It's really fun, the two of them have a couple of episodes together in the middle of the season that are really interesting," says Arnold.
"Everyone else takes Eleanor for how she is, takes her at face value, but [Silver] very quickly realizes the depth of her and really how scary she is. He kind of even says that one time -- she's potentially the scariest person on the island."
So, do Silver and Eleanor get along?
Arnold laughs and says, "I think Silver annoys Eleanor, probably because she has to manage the island and he just kind of doesn't care about that at all. He has no real respect for the rules."
The first episode of "Black Sails" is already online, in case you don't want to wait until Saturday, and while the first few episodes mostly take place in Nassau, Arnold promises "there are a couple of massive sea battles" and that we'll "definitely spend a lot of time out on the ships" this season.
"Black Sails" airs Saturday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Starz.