Long ago, an order of monastic warriors fought battles in distant lands, until a wealth- and power-grabbing ruler betrayed them and led to their demise. Sound familiar?
They’re not the Jedi of a galaxy far, far away, but rather the Knights Templar of Europe in the Middle Ages. The Templars were a mysterious order of Catholic warriors who were active in the 12th, 13th and early 14th centuries, fighting in the Crusades and defending pilgrimages to the Holy Land. Some legends have them also protecting sacred relics like the Holy Grail.
Stories of the Templars have spawned new mythologies for centuries, inspiring everything from old Arthurian legends to modern tales like Star Wars, The Da Vinci Code and the epically hilarious Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Now the Templars get to be the tragic heroes of their own story in History’s new 10-episode action drama Knightfall, starring Tom Cullen (Downton Abbey) as Landry, a disgruntled Templar who becomes the unlikely leader of the order at a crucial point in its history.
“I think he’s always been kind of a headstrong maverick,” Cullen says of Landry. “He is a guy who’s been a warrior since the age of 12 years old. It’s sort of all he knows. And when we meet him in Paris 16 years after his last battle, he’s this caged animal.”
That caged animal is released at a critical time for the Templars. There is evidence that the Holy Grail, thought to be lost forever, may be in France. A growing feud between the French monarchy and the church threatens to split the Templars’ loyalties. And Landry’s own heart is torn between his order’s chaste ideals and an illicit romantic affair that could endanger his life and the Templars’ existence.
“When Landry’s made leader, his entire life is thrown into question,” Cullen says. “He’s the kind of guy who’s incredibly loyal to his brothers, yet he’s lying to them all about the fact that he’s having an affair with a woman. He’s somebody who’s incredibly pious, yet he’s somebody who is exercising his lack of faith and exploring his humanity. He’s somebody who’s fiercely brave and headstrong, yet he’s afraid of dying. He’s somebody who’s really polarized. Throughout the series, he’s constantly battling with himself back and forth trying to figure out who he is. It’s a hell of a journey to watch, and it’s a hell of a journey to play.”
Knightfall > History > Wednesdays beginning Dec. 6