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Exclusive Interview with Black Sails Star Jessica Parker Kennedy

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After an agonizingly long hiatus, our favorite pirate drama is returning to Starz for its third season. Black Sails, which takes place in 1715 during the Golden Age of Piracy in the Caribbean, follows Captain Flint (Toby Stephens) and the skewed lives of his fellow captains, the prostitutes that service them and an abundance of evil-doers who are looking to survive in the former British colony of New Providence Island. We hate to burst everyone’s bubble, but these freedom fighters are in for a rude awakening when the show returns, and a few familiar faces wash ashore in Nassau County, leaving us with so  many questions regarding the fate of the island and its people. Will the British Navy reclaim this lawless territory? Will Blackbeard sail in and totally screw up everything these people have been working towards?

The last time we saw Jessica Parker Kennedy’s character Max, she had just come into some money– more like a boat full of money. With her sights set on making things right in Nassau aka flexing her power of persuasion to create a more harmonious territory to thrive in. Now this prostitute turned business woman is as quick-witted as she is seductive and is on a mission to get this island in proper working order, and man we hope she succeeds! Max has really been through the ringer, to say the least, and has suffered at the hands of not only Captain Flint, Charles Vane (Zach McGowan), and worse Eleanor (Hannah New), someone she loved whole-heartedly and was tossed aside to further her agenda for the island. Max has come a long way, but her journey is far from over.

Kennedy chatted with me while on her way to the airport about what’s to come when the show returns. We spoke at length about Max’s character development throughout the series and what her long-term goal is for the island, if given the chance. We touched upon the relationship between Max and Anne Bonny, and yes, we talked about a Max and Eleanor reunion but no, she couldn’t tell me much. As an added bonus, we even give The Secret Circle a nod towards the end of the interview.

All in all it was like catching up with an old friend, probably because she is one, and she had some great things to say and tease about what’s to come…

It’s been a full year since we last saw Black Sails, how crazy is that, how is it for you actors who have to film so far in advance and have to kind of keep track of everything that’s going on?

For me it’s really hard, I’m someone who kind of runs all of the seasons together so I have to really focus when I’m doing an interview not to give away things. Especially because right now season 2 has ended so everyone’s only seen season 1 and 2 and season 3 is about to air but we’re shooting season 4 so it’s just kind of like, it’s all over the place. It’s hard for me to remember what exactly is what but that being said my other castmates like Luke Arnold who plays Long John Silver, he can remember episode by episode. He’s incredible, he’ll be like ‘oh in season 3 episode 5 this happened’ and then ‘in season 1 episode 7 this happened.’ He just has it together. So for me, I’m not very good at it, but my other cast members are much better than me.

So basically you have to take him along for all of your interviews.

I really do, I need him around.

Any obviously there’s going to be an all-out assault on England when we return for season 3, so where does that leave Max when the show returns, where will we see her? Will she be on a boat– or back in Nassau?

I don’t really know how much I can say and what I can’t say but I know in terms of her kind of political power on the island, that has grown a lot. All the choices she has to make are choices that she’s never really had to make before and she’s really struggling with– I think her biggest conflict this season is understanding that she has to make friends with people that she really doesn’t want to make friends with. Or she has to make friends with people and then kind of betray them, ya know, for the greater good if you want to call it that. She just has a tremendous amount of responsibility in season 3 that we haven’t seen with her before.

Do you think that’ll help her kind of identify more with Eleanor and her decisions that she made in season 1, almost taking her place in that position of power?

Yeah, that’s such a good question, and I think, it’s hard when it’s a love thing because I think Max is forever going to be very, very, heartbroken by that but it’s a really good point. I think that she very much feels in a way that she, you know, she doesn’t have the same role as Eleanor but there is an element of that, that is absolutely there for her in season 3. She’s empathizing with what it might have been to be Eleanor in that position, understanding a little bit more and realizing that there are a lot of hard decisions that have to be made.

Oh of course, and a lot of fans want to see Max’s origin story at some point…

Yeah.

Is that something we’ll be able to get or do you kind of make stuff up in your head of like where you think she’s come from?

I talk to the producers more than anything and I get a lot of information about certain stuff from them and then we talk about it together ideas of what we think her background is. In season 3, they kind of wrote a really beautiful scene where I do get to talk about my life as a child a little bit, which was my favorite scene to shoot in season 3. It’s just really telling, it kind of explains why she is who she is and why she’s doing what she’s doing. I think a lot of people are wondering what is Max’s motivation in the world. It makes that a little bit more clearer, I think, like what is her overall m.o.

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Oh, for sure! And a lot of fans are speculating, or are hoping to see your character be turned into Mary Read, another famed female pirate alongside Anne Bonny (Clara Paget)… without giving much away, would you totally hop on the chance to become a proper pirate?

Yeah, I fantasize about that all the time for her and I am constantly asking if I can kill someone or if I can have a knife in my garter belt or something. Something that I can feel a little bit more piratey, it’s something that I would love and something that I’m constantly bugging the writers about. I think the thing to remember about Max is she, though she’s not always involved in the action that the pirates get to be involved in she is as involved in terms of the power that she has. She’s more powerful, I don’t want to say more powerful than them but in a way she kind of is, so I guess, I’m trying to make it sound interesting but her action is really more words I have to say. I would love to say yes I have this amazing fight scene coming up and it’s going to be incredible but her power is on the island and that’s where she is anchored and that’s where she’s able to do the best of her battling, if that makes sense.

Yeah, and in that sense she has a lot more control, or power over people– power of persuasion if you will.

Exactly.

Obviously you know the show is set in the 1700’s and let’s face it, women didn’t have it so good back then. Luckily, there are some strong women on this show despite the heavy emphasis on the males. What’s it like to play a character who struggled but kind of surpasses what’s expected of women in this time period?

I think she’s such a fighter. With everything she’s had to go through, she’s had to make choices in season 1 that women these days don’t– well, do absolutely have to make but I think the choice when she decides to go back with the pirates sort of in season 1, that is something that’s crazy. And I know there’s a lot of controversy with her making that decision, but everything she has done she has this amazing ability to see the bigger picture and knows she’s a woman, and knows it’s the 1700’s and understands what it is she needs to do to keep herself as safe as possible and powerful as possible and she’s just excellent at decision-making. I’m so proud to be on the show, it is a male dominated show, and male heavy show but it’s a show that Starz could have made even more male heavy than they have and instead they brought on some really really incredible, beautiful, powerful women– flawed women of course, but it’s so special to be able to see women with brains in their heads on TV set in something that’s so old. I just think that it’s a really, really unique TV show in that way and I’m extremely proud to be a part of that. They keep writing more and more women for the show which is fantastic, in season 3 there’s another powerful woman that comes to the show and she’s– yet again a force to be reckoned with. I’m just so excited that the writers keep taking this opportunity to write more just really complicated female characters that really have a prevalent footprint in the show.

And it’s going to make Max’s decisions a little easier now that she has that big chunk of money that she came into at the end of season 2.

Yeah, totally.

Right? We’ll hopefully see where that takes her. Obviously you know what’s going on, you’re ahead of schedule but where do you hope to see your character go?

I guess I just hope that she gets what she wants. I think at the end of the day she wants a sense of normalcy, she wants to know she’s going to be taken care of, that the people she loves are going to be taken care of, and she’s not someone who is pushed by conflict, ya know. She’s very able to cope in conflict and make smart choices in conflict but it’s not how she thrives. She really, I think at the end of the day would like a simple life and would like things in Nassau to just really settle down so that she can have as normal of a life as possible. That’s kind of a really beautiful, honest thing about her… but at the same time I think she has a great understanding of how hard it is to make that happen and she’s willing to kind of get her hands really dirty and to compromise on a lot of things so that she can have a future like that.

I don’t know if she’s going to get any peace quite yet, because obviously season 3 is when we finally get to meet Blackbeard. They’ve waited a while to bring him on so that his character would be compelling enough beyond his iconic name, is he going to totally shake things up? Can you tease his introduction?

Sure! Of course Blackbeard is going to come in and shake things up with what he did and what he does and I think the thing is there are pirates on the island who adore him and they revere him and then there are pirates from the island think that he needs to be removed immediately. So, the government is very concerned that he’s there, he does make a massive, massive footprint in the show this year. Blackbeard creates a tremendous amount of more conflict, as you can imagine. I can’t say much else.

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[Laughs] Is it safe to say that Eleanor has lost complete control of the island? Without giving anything away will we see any interaction between the two former lovers?

Yeah, I don’t know how much I can say about that, season 3 is a very different season for Eleanor because she has taken a completely different position on the island. And they have to figure out a way to work together. They have to. That’s kind of all I’ll say about that. Them figuring out how to make that work is something that’s really interesting to watch in season 3.

Oooh. Interesting. And obviously you’re aware that Bonny has been exploring her sexuality with Max in season 2, I’m assuming that’s a relationship that’s not going to be completely dropped when the show returns. We’re wondering if Max is trying to climb the ladder with Bonny or if she genuinely is developing feelings for her.

I think that’s a question I even went to the producers and said ‘what’s behind this at the end of the day?’ Is Max taking care of Bonny because she actually cares about her… is there something else going on? I think it’s not a straight answer, I think it’s complicated. I think obviously there is a tremendous amount of tenderness and care there that Max has for Bonny. She’s also aware of the fact that this person is a pirate! They’re living a very illegal life and that could be dangerous for Bonny and that could be very dangerous for Max. I think she maybe struggled with it, I think Anne was something that she never expected to happen to her and she’s not entirely sure what to do. I really feel like the struggle through season 3 is her deciding how to move forward with Anne and it’s just like any kind of relationship, it gets really, really complicated and it’s sort of what you see in season 3 is those complications and those decisions being made. I don’t know what to say without giving too much away [laughs].

[Laughs] Yeah we don’t want you— I mean we DO want you give things away… but we don’t! Well, Max in general really has what it takes to run Nassau… if she was in charge, hypothetically speaking what do you think her motto would be?

I mean her motto is to make things not messy and she doesn’t like big displays, you know, she wants to keep things quiet, she wants everyone to think she’s very in control and know she’s in control, she needs to think she’s in control but that it’s not done in a flashy way. That everything is kind of taken care of behind the scenes and I think that’s her idea of an ideal society. She doesn’t want the people bothered, she doesn’t want the general public to be bothered by this, or bothered by that or swayed this way or the other. And that’s kind of hints of what’s happening in season 3 really is that she’s someone, and seasons to come, that she wants things done in the behind the scenes kind of way. She’s not the flashy kind of person, she doesn’t need to be crazy rich, I just truly believe she thinks she can make the best choices for the island and I think that she would just want people to trust her and that she’s going to do it in a way that’s not selfish and that’s really for her own people. If that makes sense.

Oh it totally makes sense. We’re looking forward to seeing that unfold. The fans expressed that they really enjoyed the interactions between Max and Silver, can we expect more development between those two?

Uhhhhh…. I don’t think I can talk about that [laughs].

Alright we’ll just put it out there that you might cross paths…

Anything is possible. Anything is possible.

We’ll take it. Kind of a fun, random question, the show is obviously pretty serious and I heard that you guys have to keep things tightened up on set because you’re shooting on location and there’s just a lot to get through… with that said, if you were to do a lip sync battle with any of the other cast members of Black Sails, who would it be?

A lip sync battle? Wow. Who would I want to do a lip sync battle with… I think maybe for entertainment sake I would like to do a lip sync battle with Toby Stephens. Toby Stephens is someone who plays one of the most intimidating characters on television ever written and as a person he is the funniest, silliest man I know. He is truly silly, that’s such a great descriptive word for him and I think he would be just tremendous in a lip sync battle. He’s just so expressive and hilarious and he would just thoroughly enjoy doing this. He’s such a performer all the time. I’d love to do that. He would win, he would totally win!

[Laughs]

But it would be worth it for me just to see him doing that.

What song would you go with?

Ooh, that’s a really good question. It’s more what I want to see Toby Stephens sing. That’s the idea, probably something from Abba or a song by Cher. It would need to be a female singer. I loved Will Ferrell’s lip sync of Beyoncé that he did last year sometime with Jimmy Fallon, so maybe some hip hop, maybe some Beyoncé.

Well, we’ll put it out there, if you guys have any free time because I’m sure you have so much of that [laughs]. As always, it wouldn’t be an interview with me if we didn’t throw in a Secret Circle question… are you still shocked that people still care so much about this show?

It’s so nice! The other day I think somebody said to me ‘oh my God, you’re that girl from Smallville’ and for me that was six maybe seven years ago for me now and it’s the same thing with Secret Circle, it’s so nice that the fans have kept it alive and that’s just such a beautiful thing. My favorite TV show of all time is Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Sarah Michelle Gellar and that was a long, long time ago. And for me I could watch that now and it feels like I just watched it, even though I was watching it when I was 13 years old. I so appreciate, and I think what a beautiful way to keep the show alive because it never dies. And it’s never really in the past when the fans are still watching it and talking about it… that there will be a movie or something. I just appreciate it a lot because it doesn’t drift away. I had such a fun year shooting that season of Secret Circle and it was just a really, really great time. It just keeps it present for me that the fans love it. I’m so thrilled that they liked it so much, because I did too.

And that’s the beauty of technology these days, and streaming stuff, new people have kind of found it and there stumbling upon it and thinking the show is great and sad to find out that we didn’t get any more seasons. But I did chat with Andrew Miller a little while ago and did you know that they had pitched a spinoff with Diana’s character going to California?

No, I had no idea! That’s so cool, I’ll have to call him and talk to him about that. That’s such a cool idea.

I was like that would be awesome and hopefully Melissa would have been there hanging out [laughs]. Who knows, maybe if we win the Powerball, we can make a Secret Circle movie happen.

Oh my God, can we please all win the Powerball, please.

I think there’s enough money to go around!

There is more than enough money to go around for everybody in the United States, that is absolutely for sure. I think everyone should get a piece of that, that’s just a ridiculous amount of money. The people that end up winning that, I can’t even imagine, life changing.

No kidding! So, obviously you’ve stated that you’re not the best at Twitter, you are learning.

[Laughs]

How do you approach Twitter, do you every once in a while check up on what people are saying? What’s your interaction been with Twitter so far?

It’s been a long time since I’ve been on Twitter, I used to check up, I think the greatest thing about Twitter is that I get tremendous amount of support off Twitter which is so nice. Fans are always so incredibly enthusiastic about the different stuff I’ve been doing. I read it, I’m just super private and Twitter is something that you can still be private on but I don’t know, it’s a tricky thing because I never know what to write and that’s the biggest reason why I don’t go on, because I have nothing to say [laughs]. If the fans are wondering, please know that I do read it and I’m so appreciative of the positive comments and I’m so so happy that people are enthusiastic about Black Sails and are watching. Honestly, season 3 is so incredibly strong, I just hope that people stick with it and keep watching because season 3 is really solid, really great TV. It is.

We couldn’t agree more! It’s an amazing show and it’s a testament to the longevity of the show and that people are sticking with it and are really excited to see it!

Enjoy season 3, it’s always so good chatting with you!

 

Black Sails returns January 23 on Starz

Written by McKenzie Morrell

I currently spend my days working at a literary publicity and marketing firm as a producer, managing editor and an overall tech nerd. When I'm not producing live chats with authors and various personalities, you can find me covering the entertainment world.

In my spare time, I enjoy watching and reviewing my favorite TV shows, as well as interviewing some of my favorite talents in the industry. I'm sarcastic, opinionated, and thrive off of technology and social media.

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