In the new drama series THE ORDER, a world of witches and werewolves is revealed to be hiding among the hallowed halls of Belgrave University, where a dark war brews between ancient supernatural beings. Portraying one of werewolves tasked with seeking out and destroying the witches of the Hermetic Order of the Blue Rose, Thomas Elms brought a sublime blend of humor and humanity to a werewolf leader, steadfast in his unearthly duties and yet yearning for a simpler, better life. In an exclusive interview, Thomas reflects on the joy of bring his character Hamish to life on screen and the fun he had working on Season 1 of THE ORDER.
What was the main appeal to the role of Hamish and working on a show like THE ORDER?
THOMAS: Oh, wow, that’s a pretty big question. Let me see if I can give you a more concise answer about that. To be honest, even from the get go, even when I received the audition, I was originally auditioning for the lead, for Jack, so I got about four scenes from the pilot episode where he’s talking to his grandfather, there was a scene with Alyssa, all kinds of different characters. And, just what jumped out right away was the quality of the writing that I was dealing with. It was so interesting. It was dark and serious and mature, but it also had this chilliness to it that was also — it felt grown up. It was never afraid to go for the punchline or dabble in a bit of this black comedy, black humor. It felt mature in the way it was handling these stories and these characters. So, right off the bat, I was incredibly interested in the project, so suffice to say, the audition, for me, was pretty high stakes, but it felt great. I got to be in the room with Dennis Heaton, who’s the creator, our showrunner David Von Ancken, who directed the first couple episodes, and Morris [Chapdelaine], one of the producers. So right away, I got access to who the humans would be that I would be dealing with. Just so many things felt right about the project, and then to hear that they had offered me a character called Hamish was another delightful surprise. So I asked for all the information I could have on Hamish right away ’cause I’d never even heard of him. I didn’t even know he existed, and to hear that I’d be playing a werewolf alpha, who was also a college student, was a dream come true. I’m a huge science fiction/fantasy geek. I love comic books and video games and fantasy novels, so to get to play a character like this who was magical, but also had a bit of an edge to him. There was something about the character that seemed so fascinating. He’s a little bit more refined than everybody else, it seems like. He’s tired. He’s very much like a laugh in the face of death, spit in the face of danger kind of guy, but it seems like behind closed doors, he’s got this real sense of his own mortality, and what seems to be like a real fear of death and of losing more people that he cares about. So Hamish, from the get go, seemed like an incredibly interesting character to me. And just to work on it and continue to develop him and see what evolves from that first day has been just such an incredible journey for me.
What makes Hamish the alpha? I see the Knights as a quartet. I see all the werewolves as a group together. What in your mind makes him be alpha of them all?
THOMAS: A number of things, I guess. The first thing that jumps to mind is the fact that he’s been doing this for eight years. Most of the Knights don’t exactly have a long, healthy lifespan to them. There’s an expiration date on being a champion of justice and a hunter of dark magic. So the fact that Hamish has been around as long as he is and he’s watched friends and loved ones die. There’s this element of weariness to him that I felt was really interesting. You get the sense that this guy is deeply rooted in these ideas of honor and tradition and doing one’s duty — but that he’s conflicted. He’s conflicted between the love that he has for his friends and the responsibilities he feels for keeping everybody alive. I just like the fact that no one really takes his authority terribly seriously or him very seriously, for that matter, but I think that also lends to part of the comedic point of the show. For me, it was really fun to play a character who reminded me a lot of Clint Eastwood, a younger Clint Eastwood. He would only say a little bit, but what he would say would just carry this weight and this intensity to it. So that was how I started to get into the mindset of Hamish, as far as what is his role in the dynamic of the team, how is this character gonna serve the story, serve the comedy — and it was really to be the straight man. He’s got it all a bit under control and doesn’t really give too much away so that everyone around me is free to completely just fly off the handle. It was great. I was surrounded by a bunch of volatile young werewolves, and I was, essentially, the one in charge. I was the parent, and I knew that despite the fact that not a lot of thanks or even acknowledgement was given, it was still my responsibility to keep people alive, and what that meant was just knowing exactly in every scene how I would carry myself, what I would be looking for. There was just elements of vigilance that I really wanted to incorporate in my character. I’d watch a lot of wolf documentaries and look at the way — there’s this animalistic way that dogs and wolves look at you and look through you. So I wanted to have a feeling of vigilance and protection in Hamish, in every scene, for it just to come through almost subtly, almost unconsciously.
There seems to be a dichotomy— they each have their hide personality and a personality they brought to themselves before they became werewolves. How much is Hamish in the balance between those two things right now? Is he more 60/40? How much of him is the wolf-side now?
THOMAS: That’s a really cool question, actually. If I were to just answer that without giving it too much thought, I think that Hamish probably — if he hadn’t have met Kathy and if he hadn’t have fallen in love and taken the oath and started this new chapter for his life, I figure this guy would probably be on his way to being a Supreme Court Judge. You get the sense of this guy, despite the fact that he’s been lying to his family for going on, must be, eight years now about staying in school and taking bachelor degree after bachelor degree — all of the wolves, I think, are quite intelligent. So he’s done pre-law, he’s probably done political science, philosophy, I think that element of Hamish has been there from the get-go. I think he’s a bit of an overachiever. I get the sense that there’s a lot of pressure coming from home, from his father. There’s no real mention of his mother in the story, but I can imagine that his home life is quite strange and that he feels the pressure of that. And, I think it all has solidified into the guy that we see in THE ORDER. Again, you can tell that he’s got a very fair amount of emotional armor to him, especially in the scene where Jack and him are talking. Oftentimes Jack will try to peel away at those scales that Hamish has, but I think behind these notions of duty and tradition and honor, I think he’s just tired of being a werewolf. I think he’s tired of being in charge. He’s tired of waking up and going to bed every night wondering if he’s gonna be there the next day or his friends are gonna die or he’s gonna lose more people he cares about. I think that’s the real fear and the internal conflict in his character.
He wears it lightly, at least from appearances. He wears it lightly, like it’s not that heavy of a burden and it doesn’t seem like he’s ready just to shuck it all away.
THOMAS: Oh, no, definitely not. No. There’s a certain element to him, I think, that gets revealed, that there’s a warrior side. There’s the fatigue and the exhaustion of eight years of being a werewolf, but then there’s also the real love and the friendship that very much keeps him going.
Interesting enough, one of the biggest scenes for your character is when he gets stabbed and he is revealed as a werewolf. Hamish was actually teaching in class that moment and he was talking about the “true self” and whether people are shaped by who they are predetermined to be or there’s our environmental forces of nature around them that shape them. So I feel like that’s what we see with Hamish through the first season, a revealing of his “true self,” in a sense.
THOMAS: That’s incredibly insightful for you to say that. I think that’s absolutely true. I’m very excited to see what’s gonna happen in the second season. I’m just as curious and excited as everybody else to see these characters come back and having learned what they learned, where to go from there. But, I think you’re absolutely right. There’s a number of occasions where Jack, quite pointedly, asks him, “If you had a choice, would you keep doing this? Is this the real you? Are you happy?” And you see the lawyer and the politician come out in Hamish and he’s quite good at deflecting questions like that, but I sense that deep down, he does admit it. If he has a choice, I think he would prefer to have a normal life where he could have real relationships and not have to worry about things like death and violence and all these big moral questions that they’re constantly feeling. What’s great about the show is that it doesn’t ever really get sucked down into these big, big existential, dark questions on human nature. And, things like that, it moves at such a good pace and the comedy is so self aware. We never really do get to go too deeply into any of the characters, so I’m hoping that in the second season everyone’s gonna have a bit more breathing room, and we’ll get to, maybe, explore some longer story arcs. I just can’t wait. I think it’s gonna be fantastic.
At this point, what are the pluses and minuses for you in portraying a werewolf?
THOMAS: What an awesome question. To be honest, at the moment, I can’t quite think of any minuses to playing a werewolf. For me, so much of this whole experience, not just the character, but the show and all my fellow actors and incredible crew and brilliant, creative team, it just felt like winning the lottery, being on this project. So for me, I think it was fun. You get to play a werewolf. What’s not to love about that? But also the fact that this character that I got given is so conflicted internally and he has such values that he respects and holds high. It was fantastic. I can’t think of any minuses at the moment. The pluses were the fact that we were given an open playground with which to try things and experiment on every take. This is the first time I’ve ever had a story arc of my own to take responsibility for. So, to be working with Devery [Jacobs] and Adam [DiMarco] and Jake [Manley], they just created such a feeling of — it took me a couple episodes for me to fully loosen up and just relax a little bit, but it was great to have people like that taking the lead and just sending an atmosphere of comfortability, experimentation, again, not being afraid to try things. And if it doesn’t work, “that’s okay, we’ll move on,” but sometimes it does work and you get these wonderful ad-libbed moments, really spontaneous. It was almost like grooving. We were jamming. Four episodes in, we found such a great rhythm to everybody. To me, each werewolf was very much a color of their own. They’re all a different color of paint, but there was a certain way that they all blended together that was really complimentary and really fun, just from a performance point of view.
It did seem like you were having the time of your life in that particular role.
THOMAS: Yeah. I’m really glad that that carried over because that was the real life experience, for sure.
I got a sense there was a playfulness amongst the werewolves, whereas the witches were more about rules and penalties and they didn’t seem as fun.
THOMAS: I agree. I think there were too many rules and regulations. For me, it goes back to the fact that we were given a piece of writing that was quite refreshing in the way that it handles the content and the genre. So just to be able to play in that world and to use just good quality writing and to find your own way through that. There’s a way that the show evolves over time that’s really cool. I come from a big theater background, so, for me, I’m used to taking three weeks to learn a play together. Everyone asks questions and tries things, but in film it sort of all happens while you’re doing it. Everyone shows up on the day and they’ve prepared their little piece of the puzzle and somehow it all just comes together. It’s magic and I don’t quite fully understand it, but it’s incredible. It was such an amazing opportunity from day one to when we finish wrapping up last summer. I certainly felt I’d made so much growth in my own craft and it’s so awesome to see the show come together and to see to more of the action.
Now that we know about the official Season 2 renewal, how did you feel when you found out that news?
THOMAS: Totally overjoyed. Oh, my gosh. Yeah, I couldn’t believe it. You hope for it. The fact that I get another kick at the can, and I get a chance to go back. It was good for me when the show came out to look through it. It was fun to watch it with friends and family and just see the reaction and just appreciate the thing for what it is. But, for me, going back and looking at my own work and saying, “Okay, this worked. That was good. I hated that. Loved that. What I would do differently this time?” The fact that I do get to come back and do it again is just such a good feeling and I’m so thrilled to be working on it again. It’s a mystery for me, where everything goes, so I’m also excited from a fan point of view. I’m not ashamed to say that I am emotionally invested in this story now.
Season 1 of THE ORDER is currently available for streaming exclusively on Netflix.
The Knights Of St. Christopher – Monster video:
THE ORDER — Hamish Makes His Escape: