‘Legend of the Seeker’ Star Craig Horner on Why Non-Nerds Will Like His Show, Too

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Photo: Courtesy of ABC

Craig Horner is not a household name yet — unless your household tuned into Australian kids’ show Cybergirl or surf drama Blue Water High. But Americans are going to be seeing more of him (his chiseled chest, for example) in his role as Richard Cypher, a woodsman turned sword-fighting hero in Legend of the Seeker (premiering in New York tomorrow on WPIX at 8 p.m.), the new Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert–produced fantasy series adapted from the megapopular Terry Goodkind book series The Sword of Truth. On his first visit to the city, Horner sat down with Vulture to discuss the ratio of nerd to non-nerd appeal of his new show, learning to ride horses Brad Pitt–style, and the benefits of filming down under.

So, did you get involved in this show as a fan of Goodkind’s books?
Not really. I was sort of into fantasy as a kid, but my friends were really into it, and I mentioned it to one of my mates back in Brisbane, and he was like, "Dude, this book is really, really, really good. You should get this role."

Do you think this will appeal to people outside the stereotypical nerd demographic?
Yes, absolutely. Because if you’re tuning in for just magic, you’re probably going to be disappointed. It was originally going to be called Wizard’s First Rule, but it’s not about wizards. If I heard a show about wizards, I’d be like, "What is that, just a Harry Potter wannabe?" Legend of the Seeker — it has new and interesting creatures and magic, but it’s the stories. Like Buffy, I could get into an episode, she might slay one dude, nothing really happens, but you’re just into it because you’re in this world, you’re into these characters. That’s kinda what this show does: It keeps all those characters in their world and the relationships, but it takes them on new adventures.

Is it true that they cut out sex scenes, toned down the violence to make it more family friendly? And won’t that disappoint fans?
I mean, there’s some pretty gruesome stuff in the book that would not get on television. But I’m trying to make it gritty as much as I can. It’s all about torture, absolute pain and torture, and love and mind control and death, and we go there as much as we can. We just don’t show the guts coming out everywhere. And [Raimi and Tapert] kind of get away with it, because they’re in New Zealand, so they can. This is why Peter Jackson made a frickin’ awesome movie with Lord of the Rings: He was sending the dailies and it would take them 24, 48 hours to get the messages back that, "Oh, this is bad." But he’s already done it, it’s way too late. You just do it, man! You’re in the middle of nowhere.

Are you doing a lot of the stunts?
I have a stunt double, his name is Glen Levy, and he has the hardest punch in the world. Seriously, it’s actually been recorded by National Geographic. He calls it the Hammer Fist. And he’s my stunt double! He makes me look awesome. At the same time, I do all the sword-fighting.

Did you know how to ride a horse before the show?
I’d been horse-riding a couple of times, but I wasn’t that good. I totally owe the horse trainers, the horse wranglers, because they made me a ten-times-better rider. And these guys worked on Lord of the Rings and taught Viggo Mortensen how to ride. They worked on Jesse James and Brad Pitt.

You’re in good company.
Yeah, I know! "Forget the horses for a second, tell me about Brad!"