EXCLUSIVE: An inside look into Peacock's new historical series, Those About to Die

The cast and director of Peacock's upcoming new original series, Those About to Die, talk about the show and their characters as we get ready to travel back to Ancient Rome.
THOSE ABOUT TO DIE -- Episode 110 -- Pictured: (l-r) Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson as Viggo, Moe Hashim as Kwame -- (Photo by: Reiner Bajo/Peacock)
THOSE ABOUT TO DIE -- Episode 110 -- Pictured: (l-r) Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson as Viggo, Moe Hashim as Kwame -- (Photo by: Reiner Bajo/Peacock) /

If you're a fan of epic battles, ancient Rome, and enough drama to keep your popcorn bowl full, then the Peacock original series Those About to Die, premiering on July 18, is your next binge-worthy obsession.

Imagine stepping into the heart of the Colosseum, where gladiators clash, emperors scheme, and every fight is a fight for glory. Those About to Die isn't just about swordfights and shouting "Are you not entertained?" — though there's plenty of that, too. It's a rollercoaster of emotions, with characters so compelling you'll be shouting at your screen. And let’s not forget the political intrigue! The series will dive into the murky waters of Roman politics, with plots and betrayals that would make even the most cunning of modern-day politicians gasp. You'll be on the edge of your seat, wondering who's going to come out on top, or if anyone will survive at all.

I had the wonderful opportunity to virtually sit and chat with some of the cast and with the series' iconic director, Roland Emmerich, about the action-packed, drama-filled, and historic show that is Those About to Die.

A chat with iconic director Roland Emmerich

I had the absolute honor of chatting with the legendary Roland Emmerich about his latest masterpiece, Those About to Die. First off, I had to fangirl a bit — after all, Stargate (1994) was my very first sci-fi movie at the tender age of 5. Thank you, dad. Roland's movies have been a huge part of my cinematic journey, and I was thrilled to dive into the mind behind Godzilla, The Patriot, Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow.

So what inspired this icon to take on the gritty world of ancient Rome in Those About to Die? Roland shared that the initial idea was for a movie but quickly evolved into something grander. A friend of his stumbled upon a fascinating book also called Those About to Die, which described the elaborate games of ancient Rome. This book opened Roland's eyes to how crucial sports were in ancient times; imagine, the Romans spent as much on sports as they did on conquering the world!

Roland confessed that he might have gotten a bit carried away with the character deaths — it is called Those About to Die, after all — but that's the beauty of it: the show is intense, dangerous, and absolutely deadly, as Roland succinctly put it. Our conversation was a whirlwind of excitement and insight, with Roland emphasizing that each new project is an adventure for him. This series is no different, promising to deliver an electrifying blend of drama, action, and historical intrigue.

Iwan Rheon and Sara Martins talk Those About to Die

Iwan Rheon, the man who played the infamous Ramsay Bolton on Game of Thrones, is now taking on Tenax, a character who's as gritty as they come. Iwan shared that Tenax is a street kid turned crime boss, running the underworld of ancient Rome. He's ambitious and cunning, always looking to climb higher and break into the elite patrician class. But there's a softer side to Tenax, too; he looks after other street kids, giving them the opportunities he never had.

Next, I chatted with the fabulous Sara Martins, who plays Cala. Sara described Cala as the epitome of motherhood, arriving in Rome to rescue her children from slavery and the gladiator pits. Cala is not just a survivor; she's a fighter, never complaining or giving up, no matter how tough things get. She's smart, adaptable, and fiercely determined, always ready to tackle the next challenge. Sara's portrayal of Cala is sure to tug at your heartstrings and leave you in awe.

When I asked them to sum up Those About to Die in three words, Iwan went with "thrilling," "intriguing," and "explosive," while Sara described it as "spectacular," "sexy," and "intense." And honestly, I couldn't agree more.

An exclusive chat with Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson and Moe Hashim

Moe Hashim plays Kwame, a North African tracker-turned-gladiator. When I asked Moe what drew him to the role, his excitement was palpable. "North African tracker? Boom. Sold," he said with a grin. Moe dove into the rich, untold history of North Africans in Roman times.

Next, I chatted with Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson, who takes on the intense role of Viggo, a seasoned gladiator. Jóhannes shared the emotional and physical demands of preparing for the role, highlighting the deep bonds formed amidst the brutal world of gladiatorial combat. "Fighting and friendship," he summarized, capturing the heart of his character’s journey.

When I asked these two to sum up the show in just three words, Jóhannes went with "emotional, intricate, cinematic," nailing the epic feel of the series. Moe had a bit of a word battle but finally settled on "enticing, challenging, movie-like." Their playful banter showed just how much fun they had working together, and their passion for the project shone through.

Jojo Macari and Tom Hughes chat about Those About To Die

Jojo Macari, who plays the enigmatic Roman emperor Domitian, talked about stepping into the shoes of this historical figure. He dove headfirst into his research, and the coolest part? He actually stood in Domitian's bedroom on Palatine Hill! Talk about immersive acting. Jojo spent nine months living and breathing Rome, which totally shows in his intense performance.

Then there's Tom Hughes, our fierce Titus. Tom was drawn to the show by its grand scale and the genius of Roland Emmerich. He described Titus as a complex character, a warrior with a sensitive side and a deep loyalty to his brother. Tom’s take on Titus was all about finding those inner contradictions, and he nailed it by connecting with the political and personal struggles of the character.

When I asked them to sum up the show in just three words, Tom went with the simple yet evocative "Rome every day." Jojo, on the other hand, called it a "massive thrill ride," and I have to say he's pretty spot on.

Gabriella Pession and Dimitri Leonidas on the show and the history behind it

Gabriela Pession, who plays the fierce and complex Antonia, shared what drew her to the role. When she read the script, it was like a lightning bolt moment; she just knew she had to play this character. Antonia is a whirlwind of contradictions: she's wild, cruel, sensual, and vulnerable all at once. Gabriela was fascinated by how Antonia navigates a man's world with cunning and charisma, pulling the strings behind the scenes. To prepare, Gabriela delved into Roman history, reading about powerful women like Messalina, Poppaea, and Agrippina. She combined these elements to bring Antonia to life, making her a formidable force onscreen.

Dimitri Leonidas, who portrays the gladiator Scorpus, talked about the intense physical preparation for the role, including learning to ride and maneuver chariots with four horses pulling him along. Dimitri admitted he wasn’t exactly a horse whisperer before filming, but he quickly had to get comfortable with these giant, mischievous animals. Director Roland Emmerich wanted Scorpus to be in peak physical shape, which meant hitting the gym and resisting the temptations of delicious Italian cuisine. Dimitri's dedication definitely paid off, as he brings both strength and vulnerability to Scorpus.

If you’re ready for a wild ride through ancient history, packed with action, drama, and a whole lot of heart, Those About to Die is the show you absolutely can’t miss. Don't forget to tune into Peacock on July 18 and binge-watch all 10 episodes of this intense historical drama.

Next. House of the Dragon ties the season together in a thrilling new episode, "The Red Dragon and the Gold". House of the Dragon ties the season together in a thrilling new episode, "The Red Dragon and the Gold". dark

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