Billy Bones from Black Sails, HISTORY

Check out the man behind character Billy Bones.

Beefy British actor Tom Hopper - who has appeared in a number of high profile television series such as Doctor Who and Merlin - can now be seen in the swashbuckling pirate series Black Sails.  Described as a "pirate version of Game of Thrones", Black Sails airs on HISTORY (DStv 186) on Tuesdays at 21:20 and you can also watch it on DStv Catch Up.

In the series, which was filmed in Cape Town, the 1.96m tall Hopper plays Billy Bones, alongside Toby Stephens' Captain Flint, Luke Arnold as John Silver, Hakeem Kae Kazim as Mr Scott and local actors Sean Cameron Michael as Richard Guthrie and Louise Barnes as Miranda Barlow.

We caught up with Hopper in between filming to ask him a few questions:

What’s Black Sails about?

It’s about the golden age of pirates. It uses characters from the book Treasure Island but is set 20 years before the book. So we’ve got Long John Silver in there and Billy Bones, who I play, along with real pirates who existed. It’s got everything you could want from a pirate show and it's about what pirates were really like.

How much time did you spend filming at sea?

None! We filmed in a studio in Cape Town where they have huge water tanks and the ships are in them. We are always on water but we are in a tank and surrounded by a green screen, so we are never out at sea. There’s a machine that creates the wave effects and the whole ship moves like it’s on the ocean.

Did you have to do any pre-filming training?

Yes! Before any of the cast got in front of the camera we were put through an extreme pirate boot camp that involved a strict regime. It wasn't just the rope work and rigorous exercises that tested us though, it was the diets - which was an even tougher thing for me.

Would you have survived well in the pirate world?

Hell no! It was brutal and although I enjoy acting in that world, I wouldn’t have enjoyed living in it. I loved filming the action stuff, though. It can get pretty violent at times but that's the world these guys lived in. We wanted to show historically what a violent, brutal world it was. Men and women died all the time. It's a world where you're constantly struggling to survive.

Catch all the action of Black Sails on HISTORY (DStv 186), Tuesdays at 21:20 and on DStv Catch Up.