Adrian Bower on playing Leofric in the BBC’s The Last Kingdom


The Last Kingdom, which begins soon, is the BBC’s big budget historical action series based on the best selling books by Bernard Cornwall. Adrian Bower, who plays one of the key roles in the series, talks about the filming, wearing heavy costumes and

What role does Leofric play within the story and how does he appear to the audience?
Leofric is a senior bodyguard/warrior in Alfred’s court but he is also attached to Odda the Elder’s household and is by all accounts his right hand man as much as he is Alfred’s. By virtue of his senior position within the court he is privy to everything that is going on within the Palace. We first meet him when Uhtred arrives at Alfred’s Palace in Winchester and it’s fair to say that his first encounter with Uhtred is antagonistic. Being a die-hard Saxon, when Leofric comes across this pagan upstart youth he wants to bring him down a peg or two.

How are Uhtred and Leofric thrown together?
Alfred asks Leofric to take Uhtred onto the training fields to see how tactically the Vikings fight. He wants Leofric to learn about their battle strategies and really understand how they form the infamous Viking shield wall. They end up having a few scuffles and scrapes but through that a bond starts to grow between these two warriors. Their respect for each other grows from their love of fighting really and that begins to form around the same time that Uhtred goes through a personal crisis. As Leofric consoles Uhtred he shares some of his own deep losses and this slowly strengthens the growing bond between them.

Describe Leofric’s relationship with Aethelwold?
It’s an interesting relationship that Leofric has with Aethelwold and Uhtred. He is almost like an adopted elder brother to Uhtred and he finds Aethelwold like an irritating younger brother that he sees himself reflected in by way of Aethelwold’s boozing and whoring. Aethelwold wants to be a warrior but hasn’t had the chance to learn yet and Leofric hasn’t been bothered to teach him.

What is Leofric’s relationship with Odda the Elder and Younger?
He is very much Odda the Elder’s man and his personal bodyguard. He respects Odda the Elder and thinks he is a good man though not necessarily a great warrior and he says that later on. He doesn’t have time for the younger Odda and believes he has his eye on the prize and will do anything to get it including destroying Uhtred. He is a bad apple but as the only son of Odda it is likely that Leofric will end up working for him and that is the way it is.

What does Leofric think of the Vikings?
He firmly believes they are the enemy but he learns more about their way of life the more time he spends with Uhtred. Given the chance I’m sure Leofric would rather be on their side because they seem to have a lot more fun and the Saxon way of life is rather harsh. However, I think ultimately Leofric regards the Vikings as savages that need to be destroyed.

What was it like to film those epic battle sequences?
The Battle scenes have been fun to do and the shieldwall training in particular was epic. They are always great fun because we get the weaponry out and we’re on horses with all the battle armour on and I get to wield an axe and a sword. Alexander and myself had to learn a couple of fight sequences during the shieldwall training, which was amazing. However what I really learnt that day was how freezing it gets in Budapest at that time of year.

Describe the fight training sequences you have gone through with the fight coordinator?
We had lots of sessions with Levente, the Stunt Coordinator and we had to learn how to wield a sword and ride a horse at the same time. What bloke doesn’t want to do that?

What does Leofric wear?
My costume is pretty heavy though as soon as I put it on I instantly felt more warrior-like. I recall when I had my first fitting Ros, our costume designer, brought down this chain mail suit and I thought “great let’s get this on” and straight away you stand differently. You feel more invincible though whilst it might stop an axe blow it wouldn’t prevent an arrow or a sword from getting through.

Was it a surprise to see how much humour was intertwined with often dark and tense scenes?
The humour within the script is wonderful against so much of the text that is dark and deals with huge issues. Those moments of lightness feel true and right when they come. We have to believe that people joked and had a laugh at the same things that we laugh at today. It isn’t there all the time but when it does arise, Alexander and myself have fun without overplaying it because ultimately we are most likely in moments of danger and jeopardy.