“It’s about growing up” - Dafne Keen on HBO’s hit new fantasy

His Dark Materials is streaming first on Showmax. We interview star Dafne Keen to uncover everything you need to know about this brand-new fantasy series.

  • 83% critics score, Rotten Tomatoes
  • Already #39, Most Popular TV, IMDB, after just one episode, and rated 8.7/10
  • Already renewed for Season 2
  • Based on Philip Pullman’s award-winning novel trilogy
  • First On Showmax. New episodes every Tuesday, express from the US

His Dark Materials, the brand-new fantasy series from HBO (Game of Thrones), is now streaming first on Showmax. Based on Philip Pullman’s award-winning novel trilogy of the same name, the series has an 83% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Just one episode in, it’s at #39 on the list of Most Popular TV right now over on IMDB, where it’s rated at 8.7/10. It has also already been renewed for a second season.

The epic series follows Lyra, whose search for a kidnapped friend uncovers a sinister plot involving stolen children, and sets off on a quest to understand a mysterious phenomenon called Dust. The fantasy’s cast includes child stars Dafne Keen and Amir Wilson as Lyra and Will, supported by Golden Globe winner Ruth Wilson (The Affair, Luther), Golden Globe nominee James McAvoy (X-Men), Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated actor Lin-Manuel Miranda (Fosse/Verdon, Mary Poppins Returns), and BAFTA winner Helen McCrory (Harry Potter, The Queen). Oscar-winner Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) is one of the directors.

We caught up with Keen (Logan) to find out more about playing Lyra in the hit series.

Who is Lyra? 

Lyra is a very curious, cunning, and adventurous girl. She’s very intelligent, street smart, and just brilliant. I love her. She's a tomboy, definitely. When we first meet her she is racing with her best friend, Roger, and she’s a ball of energy. Then, that changes. She's still energetic, but she's more dark by the end of the show. The thing that most describes Lyra for me is a line that Ma Costa says in the books. When Lyra says something about her wanting to be a Gyptian, she says, "You're not a Gyptian, Lyra. Gyptians are water people and you're marsh fire." That's the thing that described Lyra for me the most.

How did you feel when you got the role? 

Nerve-wracking. I was like, ‘Oh my God, so many people have read the books and love Lyra.’ Every time I go somewhere and people know I'm playing Lyra, they're like, ‘She's the role model of my childhood.’ It's very nerve-wracking thinking you've got to live up to everyone's expectation of being their role model.

For someone who's never read the books, what would you say His Dark Materials is about?

It's about growing up. Even though it's decorated with fantasy and stuff, it's really the story of a child turning into a woman. In book one, there's this whole thing of the system trying to rip us of our souls and our personality, which is what dæmons represent.

Can you explain what a dæmon is? 

A dæmon is your soul. It's an expression of your soul and when you're a child, it changes because you’re still changing. It then fixes when you're an adult into what most represents your personality. Lyra is a kid so her dæmon still changes, but it's mostly an ermine and his name is Pantalaimon.

Is Pan in any way different to Lyra or just an extension of her?

He's a bit different to her because obviously your soul is more responsible and wiser than you. Lyra's like, ‘Woo, let's jump off a roof.’ Pan's like, ‘No, don't. You're going to die.’ He's more responsible than her, but they are pretty similar.

What was the hardest part for you when filming with dæmons?

It's when you have to hold the ermine, definitely, and they're like, "No, your palm has to be bigger than that" and you're like, "Why? It's fine." They’ll say, "No… bigger… more space, less space." You have to remember it perfectly for when you shoot. That was really hard.

Were there some real animals involved in filming?

Yes. We had a gecko. We had a few dogs. We had one dog that we eventually had to CGI out because it looked into the camera and smiled! That didn't go well. We also had a snake and Milo, Farder Coram's cat. He was brilliant.

Is it true Lin-Manuel Miranda is always singing?

Yes, he does sing, but I also sing so we were always singing together. Every time Lin turned around and we were in the air balloon, me and Lewin [Lloyd] would sing Hamilton because we were too embarrassed to sing it to his face. I love Ruth too; she's brilliant. Doing scenes with her is so fun. She's very psychopathic and then she's really nice in real life, so it's cool!

Watch His Dark Materials first on Showmax, with new episodes every Tuesday, express from the US. 

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