“Spartacus” Interview: Blessing Mokgohloa

We talk to the Aussie actor who, as gay pirate Castus, tried to come between Nasir and Agron.

“Apologies, Nasir, but, seriously, can you really resist this sexy pirate grin?”

The body count grew in last week’s penultimate episode of the Starz drama Spartacus: War Of The Damned, but the good news is that our beloved Agron (Dan Feuerriegel) did not perish as we were lead to believe. Instead he came down off the cross (literally) and was reunited with love of his life, Nasir (Pana Hema Taylor).

Since we’ve already hit many emotional highs in these last episodes, creator Steven S. DeKnight is obviously not holding back and, having seen the last episode, I can promise he delivers a series finale worthy of the entire Spartacus franchise.

Part of what made the Nagron story so compelling this season was introduction of the strapping Castus (Blessing Mokgohloa). The sexy pirate made it clear early in the season that he had eyes for Nasir, he and didn’t mind if Agron knew it. But now that Nagron is back together, will Castus accept that or make one last ditch play for the doe-eyed Nasir?

I recently spoke with Mokgohloa about his part in Spartacus, and the awesome gay love triangle his pirate character helps anchor.

AfterElton: Tell me how Castus came into your life. Was it the usual audition circuit, and how much did you know going in?
Blessing Mokgohloa:
Yeah. That pretty much is it. I just auditioned for the show. It actually was a little bit of a surprise for me because I didn’t think they were still casting for the show when I actually got the audition for Castus. So yeah, I guess that was a fortuitous turn of events.

When I auditioned all I got was that the character was a pirate and he was into guys. And I just had one note, don’t play him camp. That was it. And don’t play the typical pirate either so those were the only notes I got coming in. I pretty much tried to do as much research as I could with the little information I got. So I looked up information on Cilician pirates, just so I would kind of have an idea of where this character is coming from beforehand. I think that an advantage for me auditioning is that I really was a big fan of the show. So I kind of understood the style of the show.

AE: I know a lot of fans were not very happy to see Castus wedge his way in between Agron and Nasir. Did you hear any of that once the episodes started airing?
Yeah. I’ve interacted with the fans on Twitter, which is one great thing about this age of technology we are living in. It’s almost getting close to the experience of working in theater where you have immediate audience response. Not quite, obviously, but you still get to see how the fans take in the content of the show. And they’re so into it. They pick up on all of the intricacies of all the characters, which is great because I just do my job and I hope that it translates well. I think Steven DeKnight is probably in his castle up on some hill, rubbing his hands gleefully, because it’s all going according as planned.

AE: How is it working with Dan and Pana? You played aggression with Dan, but then the opposite with Pana since that was much more flirtatious.
You know what? Those guys are such incredible talents. I mean, obviously that shows on the screen but both Dan and Pana are also incredible professionals. Dan, Pana and I would goof around on set, but we were all a hundred percent committed once we’re on the scene so…it was effortless working with those two, I should say.

Castus cleans up nice, don’t ya think?

AE: You mentioned a little bit about how your direction in the beginning was not to play it campy as far as the gay element. How challenging was that when it’s getting very erotic in how you talked to Nasir, basically saying, “Dude, I want you.” It was really hot, by the way!
Thank you. Well, I guess it’s just preparation really, and you have to understand what the intentions behind the text are. That’s the most important thing. If you try and get bogged down in the lines then you’re not going to tell the story as it’s supposed to be told. People only say things to get a message across, to get something out of somebody or some situation. So it’s all about understanding the intention behind the lines, and after that everything kind of falls into place.

Will this Spartacus love triangle end happily ever after?
(l-r, Blessing Mokgohla, Dan Feuerriegel and Pana Hema Taylor)

AE: I thought for sure once Nasir thought Agron was dead that he probably would end up with Castus, at least for one of those hot sex scenes that we see on Spartacus. However, Nasir almost blames Castus and there’s a little animosity between the two of them before they find out that Agron is actually still alive. Can you talk about shooting those scenes?
Yes. That scene where Nasir, Agron and Castus have a little fight is probably one of my favorite scenes for Castus. In that moment he decides to let go of pushing for Nasir because he actually really does care for Nasir deeply, and he realizes he has to stop being selfish and let Nasir move on with his life. And if Agron is his one true love then so be it.

AE: Once Agron returned in last week’s episode and Nasir finds out he’s alive, how does that change Castus moving into the finale?
Initially, it’s just about lust with [Castus] and Nasir, and it also kind of turns into him not wanting to be told what to do by Agron. So there is a bit of that. But as the characters evolve Castus does get really strong feelings for Nasir. And then, of course, after [episode] 309 he realizes that no matter what he tries to do, he might try to push but Nasir really is 150 percent devoted to Agron. I guess he makes the decision after 309 to either have Nasir as a really good friend or not at all.

AE: Talk to me about preparing for the physical challenges of the show and, of course, knowing that you might be close to naked at times.
My character only comes in in episode three so unfortunately – and I’m really bummed out about this – I missed out on the boot camp. Because all of the other actors were already done even before I got there, and I really wanted to do it. I got to do a few days of the boot camp. I got a taste of it. It’s painful, I’ll tell you that. I’d like to say after the end of it you kind of feel good for having done it but no, no…

But I think the hard work actually starts after we start filming because you’re doing 12 to 14 hour days. You get home but you still have to find time to stay fit because you’ll lose it. So fortunately I had a really good gym partner in Todd Lasance (Caesar). He and I pushed each other a lot so some days I would motivate him and some days he would do the same for me, because you have up and down days. You get home at eight p.m. after a long day of shooting, the last thing you want to do is walk to the gym and put in an hour session but with Todd and I training together we kind of kept that going throughout the season, which I think paid off.

AE: Well, from a viewer standpoint and a gay man’s standpoint, yes, it did.
Thank you.

AE: Talk to me about TJ Scott’s In The Tub book, which it seems most of the guys from the show are in. And you guys were in tubs of milk?
Yeah. TJ is an incredible talent. He’s got all of these little tricks that he does. I think he poured a liter or two of milk into a bathtub and you get that milky effect but I think those shoots for me were pretty incredible purely because TJ did everything by himself. He literally would be running around the set. I’m just sitting in the tub. He’s switching the lights around, testing everything, and he’s so quick. He’s running the smoke machine. He’s running the lights. He’s running the camera. He’s up and down scaffolding getting different angles. He is an incredible talent…I was walking around literally to every single actor I saw and told them how great TJ’s shoots were so by the end of it a whole bunch of guys had joined me in the tub so that was great.

Wait, was Blessing Mokgohloa all alone in this tub for the In The Tub photo book?

AE: Wait. They joined you in the tub…

BM: No, no….[we both laugh]

AE: Because that’s a whole other kind of conversation…

BM: That would make for interesting photos!

AE: And a different kind of book! So what are you doing now that Spartacus is behind you?

BM: Nothing that I can really announce yet but I’m still looking around and seeing what the opportunities are going to be for me. Hopefully I’ll be moving to LA towards the end of the year.

AE: It sounds like a lot of you guys are ending up in LA so you have to have a little Spartacus reunion in here.

BM: Yeah. We always do. We call them Spartie parties. It’s kind of incredible because you work on different projects in this industry but the Spartacus guys kind of really are a family…the Spartie family is really tightly knit.

The series finale of Spartacus: War of the Damned airs Friday at 9pm followed by the premiere of Da Vinci’s Demons at 10pm on Starz.