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THE FAN CARPET – From the director of The Forgotten Joseph Ruben, comes the powerful and gripping action-packed drama, THE OTTOMAN LIEUTENANT. Featuring an all-star cast including Academy Award® winner Ben Kingsley (Gandhi, Schindler’s List), Josh Hartnett (Black Hawk Down, Penny Dreadful), Michiel Huisman (Game of Thrones, The Age of Adaline) and Hera Hilmar (Anna Karenina, Davinci’s Demons) THE OTTOMAN LIEUTENANT will be released on Digital Download from 24 July and DVD and Blu-ray from 7 August.
THE OTTOMAN LIEUTENANT tells the wartime story of a strong-willed woman Lillie (Hera Hilmar) who leaves the United States after meeting Jude (Josh Hartnett) an American doctor who runs a remote medical mission within the exotic Ottoman Empire. There, she finds her loyalty tested to both Jude and the mission’s sagacious founder (Ben Kingsley) when she falls in love with Ismail (Michiel Huisman), a Lieutenant in the Ottoman Imperial Army. Set among the backdrop of World War 1 and tied together with epic battles and mind-blowing fight sequences, Lillie must decide if she wants to be what other people want her to be, or to be herself.
What was it like playing a character in this setting, and what were some challenges for your character (Ismail)?
Yes, there were definitely challenges when it came to portraying Ismail. First off, I had to learn a little bit of Turkish, so that itself was a major challenge. It takes place right before the First World War in Turkey, a time I knew little about when I first began working on this project. It is essentially a love drama set against the backdrop of a world that is slowly falling apart. Despite the horrors encircling the region, which I’ve only later come to fully understand, the film is really a romantic drama, and that was always the driving force of the way I would tell Ismail’s story.
FATHERLY – Michiel Huisman didn’t know what to expect when he traveled to the sprawling Bidi Bidi Refugee Camp in Northern Uganda. Swollen by refugees fleeing the conflict in South Sudan, the world’s largest refugee camp sits in a politically unstable region that endured decades of damages inflicted by Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, civil wars, and skirmishes over resources before conflict broke out north of the nearby. There’s only so much a person can do to prepare to visit a place like that so Huisman, famous for his role as Daario Naharis on Game of Thrones and acting as an ambassador for Save the Children, got ready to do the one thing he knew he could: Take it all in. He knew he’d have to describe the trip to both his daughter and to others, maybe even people in a position to help. He packed a camera.
When he speaks about what he saw, he does so tentatively. Huisman is aware of his privileged status as a witness and of his own ignorance. There is, after all, a massive difference between witnessing, understanding, and experiencing. Less strident Hollywood activist than traveler, Huisman sticks to descriptions and dwells on the humanity of the people he met. He’s respectful. He talks about the refugees as people, never casting them as hapless victims or describing their experiences as merely the symptoms of a broader problem. For a man who, thanks to his good looks, inevitably plays the most commanding guy in the room, Huisman sounds small. And that’s a compliment.
His manner of speaking seems indicative of both how he thinks of himself as a man and a father–just a guy trying to help–and of the magnitude of the mission he’s assigned himself. Through Save the Children, he’s determined to advocate for kids less comfortable than his own. Fatherly spoke to Huisman about his what he saw, what he brought home, and how he talks to his daughter about the world.
COLLIDER – Based on a true story, the three part Discovery mini-series Harley and the Davidsons tells the story of the birth of the Harley Davidson motorcycle and the company that Walter (Michiel Huisman) and Arthur Davidson (Bug Hall) and their friend Bill Harley (Robert Aramayo) built from the ground up. Endless obstacles, ruthless competitors and life-or-death risks constantly tested these sons of blue collar immigrants, while they risked their entire fortune and worked to strive for the ultimate American dream. Now, the Harley Davidson company is a legacy that has endured for over 100 years.
During this exclusive interview with Collider, co-stars Michiel Huisman (Game of Thrones, Orphan Black), Bug Hall and Robert Aramayo talked about why this project appealed to them, getting to explore a character over such a long period of time, how these two families came together to start what was ultimately a hugely successful business, how scary the early motorcycles were to ride, the incredibly authentic sets, and how they’ll never look at a Harley-Davidson motorcycle the same again.
Collider: How did this come about for each of you, and are you personally interested in motorcycles?
BUG HALL: I think the motorcycles were a big part of the appeal. Me and Michiel rode, growing up, and loved motorcycles. For me, as far as work goes, motorcycles are never really going to do it, so it was really the script being as good as it was that brought us to the table.
ROBERT ARAMAYO: For me, personally, what I liked so much about the story was that I loved Bill, on the page. He grew into somebody who’s quite a sensitive man in a very harsh world. That was just so interesting to me. As an actor, to think about playing a character like that, in this crazy, harsh world, was very appealing to me.
MICHIEL HUISMAN: Especially when you realize how what they created in those early days lasted, I felt like it was a story that needed to be told. We owe it to the legacy of Harley Davidson to tell the story of the early days.
EW – When he’s not advising the Khaleesi or kissing an ageless Blake Lively, Michiel Huisman likes to ride motorcycles — for fun and for work. The Dutch actor (best known for his roles in Game of Thrones and The Age of Adaline) stars in Discovery’s new scripted miniseries Harley and the Davidsons, which kicks off the first of three installments Monday. (The others will air Tuesday and Wednesday.)
The series tells the story of the Harley-Davidson company, from its founding in Wisconsin to its rise to America’s most iconic motorcycle brand. Huisman plays Walter Davidson, and he might be the perfect guy for it — the guy loves motorcycles. We spoke to him about the series, his character, and his affinity for vintage Harleys.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What drew you to this role?
MICHIEL HUISMAN: First of all, I was so surprised by the story. I was one of those people who even thought there was a guy named Harley-Davidson that started a company at some point. But it was such a unique story, and such a slice of American history that I almost couldn’t believe it hadn’t been told before. And on top of that, I am a motorcycle enthusiast, so this was just like a dream project for me in that sense.
And Walter Davidson turned out to be an amazing character to play. Large man, both feet in Wisconsin clay, stands for what he believes in, and wants to create his own little legacy. I guess a lot of motorcycle riders, or especially Harley-Davidson riders, know that it was a company that started in a shed, but most [other] people don’t.
What was Walter’s role in the company’s founding?
YAHOO – Discovery’s new six-hour miniseries Harley and the Davidsons, premiering Sept. 5, tells the story of how brothers Walter and Harley Davidson and their friend Bill Harley gave birth to the iconic Harley-Davidson motorcycle in the early 1900s. It’s a tale of high risk, financial and physical, and intense passion, for both engineering and personal freedom. Game of Thrones‘ Michiel Huisman was drawn to the role of Walter for one simple reason: “Because he represents, I think, the heart, the attitude, the soul of what Harley-Davidson became,” he says. “He’s a little bit of a rebel, a little bit of an outsider, a tiny bit anti-establishment. He projects that onto what he wants a bicycle with an engine to become. He’s a man’s man with both feet in Wisconsin clay. In my mind, he’s an icon. I was honored to be allowed to portray a character like that.”
Huisman spoke to Yahoo TV about filming the miniseries, which airs over three consecutive nights.
Without spoiling too much, Night 1 ends with a Motordrome race that shows just how dangerous this dream is. I didn’t know the history and found myself tempted to Google “Walter Davidson,” to make sure we wouldn’t lose Walter before the end of the miniseries. Were you nervous about his fate, knowing he is the one who rides the bikes?
Michiel Huisman: Well, no, because very early on I started doing some research and I knew he lasted longer than that. That much I knew. It’s also funny how working on the miniseries is very different from working on a longer series like Game of Thrones, for example, where we don’t really know what’s going to happen beyond the episode that we get to read. In general, with a miniseries, everything is read before we start shooting. So you know the arc; you know where it starts, you know where it will end. It’s a lot of fun, too, because it allows you to think more about the storyline and the arc of your character.
A lot of actors will lie about certain skills to get roles. Did you have to prove to producers that you could ride before they believed you?
No, no. Well, sort of. I made sure that in the casting process I told everybody who I thought should know that I was able to ride any kind of motorcycle. Once I got the part, they were very keen on getting me out on location as soon as possible to start riding on their replicas. We rebuilt [close to 90] early Harley-Davidsons, because either the originals don’t exist anymore or they’re behind glass in the Harley museum in Milwaukee. They ride very differently from modern bikes, obviously. Especially in the beginning, they’re more like bicycles with an engine. Once we get into Episodes 2 and 3 — because the three episodes span a period of 30 years — they slowly become more what we recognize as Harleys. But those bikes still are the opposite of what you’re used to on a modern bike. It was really useful to have some time before we started shooting, because I think my character was really a natural when it came to riding those motorcycles. I wanted to be able to make it look like I am, too.
ET – Michiel Huisman has a plan.
It’s true that the Dutchman may be recognized most for his Game of Thrones character Daario Naharis, Daenerys Targaryen’s handsome and loyal advisor. But starting Monday, Huisman enters another fantastical world in Discovery Channel’s latest scripted miniseries, Harley and the Davidsons, about a culture he has a deep affinity for: motorcycles.
An avid bike rider, Huisman had himself convinced that he would “never, ever, ever get into a car,” he told ET during an August sit-down in Beverly Hills, California. That was before he and his wife, actress Tara Elders, had their daughter, Hazel, in 2008. “All of a sudden, I realized that I had responsibilities, and maybe it was smarter to get a car,” Huisman said with a chuckle. “I lived it. It’s just you and an engine, no time for checking your phone. It’s just one-on-one physical.”
The allure of Harley and the Davidsons, a six-hour, decades-long adventure following the founders of the iconic Harley-Davidson brand, almost felt like kismet for the actor. Spend enough time with Huisman and his genuine passion for bikes becomes infectious. (ET exclusively premieres a sneak peek at Part 1 of the miniseries.)