It’s not every actor who can portray the same Shakespearean character in two different ways. But British thespian Tom Hiddleston can.
He plays the shallow Prince Hal in two of the Bard’s “king” plays that have been airing on PBS’s “Great Performances” series “The Hollow Crown.”
But on Friday he becomes the besieged King of England — Henry V — and finds himself charged with the battle of a lifetime, the fate of a nation in his hands.
No small task for the actor most Americans remember as the evil villain Loki in both “Thor” and “The Avengers.”
“Prince Hal is an archetype of what, I think, possibly every young man goes through,” Hiddleston said.
“To test his limits and push boundaries and reject the authority of his father and live in a way that he was not supposed to and has been discouraged from doing. And (he) slowly goes on a journey of accepting responsibility and embracing his inheritance.
At the beginning Prince Hal seems a rebel without a cause. “He starts out rebellious, drunk, mischievous, wayward and youthful. And then he becomes the greatest warrior king that England has ever had,” Hiddleston said.
Because of production schedules, they filmed the four plays in reverse. “Henry V” is chronologically the last, but was the first to be shot. Hiddleston had to “age backward” for the part.
Hiddleston was also excited to deliver what he says is Shakespeare’s greatest motivational speech ever: “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; or close the wall up with our English dead.’
“That’s that’s better than any locker-room speech you’ve ever heard in any movie about American football,” Hiddleston said.
“Henry V” airs at 2 p.m. Sunday on KCTS.