Joseph Morgan has played some great villains throughout his impressive career.
He currently plays Sebastian/Brother Blood on Titans Season 4.
TV Fanatic got the chance to chat with Morgan about Titans Season 4 Episode 6 — the midseason finale — an hour that changed the trajectory of the series.
We’re now delving into spoiler territory so consider yourself spoiler-warned, Titans fanatics!
Could you speak a bit about how you got involved with Titans?
It came through my agent. I guess they submitted me for it. And the first I heard of it was talking to my agent, and he said, “look, there’s this, they’re quite interested in you for this show Titans.” I said, “well, what do I have to do?” And he said, “nothing, just sit tight and, and we’ll see.”
And then it came about a short while after that. I got the offer to come to the show, and I said I wanted to have a Zoom with the showrunner to speak to him about the part and everything. And they said, “good, because he wants to talk to you as well.”
They sent me a couple of episodes because I hadn’t seen the show before, so I got the tone of it and the feel of what it was. Then I talked to Greg Walker for about an hour, just about the character and their ideas for the story.
The big draw for me was that it was an origin story — that it was seeing this guy from when he was not in any way a super villain from when he was this guy who felt quite insecure and disenfranchised and really kind of a little bit resentful of how the world had passed him by. He was an absolute outsider.
And so to take him from that place to this almost polar opposite character who’s confident and andic and powerful and damaged, it was a really interesting journey for me.
I’m a big fan of the DC world, just in terms of having grown up reading many graphic novels and watching the old Batman series when I was a kid and all of that stuff.
I’ve always been fascinated by the villains, especially the Batman villains. And so coming onto Titans was a chance to explore that world and try to ground it and root it in something real. That was exciting for me.
Sebastian has been such a great addition because the Titans excel when they’re helping someone. What have you enjoyed the most about playing this role?
I’ve really enjoyed the one-on-one scenes that I had, especially the stuff with Teagan that I did with Rachel. I feel like building that bond between those two characters was really important to us and plays a part later in the season.
I hope it gives a way to connect with Sebastian because you have the first three episodes where he doesn’t really have anything to do with any of the Titans. He’s on his own journey, separate from them, which is really nice that the show did that slow burn.
You meet this guy, and you kind of get to know him, and you see all these things start to happen to him, and that’s way before he gets involved with the Titans. He doesn’t even see any of them until the end of episode three!
I guess just playing those scenes that I felt were integral emotionally, and giving people a way into the character and giving me a way in as well because I was still finding him over the first few scenes I did.
You’re still exploring throughout, but you know, really kind of finding his speech pattern and his demeanor, and the costume helps a lot with that as well. But yeah, that was probably the most enjoyable thing: doing those one-on-one scenes with characters and getting to explore the character.
We’ve witnessed Sebastian’s past and his struggle to find meaning, but by the end of episode 6, he’s ready to awaken Brother Blood. What can you tell me about his mindset in the temple as he apologized to Rachel and the others before making that fateful decision?
All of his life, Sebastian has wanted affirmation and affection and to be liked and accepted. And he had that through his mother, and then he lost her. He had it through his girlfriend, Julie, and he ended that because he felt like he was going to lose her. So he let that fulfill itself by getting in the way himself.
And then the Titans, he feels like they tried to help him, but they also let him go. So he feels like they let him down.
All those times, through Rachel and then through Jullie, through his mom, he’s been offered this acceptance and affirmation and love that he’s so desperately craved, and it’s let him down. So when he is offered power instead by Mother Mayhem, it’s something different, and it’s something that appeals to him and to Sebastian’s egoic side.
In the end, he chooses that. He chooses power over love because he can’t stand the thought of being nothing for the rest of his life. He wants to mean something in the world. He’s been searching for meaning, and here’s someone who’s telling him, “you are the prodigal son. You have a destiny. You are the chosen one,” and he can’t say no to that, for better or worse. He can’t say no to it.
What can you tell me about our first introduction to Brother Blood when the series returns? Is the Sebastian we know gone?
Well, I’ll tell you this, it’s not like a switch where he’s just this other character now, right? He’s going to be Sebastian. He’ll be the same character throughout the whole show, but it’s just that other side of him. He has this power now.
So that confidence and that ego and that feeling that, like, I do deserve this, and I deserve to have a place in this world, and I do have this destiny that’s going to come more and more into play. And his humanity and his kindness will be less and less because it’s going to be the little cracks of it that we’ll witness, but it’s going to be his ego driving.
My idea from the beginning was not to make it so much of a Jekyll and Hyde but to have it as one steady transition throughout. So when we first see him again, he’s still changing.
He’s finding who he is now, and he’s feeling these feelings and not only this physical power that’s manifesting itself inside, but also these different feelings and still this kind of regret over the relationship with Rachel that he jeopardized by doing this, but also there’s this other thing of he’s becoming this person now that people are taking notice of and people are even afraid of.
That is quite intoxicating for him. As the journey progresses, we’re going to see that more and more come into play.
I have to ask, what was it like shooting the scene with Sebastian immersing himself in the blood?
It was intense. It was a pretty difficult scene to shoot because there were two different blood pools in reality—one with a green screen that was a lot deeper. And one on the set of the Temple of Azarath.
It was colored water in the set, but in the pool, the deep pool with the green screen there, it was like a kind of thick glucose liquid, which was incredibly buoyant. So it was really difficult to go below the surface.
I ended up having to hold a 40-pound dumbbell in each hand just to be heavy enough to sink underneath.
I had to be sewn into my costume, so it didn’t float up around my head as I went under. It was pretty, pretty taxing. But that was nothing compared to when I come out of the pool. So just wait for that because that was a whole other thing!
You’ve played some great villains throughout your career. I know Klaus pretty much started off as a villain when he was introduced on Season 2 of The Vampire Diaries, but we got to see a more human side to him as his arc developed. It’s quite the opposite of what we see with Sebastian/Brother Blood. What are your thoughts?
Like you say, I’ve had some success playing a relatable villain. So from the beginning with Sebastian, I knew that the key would be to make him, so he’s not just evil for evil’s sake. He’s got to have a motive, and he’s got to have conflict in there.
And that’s why it was integral for me from the get-go to show that he was kind and he was vulnerable and that he had this, you know, when he discovered this relationship with Rachel, that he really latched onto that and that became a very important thing for him.
I knew that also having had success in a show where family is the center of it, I knew that that relationship with Rachel would really provide that kind of drawback to his humanity. So there would be that conflict. Then when he got the power and got what he thought he always wanted, he was losing what he didn’t even know he wanted, so there’s a conflict there.
It was almost like playing Klaus for so many years was good research for playing this part. There was a lot that I was able to take from that, and to know that these are the important things that I think people will respond to and, I think for me, will allow me to ground this character in a reality that people will be empathetic too.
Mother Mayhem was the instrumental force in getting Sebastian to turn to the dark side. Could you speak a bit about their relationship when the series returns?
Be careful what you wish for because she’s been able to kind of manipulate and control him to a certain extent up until now. But as he gets more powerful and starts to question that dynamic, it’s no longer easy for her to control him. So it’s not like they just become this team united in like, “now we take out the Titans.”
It’s not that at all. There’s drama and conflict there between the two of them, and so that’s interesting moving forward. Certainly, that relationship has its kind of push and pull, and that’s an interesting part of the first few episodes after the break that we’re going to see that dynamic kind of play out because he needs to feel like he’s taking his own power.
He’s not going to feel that while he’s under her thumb or under her protection, and he also starts to question her motives.
Titans returns to HBO Max in 2023.
Paul Dailly is the Associate Editor for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.