TV Equals had a chance to talk to the intensely charming Ellen about her new character, the grueling preparation she had to go through, the “liberties” she took on set and how she wants to do some “dirty jobs”.
Check out what she had to say below and don’t miss Ellen in her first appearance as Saxa in the upcoming Spartacus Vengeance episode “Sacramentum” airing tomorrow Friday March 8 2012 at 10 pm.
How did the opportunity to play Saxa come about for you?
Ellen Hollman: Just like anyone else, there’s always the auditioning process especially for a character as particular as Saxa because she’s not just a female German warrior. There’s that description alone which is physically demanding, but she’s also fluent in German.
And you are?
Ellen Hollman: Yes, and she speaks German the entire time. Those two particular things, not like I’m a warrior on the street of Los Angeles or anything, but I do have a history of doing fight sequences and I do speak German. That was actually my minor in college. I was going to do international business marketing, a minor in German. How I ended up running around in a loin cloth killing Romans don’t ask me.
This is a very physical role, but you also have to picture yourself in this new place as the character. How did you approach the whole thing?
Ellen Hollman: Well, I watched every single episode of ‘Spartacus’ that was available to me and it did help to read the episodes that were a precursor to when I first arrived. I was the new kid on the block essentially and everyone was so immersed in this world to begin with. You walk on set and you see hundreds of people dressed as Romans, gladiators.
We had built five different studios for shooting. We’ve built forts. We’ve built ships. We’ve built mountains. We’ve built obviously the Ludus of Batiatus. You can’t help but immerse yourself in that entire world and it was actually a pretty seamless transition. I spent a hell of a lot of time in gladiator boot-camp house of pain which is where they turn the girls into women and the boys into men. Or they turn everyone into girls, crying and going home because you can’t hack it. That definitely helps.
Katrina Law mentioned the Circle of Death to me. How did you feel about that?
Ellen Hollman: The Circle of Death and I have been getting along so far. Ask me again in six weeks when they ship me out there though.
The physical preparation is intense then?
Ellen Hollman: Yes, and I had about four weeks to prepare before I moved out to New Zealand. So, I just hit the ground running with personal training sessions, boxing, big runs, just everything imaginable and that still doesn’t prepare you for the, essentially, fourteen hour days. I would wake up at three thirty in the morning, turn up on set by four thirty and wouldn’t leave set until about seven o’clock. Then you go into training and choreography. For a female to have such a physical role, it’s keeping up, maintaining that I’m a warrior.
Characters such as Katrina Law and Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Naevia and Mira, they were formerly slaves. So, if their technique isn’t perfect and if it’s more.they’re slaves who were given weapons and so you don’t expect a lot from them. They blow everyone way though. They were definitely extremely supportive and amazing women to look up to. They just welcomed me with open arms, and they were like, ‘If it ever gets to intense for you just let us know,’ because they were shooting and I would be in boot-camp all day long with the guys. So, they were like, ‘Lets us know if you need any female energy,’ because I’d just be immersed by all those sweaty boys all day long.
Can you tease some of her storyline over the season?
Ellen Hollman: Without getting my head hacked off with the knife, towards the end of the season I would ever dare to say some of the biggest battles scenes that you’ll ever see in television. It was like shooting ’300′ every week, just the size of these battles alone will make you jaw drop on the ground. Saxa is among the gladiators on the battlefield.
You’ll see Oenomaus hack some guys to pieces and then you’ll see Crixus take a guy out and then you’ll Spartacus save someone and then you’ll see Saxa borderline decapitating somebody. So, I’m right there on the frontlines every single time. She’s a frontline kind of warrior. She’s a warrior. She’s not a slave that picks them apart after they’ve already been handled. She’s right there on the frontline next to Oenomaus every time she can.
I’d imagine this would be fun if you had any anger you needed to work out
Ellen Hollman: Oh, trust me, I was going through a pretty bad breakup and it worked out beautifully. Ladies, it’s better than therapy. Kill some Romans. It’s like, ‘Wait until you ex sees this, right?’
Katrina also mentioned a very interesting scene with some kissing.
Ellen Hollman: Yeah, Saxa may or may not have taken a liberty with that particular scene.
Is it Saxa?
Ellen Hollman: I channel her. I really sometimes have no control over her tendencies.
It’s just a character and you’re in it.
Ellen Hollman: I’m in it to win it, honey.
She mentioned that you were a good kisser.
Ellen Hollman: I’ve had some practice. She surprised me with how great she was, too. Usually those slave girls are little prudes.
What was the funniest moment for you?
Ellen Hollman: Well, I was going to say that the moment Mira and Saxa had, because we didn’t tell anybody about it. We didn’t tell anybody about our moment, and so when we just did it on set they thought that it was Ellen and Katrina going for it, like we got locked in the moment of it or something. I’d just met Kat. Actually, we met back in the states, but we didn’t know each other for very long. So, of course there was a discussion beforehand. I was like, ‘Hey, how do you feel about Saxa basically manhandling you?’ She was like, ‘Hell, for sure. Lets just go for it.’
Not that we practiced or anything, but we definitely planned it out. I showed her how I was going to grab her face and asked, ‘Is this too rough for you?’ I wanted to make sure that I didn’t rough her up too much. But of course on the day when we did it in front of everyone, especially the boys, I mean their jaws were on the ground. Keep in mind this was one of my first scenes, one of the first scenes that I have. So, everyone was like, ‘Who is this Hurricane Saxa that’s manhandling our lead actress?’ It was hilarious. They were like, ‘We didn’t quite get that in close-ups. We’re going to have to do that a few times just to make sure that we have it covered.’ We were like, ‘Uh huh.’
What was the toughest moment for you?
Ellen Hollman: When you’re just getting to that fifth day of the week, going fourteen hours a day and you’re covered in real time with scrapes, bruises. Your body is so exhausted from repeating the same fight sequence over and over and over and you take some real hits. You’re on a battlefield with essentially hundreds of people and you’re going to get hurt.
My character has reverse grip double daggers, and basically the saying is that if you’re a knife fight you’re going to get cut. That’s just how it’s going to happen, and I actually named all my battle wounds, my real life battle wounds, after the stunt guys. Like, ‘Oh, yeah, Phillipe gave me that one. Alex gave me that one and Ben gave me that one.’ Keep in mind, they’re covered head to toe in armor and I’m wearing a ‘Barbarella’ outfit. So, I was getting my ass kicked, but the thing is that come Monday I would always ask for more. Definitely the biggest challenge is the physicality.
What was the most surprising moment for you?
Ellen Hollman: Actually, the most surprising moment is how quickly I was able to adapt to the choreography because I’ve never worked with weapons, with swords and knives before. Just guns actually, fighting, a combat sort of thing. To put a sword in your hand, or knives, it’s heavy first of all. It’s heavy and there’s a whole technique to it. It’s a completely different world foreign to me. By basically eating, sleeping and breathing knife fighting it’s amazing how your body starts to get it and it becomes secondhand reaction.
It actually got to the point where at the end of episode nine and ten they allowed me to choreograph my own stuff. I felt like I was in ‘Rocky’ when The Eye of The Tiger starts playing and it’s like a montage and all of a sudden I know how to use reverse grip double daggers. They would put me in major scenes behind the main characters and allow me to choreography my own stuff. They gave me some pretty challenging things, like jumping ten feet off of a mountain onto a shield and doing a front flip off of it into a fight, these very complicated things.
They were like, ‘Hollman, give me a sixty. We’re shooting in thirty seconds.’ It’s like go big or go home. It became second hand, and you feel like you’re a superhero, like, ‘I don’t know what just inhabited my body, but I hope it doesn’t go away by the end of this turnaround because I need the continuity.’
Do you have any upcoming projects that you can talk about?
Ellen Hollman: Yes, actually, one of I’m very proud of and excited about a movie which is at the Berlin Film Festival as we speak is called ‘True Love.’ It’s a Fabio [Resinaro] and Fabio [Guaglione], the creators are both named Fabio. Isn’t that hilarious?
It’s directed by Enrico Clerico Nasino. It’s basically a really intense thriller. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s like this ethereal, dreamlike film. I’m extremely proud of it because it definitely shows a different kind of chops in that. That’s on the cusp of being released.
And if you could guest star on any other TV show which one would it be?
Ellen Hollman: This is going to be an unexpected answer, but I would love to accompany Mike Rowe on ‘Dirty Jobs.’
Really? That’s exciting.
Ellen Hollman: Oh, yeah. He’s my Hollywood crush. I would carry a bag of snakes for that man any day.
We need to make this happen.
Ellen Hollman: Oh, my God. He’s my biggest crush. I would climb through a sewer for him. I’d do anything for that man.