Press/Interview: Charlie reflects on his most iconic role and the long road to Apple TV+ epic Shantaram

Press/Interview: Charlie reflects on his most iconic role and the long road to Apple TV+ epic Shantaram — Nearly 25 years after his groundbreaking debut in Queer as Folk, Charlie Hunnam’s zeal for stories that seek to understand the human condition hasn’t wavered. He’s here to talk about his new series Shantaram, an Apple TV+ crime epic set in India, which the Sons of Anarchy star has long had his eyes on.

Based on a partly-fictional 936 page novel by Gregory David Roberts that spans continents, heroin addiction and arms smuggling for mujahideen freedom fighters, Shantaram has been a hot Hollywood property since its publication in 2003. Warner Bros splashed out $2m for the film rights, with Johnny Depp set to star as Lin, an Australian bank robber who breaks out of prison and flees to India. But that didn’t materialise, with Hunnam watching from the sidelines as others attempted to bring his dream project to life for two decades.

“It was always clear why this was an impossible task to adapt for film,” he says of the attempts to squeeze the expansive narrative into just two hours. But then streaming disrupted the film and TV industry as we once knew it, with enormous corporations such as Apple (who has funded the first season to the tune of $100m) wanting in on the entertainment boom.

Reflecting on the shifting industry economics that eventually made it possible to make Shantaram, Hunnam says: “It’s such an odyssey and in a film-centric world, I don’t think it was possible. By the time we nabbed the rights, we were in the golden age of television.”

Hunnam describes himself as an actor willing to give himself over entirely to his director and loves nothing more than immersing himself in the inner lives of his characters. “I was possessed by this material,” he says of Lin, who has seen hell but remains hopeful. Due to a COVID-enforced shutdown and a change in showrunner as a result of creative differences between Eric Singer and Apple, Hunnam was given the time and space to interrogate how he wanted to approach the character.

“I had this very powerful conviction that he needed to be a regular guy who had made a mistake that was going to dictate the next decade of his life,” he says. “In the beginning, I wanted him to be stripped down and naked. There were others who wanted to bring elements from later in the novel to earlier in the show, but I rejected that violently because it felt right to me to go on a journey.”

Hunnam remains committed to his vision for Lin but isn’t so sure it will work for everyone: “Whether or not my conviction was right, I don’t know. But it was right for me.” Continue reading Press/Interview: Charlie reflects on his most iconic role and the long road to Apple TV+ epic Shantaram

Press/Interview: Charlie Hunnam wanted to produce ‘Shantaram’ more than he wanted to star in it

Press/Interview: Charlie Hunnam wanted to produce ‘Shantaram’ more than he wanted to star in it

“I didn’t feel necessarily as though this is my role and I’m the only one who can play it, by any means.” — Years ago while on vacation in Thailand, Charlie Hunnam read Shantaram, the 2003 international best-selling novel from Australian author Gregory David Roberts. And ever since he finished it, he couldn’t stop thinking about it. He had “devoured” the 900 page book and couldn’t put it down — much to the detriment of the partner he was on vacation with — and knew it deserved to be brought to life onscreen. He felt passionately about producing a TV adaptation of it, but he ultimately had to wait a long time until the rights became available (a film version of Shantaram had been in the works for years from producer Johnny Depp).

“A couple of years later, they admitted defeat with that process — I think because of the length and complexity of the story, it’s really impossible to distill it down to two hours,” Hunnam tells EW. “After many, many noble attempts, Warner Brothers threw in the hat and the rights became available again, so the dream became alive again and here we are.”

Shantaram tells the story of fugitive Lin Ford’s (Hunnam) adventures in 1980s Bombay after escaping prison. Alone in an unfamiliar city, he falls for an enigmatic and intriguing woman while on the run from his past, and soon must choose between freedom or love, and the complications that come with it. Hunnam fell in love with the “magnificently written text” but admits that he didn’t expect — or even want — to play the lead role in the AppleTV+ series, preferring to stay behind the camera in a producer role until he ultimately decided to portray Lin later in the development process.

“I have a very not fully formed but kind of a philosophical view of these things, that ultimately stories want to get told, and they can get told at different times with different people,” Hunnam says. “I didn’t feel necessarily as though this is my role and I’m the only one who can play it, by any means. It’s an amazing role and an amazing story, and there were a lot of people that would have done a splendid job, but I felt very grateful and fortunate that I got to bring it to life.”

The first three episodes of Shantaram premiere Oct. 14 on Apple TV+ before moving to a weekly release through Dec. 16.

Press/Interview: Charlie Hunnam Talks Changing His Hair and Beard for ‘Shantaram’ : ‘I Like the Man Bun!’

Press/Interview: Charlie Hunnam Talks Changing His Hair and Beard for ‘Shantaram’ : ‘I Like the Man Bun!’

The English actor, 42, may have kept the bun style for his new role, but he isn’t a big fan of wearing his long hair down — Charlie Hunnam may not be the biggest fan of long hair, but his beloved man bun still holds a special place in his heart.

The English actor, 42, opened up to PEOPLE about his most recent look, which came as a result of both the pandemic and as a part of his latest role in Shantaram. As Hunnam explains, he grew his hair out for two years, and decided to film with the look that best represent his character of Lin Ford, an Australian prison escapee who’s living a double life in 1980s Bombay throughout the Apple TV+ series. That look, he says, also required him to do away with his go-to beard.

“The bigger sacrifice for me was shaving my beard because this is my protection and I like looking at myself in the mirror more with the beard,” Hunmann says. “But I had a really strong conviction that Lin had to be sort of naked and stripped down to nothing when he arrived. I didn’t want to hide behind a beard or feel more handsome than I do without a beard. That was a very specific choice that I made.”

While Hunnam has grown accustomed to the man bun look, which sees its TV debut on Oct. 14 to kick off the 12-episode series, he’s also learned a thing or two about styling his long hair. Wearing it down is simply not an option, Hunnam explains.

“I look at Japanese culture, which I’m a big fan of, and I think those dudes, through the way they shape their hair and style their hair, is about the coolest look on the planet,” he says. “So I’m not at all mad at the man bun, but I’m very reluctant ever to wear it down.”

Shantaram, which is based on Gregory David Roberts’ international bestseller, allowed the actor to film in India, Thailand and Australia during the height of the pandemic. In the series, the Sons of Anarchy alum’s latest character runs a local health clinic while he’s in cahoots with the mafia in Bombay.

When it comes to his character, there’s not much more than hair styles that connects the two. Hunnam tells PEOPLE that he’s able to live out most of his “fantasies and desire for life” through his acting work, but his real life doesn’t see as much adventure as that of the fictional character of Lin.

“I’m much less adventurous in my regular life,” he says. “I spend about 10 months of the year on the road working, so when I’m not working, I tend to just want to be home with my lady.” His “lady,” Morgana McNelis, has been with him for over 15 years and Hunnam considers himself already married to her. The jewelry designer keeps a relatively low profile, and bought a ranch in California with her partner back in 2013.

Arriving this week, Shantaram is written and executive produced by showrunner Steve Lightfoot. Apple TV+ won the rights to adapt the novel in a 2018 bidding war. In the series Hunnam’s character of Lin is “committed to living under the radar and alone — a lifestyle that allows him to hold onto his freedom,” a description of the series reads. He eventually meets a woman named Karla, played by Antonia Desplat, and begins to weigh love and freedom.

“The book is a very rich exploration of the nature of faith, belief and how that informs us. I think within that, there’s a deep exploration of duality within the human condition of light and dark and how we navigate or surrender to one at the expense of the other,” Hunnam says. “That was the central theme that I was most excited to explore in Shantaram — this bigger idea percolating through the whole thing: what does all of this mean?”

Press/Interview: Charlie Hunnam on Shantaram Illness, “Destroying” Back for Rebel Moon

Press/Interview: Charlie Hunnam on Shantaram Illness, “Destroying” Back for Rebel Moon — “I feel good,” Charlie Hunnam said with a smile (and an asterisk) upon hitting the red carpet Monday night outside Westwood’s Bruin Theater, host of the world premiere of his new Apple TV+ series Shantaram.

The asterisk is necessary because Hunnam’s emotional state is understandably layered, especially on the eve of this long-gestating series based on Gregory David Robert’s 2003 blockbuster novel finally being seen by the world. Shantaram casts Hunnam as the lead, Lin Ford, an on-the-run fugitive who escapes to Bombay, India, where he gets lost among the city’s vibrant characters in the often mysterious and seedy underbelly.

“When I wrap and the job’s over, I’ve already gone through the highs and the lows,” Hunnam explained to The Hollywood Reporter about the series, produced for the streamer by Paramount Television Studios and Anonymous Content’s AC Studios. “I’ve already judged it on what we did well and what we didn’t do well so it’s sort of surreal to finally be here because I’ve been so deep in this for so long that I don’t know how to feel. I actually feel numb tonight, maybe somewhat unemotional.”

He was quick to clarify: “I am excited for the world to see it but after seven years, I suppose I’m saying that it’s more personal to me than sharing it with the outside world and I suppose it all hasn’t really sunk in yet.”

He has a few more days to process. Shantaram will make its global debut on Apple TV+ with the drop of the first three episodes of its 12-episode first season on Oct. 14. A new episode will then roll out weekly through Dec. 16. Steve Lightfoot leads the charge as co-creator, writer and executive producer alongside executive producers Nicole Clemens, Andrea Barron, Justin Kurzel and the late Steve Golin. Eric Warren Singer, who was previously attached as creator and showrunner before Lightfoot took over, also receives an executive producer credit.

A novel-length text would be required to detail the backstory of bringing Shantaram to the screen. Over the years, everyone from Johnny Depp and Joel Edgerton to filmmakers Peter Weir and Mira Nair were attached for a feature film version. Then, in 2018, Paramount and Anonymous snapped up adaptation rights once they became available, setting Singer and director Justin Kurzel to spearhead the series starring Hunnam. However, after two episodes were shot, the show went on hiatus and Singer was replaced by Lightfoot in a complete creative overhaul.

Hunnam says the richness of Roberts’ storytelling has made it such a hot commodity. “It’s an extraordinary journey of a man who goes through darkness to find light, and there’s action, adventure, romance and the exciting foreign nature of the environments,” says the actor, who hasn’t starred in a TV series since Sons of Anarchy. “All of the things [Shantaram] surfaced are the same things that I found compelling to investigate in my own life. When I first read this book, I was thinking a huge amount about God, about philosophy and psychology and about my experience in the world. These are all subjects that Greg writes about and he really swings for the fences. He not only tasked himself with telling an extraordinary story and delivering compelling drama as the story goes along, but he also tasked himself with figuring out the meaning of life through this text, you know? What is the nature of God? If God does exist, what is God?”
Continue reading Press/Interview: Charlie Hunnam on Shantaram Illness, “Destroying” Back for Rebel Moon

Press/Interview: Charlie Hunnam Teases Possible ‘Sons of Anarchy’ Revival as Jax Teller

Press/Interview: Charlie Hunnam Teases Possible ‘Sons of Anarchy’ Revival as Jax Teller — Charlie Hunnam’s toying with the idea of life after death when it comes to the dangerously smart character he played in all seven seasons of Sons of Anarchy.

During the Los Angeles premiere for his new AppleTV+ series Shantaram, the ridiculously handsome 42-year-old actor opened up to ET’s Will Marfugi a bit — keyword, a bit — about the possible revival of Jackson “Jax” Teller in some way, shape or form. He recently said as much, and he acknowledged that speaking about it caused quite the commotion.

“Oh, did that get a little bit of traction,” quipped Hunnam. But when pressed on whether there’s a concrete idea or if reprising his role as Jax will come in a series or film, Hunnam played coy.

“I can’t, I can’t tell you. No, no,” said Hunnam with a bit of a grin on his face. “There’s nothing I can say at all, other than if it happens, it’ll happen.”

For what it’s worth, Hunnam says he still has one of the motorcycles he rode all those years on the hit FX show, which aired 92 episodes from 2008 to 2014.

“I have one of the Sons of Anarchy bikes,” Hunnam said. “I rode so hard for so long over that 10, 12-year period that I was riding all the time. I had a couple of close calls, and I just got a niggling voice in the back of my head saying, ‘Just take it easy for a minute,’ ya know? So, I put about five years where I’ve been riding so much but I’m starting to feel the urge to get back on the bike.” Continue reading Press/Interview: Charlie Hunnam Teases Possible ‘Sons of Anarchy’ Revival as Jax Teller