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Atlantis Puts a New Face on the Gorgon Medusa

Don't avert your eyes! Atlantis' version of Medusa won't turn you into stone ... yet.

Hanh Nguyen

Don't avert your eyes! Atlantis' version of Medusa won't turn you into stone ... yet.
On the new BBC America fantasy series, airing Saturdays at 9/8c, Jason (Jack Donnelly) and his pals stumble into their next adventure when an elderly man asks for their help to find his missing daughter. Unfortunately, they discover that she's been taken as an offering to the god Dionysus (again with the human sacrifices!). During this race against the clock to save her, Jason encounters a nice young lady named Medusa (Jemima Rooper).
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That's right. If Hercules (Mark Addy) can be fat and cowardly and Pythagoras (Robert Emms) not-yet wise, then Atlantis has license to wave its magic wand to pretty up Medusa. For those unfamiliar with the Greek tale, Medusa was a monster known as a Gorgon, who had a snake-filled hairdo and was so hideous that gazing upon her would turn you to stone. Some alternate versions of the story say that she was originally a beautiful young woman who was then cursed into becoming this monster by a jealous Athena.
"I thought I knew what I was going to get," Rooper tells TVGuide.com about trying out for the part of Medusa. "I thought, 'Brilliant. Great, she's a villain,' because that name conjures up immediately this Gorgon monster. But when I opened [the script] up, I got a big surprise. She's really lovely and nice."
Although Rooper doesn't have to wear the traditional snakes in her hair, she still needs to wear a wig. "Normally when I go out for castings, I would always grow my hair out for my job because I had been playing men or lesbians or whatever," she says. "My wig is spectacular. I love it. It's so nice to be able to get on a set and transform with these beautiful, lovely long plaits of hair."
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That bit of glamour aside, the rest of Medusa's appearance is rather plain and practical. "We're all covered in dust and sweaty. I'm not wearing makeup," Rooper explains. "I also had a lovely little sack to wear. It's very real and that was very important if you're dealing with a character that's this big, iconic monster and showing how a real person can become like this. It's kind of like laying the foundations."
Although the producers wouldn't reveal if we'd see her change into a monster this season, unfortunately, Medusa's story is just a Greek tragedy waiting to happen. Even more heartbreaking is the possibility that one of her newfound friends may have to turn on her in the end. According to the myth, she's ultimately killed by Perseus, a Greek hero who is one of the inspirations for the character Jason.
"It's a slow burn when she comes into the world of Atlantis and meets the three protagonists and becomes involved in their lives," Rooper says. "They form friendships, and there's a romance with one of them. Their lives are blossoming together. But you know that, ultimately, this is all going to be changed when she changes. But how she becomes the Medusa of myth is the question."
Check out a preview of the all-new Atlantis, which airs Saturday at 9/8c on BBC America: