The Shannara Chronicles, MTV's epic fantasy adventure series based on Terry Brooks' best-selling novels, tells the story of three young adults — Wil (Austin Butler), Amberle (Poppy Drayton) and Eretria (Ivana Banquero) — who embark on a life-changing mission to save their world, the Four Lands, from an army of demons threatening to break free from their prison in a mystical magical tree called the Ellcrys.
In the premiere (Tuesday at 10/9c), Wil discovers that he's the last of the Shannara bloodline — a magical group of elves with a history of being kings and warriors. From there he must learn to embrace his elf-human hybrid identity, man up and tap into his magic potential if he wants a chance at protecting Amberle and the world they live in. TVGuide.com chatted with Butler about bringing his character to life. See what he had to say below.
At what point did you realize the scope of this show and how huge it was going to be?
Butler: From reading the script, I had trepidation because how could you do something like this on television? It was always that fear of having bad TV CGI. Then they showed me the storyboards and the imagery that they were going to be working with. I started realizing this was going to be unlike anything I had seen on TV before. When I finally got to see the first two episodes, I was blown away by what they were able to accomplish.
Do you think he feels more conflicted about being half-human or half-elf?
Butler: The people that he grew up around the most were his mother and his uncle. They weren't elves. He didn't grow up in an elf community and the elves are the rulers. They are the ones that live in elaborate palaces. His dad, who was an elf, went crazy and died when Will was young.
At the beginning of the story he'd probably say he just wants to be a normal human because that's the environment he's in. If he didn't have the elf blood in him, if he didn't have that Shannara blood, he wouldn't have the power to help or be the hero.
Does that explain his connection to Amberle?
Butler: A lot of it stems from the fact that he wasn't able to help his mom. Now, he goes on this journey to become a healer and he wants some security to know he can protect the people closest to him. When he eventually meets Amberle and is told, "You have more power in you. You would have been able to heal your mom if you had known how to unlock the magic within." That is a big thing that derails him and causes him to figure out what this is inside of him. Once he meets Amberle, he has that sense for her and wants to protect her to the best of his ability.
What is the biggest difference between Wil at the start of this story and where he ends up at the end of Season 1?
Butler: As the show progresses, he becomes less and less reluctant and realizes the depths of the darkness that is invading the world. Throughout there's a sense of fear that he's not enough to accomplish to this. He's not enough to save Amberle. He's not enough to save the world. There is that constant kind of battle within him, but I love seeing him grow and realize that he has more power in him than he originally thought.
In the beginning, he has no faith in magic. He's got no street smarts. Then he traverses the country and has to find within himself this hero. I think the biggest change is that within him, that sense of realizing that he can step up to the challenge. He grows into a man in the course of the season.
There's a bit of a love triangle between Will, Amberle and Eritria. How does that develop over the course of the season?
Butler: That's kind of the back and the forth of the entire season. Both girls are amazing in their own right and women are kind of confusing to [Wil]. They are confusing in general, but when he's trying to save the world in the midst of that it adds to a lot of drama.
Are you ready for the 'ship wars that are going to take place once people get to see the show?
Butler: That's awesome. I can't wait to see what happens. I don't think I should say which one [he should end up with]. At the center, he's trying to just save the world, but love is a different animal. It's a confusing thing sometimes.
The Shannara Chronicles premieres Jan. 5 at 10/9c on MTV.