"... I'll be at a party talking to people and I can see their eyes glazing over!"
— Peter Wingfield in Cult Times, March 1998

Wingfield Dr Helm

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New Highlander

"Live Forever"
by David Bassom
Cult Times
March 1998

Half of Peter Wingfield's face

After 5,000 years of Immortal combat, the battle may not be over yet for Highlander's Peter Wingfield

Just before Christmas last year, the cast and crew of Highlander: The Series were finishing the shooting the show's sixth and final season. According to Peter Wingfield, who plays the series' oldest living Immortal, Methos, it was a sad yet highly satisfying moment for everyone involved with the production.

"It was kind of strange really," the British actor explains. "There was very much a sense of completion; of things being brought to an end. There was a kind of sign-off and a feeling that the entire story has been finished."

Despite the closure at the end, however, Highlander's sixth series won't mark the end of the Immortals' battle for supremacy. A fourth Highlander movie is due to begin shooting later this year, which promises to take the adventures of Duncan MacLeod (Adrian Paul) to the big screen. Although it would only seem natural that MacLeod will be joined by the TV show's other leading characters, namely Joe Dawson (Jim Byrnes) and Methos, Wingfield is far from confident that he will be asked to reprise his role in the film.

"At the moment, it's unclear what's going on," he elaborates. "We know that Adrian and Christopher Lambert [Connor Macleod in the Highlander movies] are doing it, and the idea of the film, as I understand it, is to try and tie-in the TV series and the film series. However, I don't believe they have a script yet.

"There have been suggestions that maybe Jim Byrnes and I might be involved in some way, but I believe these things when I go to the theatre and see the finished product!" he laughs. "That's when I'll believe I'm in the movie!"

While the actor is obviously being careful not to get his hopes up about the prospect of appearing in Highlander 4, Wingfield does admit that he would love to be part of the film. "It would be nice to spend a little more time telling the story," he remarks. "Over the past few years, there have been some fabulous scripts on the show — we've had some tremendous stories that could have been movies themselves. I'm particularly thinking of the "Comes a Horseman/Revelations" two-parter. That would have made a great feature.

"It's kind of frustrating to have such potentially good work and then have to rush it through at the same pace that you're doing all the other episodes. So yeah, it would be lovely to do a feature and have a little more time to get the work more detailed and just be happier about the finished product."

Wingfield is rather less enamoured by the idea of playing a regular role in the proposed Highlander spin-off series, which would follow the adventures of a female Immortal. "I would certainly consider it," he clarifies.

Methos in "Revelation 6:8"

"But I do have a sense that it may be time to move on. And I don't think that I'm alone in that.

"I think that's true of the writers, the editors and everyone working on Highlander, because of the sense of completion and the end of Adrian's contribution to the show."

Of course, the launch of Highlander 4 and the spin-off series are both a long way off. At the moment, most of the Fantasy franchise's fans are engrossed in the show's final season, which is airing on Sky One. When asked to preview the series' last episodes, Peter Wingfield immediately warns that viewers shouldn't expect to see much of Methos this year.

"I'm in the title sequence, but I'm not in any episodes until the end," he explains. During the filming of the early episodes, I was in England working on [ITV veterinary drama] Noah's Ark, so I'm only in the final three episodes. In the States, my fan club have been inundated by people writing in and asking, 'He's in the title sequence but he's not in the episodes — What's going on?'"

One of the most interesting (and most controversial) thing about Highlander's sixth season is that it features the introduction of a number of female Immortals, who are being considered for the lead role in the proposed spin-off show.

"There really is a different feel to the season because there are several episodes where Adrian is not the main character," Wingfield notes. "And I don't think that's enormously successful. It will be interesting to see what the fans' reaction to it is. There's one episode in particular that Adrian isn't in it, Jim's not in it, I'm not in it and Lizzy Gracen [alias Immortal cat burglar Amanda] isn't in it — so it really feels like different show."

Fortunately, Wingfield has no such concerns about the last three episodes of the series, which successfully focus on its main characters and end Highlander's six-year run on a suitably high note. "I think my first episode of the season ["Indiscretions"] is a s really nice show," he reveals. "Joe and Methos are kind of on a road trip and I think it's going to be terrific. It's a bit like Thelma and Louise and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and from what I've seen of the show, there are some genuinely funny bits in it."

"The final two episodes ["To Be" and "Not to Be"] form a single story which Methos is significantly involved in... There was a huge struggle with those episodes to really find a way of tying it all together, and also for it to a be a satisfying end to the series. And the producers tried several different endings before they got the one we now have, which I think is very good, very moving."

Methos's presence in the closing episodes of Highlander demonstrates the character's importance to the show. Yet Peter Wingfield still finds it hard to believe that he has become such an integral part of the series. When the actor originally landed the role, he only expected to appear in one episode (Season Three's "Methos") and thought he was going to spend the sum total of four days working on the show!

"It just could not possibly have crossed my mind at the time I auditioned that it could turn into this. The idea that playing a character in one episode of some show I've never seen was not only going to become a semi-regular job, but in the longer term, generate a personal fan club on the other side of the world is just fantasy stuff! My fan club now has members throughout the world — I'm doing a convention in Australia later in the year. And that to me is really mind blowing!"

As far as Wingfield is concerned, the reasons for Methos' tremendous popularity seem quite obvious. "I think it's a fundamentally good idea to have the oldest guy in the world played by somebody who is not in his sixties with a grey beard — someone who doesn't look a bit like the Biblical images of God. And it's a really nice idea that someone who has survived for 5,000 years wouldn't actually have much more knowledge than any of us about the big question of whether or not there is life after death.

"It's also interesting that the key to the character's survival is his ability to blend-in, rather than him being the best fighter in 5,000 years. The notion that someone could keep fighting for all those years and always win seems kind of implausible to me. Having someone who, through wit and blending-in and avoiding combat, has managed to stay alive seems much more plausible. At heart, it's the right idea, the right direction."

Another important element of the character's appeal is undoubtedly the sense of mystery which surrounds him. Whereas MacLeod's background and motivation are always clear in the series, much of Methos's personal history is unknown, and his actions are always open to interpretation. Even at the close of the series, Methos's true nature remains unclear.

"He's very cautious about what he reveals," Wingfield says. "But I like the fact that there's still that uncertainty about whether he is a good guy or not.

Methos receives a quickening

"He could be very manipulative — a complete charlatan, trying to manoeuvre everyone into a situation where he can suddenly chop all their heads off and be the only left!

"I don't think that's true, but it is possible — whenever I look at the scripts, I can see that could be there.

"My feeling about him is that he's not a man of constancy. Sometimes he's a good guy and sometimes he isn't. Sometimes he's a good guy in spite of himself; sometimes he really doesn't want to be a good guy but still is, and regrets it afterwards. And other times he's a bad guy in exactly the same way — he doesn't want to be but his appetite and his desires just take him over. I think that's great, it seems very human to me."

Methos's popularity didn't go unnoticed by Highlander's producers. When they originally began discussing the possibly of making a spin-off series a couple of years ago, one of their first ideas was to create a show based on the ancient Immortal, which was reportedly entitled The Methos Chronicles. Although the concept was eventually shelved in favour of a female-led spin-off ( la Xena: Warrior Princess), Wingfield found their earlier idea intriguing.

"There certainly was talk of a show in which Joe Dawson and the Watchers would tell Methos's story," he confirms, "or Methos would tell stories about other Immortals that he knew of or had met. Instead of one character being the focus of the show, like Adrian has been for the past six years, the series would have lots of different characters who came in for one or two episodes, while Methos and Joe would hold the show together and keep the connection with the Highlander series."

Wingfield admits to being a tough critic of his own work, and carefully studies all of his screen appearances in an effort to hone his trade. Reviewing his contribution to Highlander, the actor feels satisfied with a select number of Methos's outings. "There are bits of 'Comes a Horseman' and 'Revelations' I'm very proud of," he says. "I also liked the 'Methuselah's Gift' episode very much, and I though I had some nice stuff with Ocean Hellman [Methos's mortal love interest, Alexa Bond] in 'Timeless'... I'm also very pleased with the episode near the end with Jim ["Indiscretions"], because I think it's genuinely funny."

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, with Peter Wingfield as Death...

While Highlander has established Wingfield as something of an international celebrity, he is rarely recognized as the man behind Methos in his native Britain. Here in Blighty, the actor is more widely known for his work on Noah's Ark, Soldier, Soldier and the legendary BBC radio drama, The Archers!

"I have this weird thing in England where I'll be at a party talking to people and I can see their eyes glazing over!" he laughs.

"At first, I couldn't understand what was happening, but then I realized people were recognizing my voice [from The Archers], and they didn't know my face! I can now spot an Archers fan straight away."

Recording The Archers -- something else that's had a very long life

With his work on Highlander complete, Wingfield is currently pursuing guest-starring roles in a numberof Vancouver-based TV series, such as Millennium and Poltergeist: The Legacy. The actor is also in the process of developing two film projects, which he hopes will enter production within the next two to three years.

Regardless of whether or not he does get the opportunity to play Methos once again, Peter Wingfield has nothing but fond memories of his time on Highlander: The Series. One of the things he will miss most about working on the show is the genuine sense of camaraderie which characterized the production.

"It was great," he states, "and I suspect it will not be created again. It was a balance of people — from the writers, producers and directors right through to the cast — who liked each other and respected each other, and allowed each other a freedom whereby the whole thing could live.

"We would take the words for the scene and from that we had the essence of what was going on. But within that, we allowed each other to play. The directors wouldn't get upset about us not staying in the same places every time, the writers wouldn't mind if we didn't say exactly what was on the page. We could take things in a direction of our choosing. A lot of the time we'd go down a dead end, but occasionally we'd hit upon something that really worked.

"That was tremendously exciting. It was a wonderful environment, and I suspect we all will miss it."

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