The Borgias Exclusive: David Oakes on Juan Borgia's Rise and Fall
"The last thing I did on The Borgias, was literally throw myself off a bridge," David Oakes reminisced on Monday afternoon. One of the stars of the Showtime series, Oakes' run as troublesome brother Juan Borgia was fantastic, but it sadly came to an end with the character's inevitable death on Sunday's penultimate episode of the year.
It was a moment that Oakes knew was coming. "I always knew I was going to die in season two," he said. "That was never in doubt, but I didn't know when I was going to die." After Juan's failure at Forli, and his subsequent syphilis, gangrenous leg, and opium addiction, everyone saw this character's end in sight. As Oakes says, "There really wasn't much keeping him alive."
That is truly sad, because Juan Borgia was an extremely compelling character over the past two years. Oakes was brilliant at playing both the on-top-of-the-world leader of the Papal armies, and also the down-on-his-luck coward.
"I enjoyed the contrast," Oakes told me. "You got this wonderful meeting between what [creator] Neil Jordan wanted initially for Juan to be, and what they ended up with having cast me in the role. I was always trying to show Neil that behind the arrogance and uselessness, there sort of was this true human being that desired to impress people. Towards the end you ended up with this great, great clash of the two."
As good as Oakes has been, the series excelled exponentially when he and Francois Arnaud were on screen together. When I asked Oakes if being killed by Arnaud's Cesare - and the constant confrontation between the two brothers - caused him any grief, Oakes responded by saying, "He always had the writing on his side.
"He always got to be noble and cool," Oakes continued. "He got all the ladies, while I was written as a dweeb, and a coward. I had to run away all the time. I mean, who runs away from two wars? What a coward."
Juan may have been a coward, but his cowardice will be missed by many viewers of The Borgias. Although he won't be in this Sunday's season finale, Oakes assured me that "They wouldn't have killed Juan off in episode nine if there wasn't something big in episode ten. The climax is great, it wraps up a bit more, and it leaves the next season very open."
What will that third season be like without David Oakes as Juan Borgia? I don't think its a coincidence that his increased role has coincided perfectly with the high level of quality in season two, but the series certainly has room to grow.
Oakes went on to make a very interesting point about next year's run. "Not only is Juan gone, but pretty much every single antagonist has been killed off." There are very few left, and without Juan in the picture, the internal Borgia struggle should subside as well. As Oakes stated, "He stopped the family being perfect. With the lack of Juan, it's going to be a very different show."
Now that his time on The Borgias is over, David Oakes isn't quite sure what he'll be doing next. Many are telling him to do Game of Thrones to continue his superior swordsmanship, but he told me that for the time being "It's going to be nice to not be perceived as the coward opium addict."
Catch the season finale of The Borgias Sunday night at 10:00 p.m. on Showtime. Be sure to return to TV Fanatic later in the week for a preview of what's to come in my exclusive interview with Francois Arnaud.
Dan Forcella is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.