After three seasons playing Robin Hood on Once Upon A Time, Sean Maguire leapt at the opportunity to check another British legend off his list: He’s guest starring in tonight’s episode of NBC’s time-travel drama Timeless as James Bond creator and one-time spy Ian Fleming.
“Bullets have left guns slower than I replied,” jokes Maguire. “It was an absolute no-brainer. I probably would have done it sight unseen but once I read the script Jim Barnes wrote I was like ‘Wow, not only have they made this fun and given Fleming that sort of essence of Bond so we could kind of see where the Bond character might have come from, but it just tied up brilliantly and it’s a really great episode of television.’”
In Monday night’s episode, “Party at Castle Varlar,” Fleming teams up with series regulars Abigail Spencer, Malcolm Barrett and Matt Linder to infiltrate a Nazi shindig in 1944 Germany. “They’re absolutely brilliant,” said Maguire of Timeless‘ trio of stars. “All smashing people, very very nice, but selfishly what’s more important is that they’re really good. You come onto a show you really hope you’re going to be surrounded by good actors and with this is these three are terrific, and just on top of that, really fun, it’s lovely to go on a show that’s in its first season and see people really enjoying what they’ve got.”
To prepare for the role, Maguire watched archival footage of Fleming interviews to get a feel for the famed author. He realized he was going to have to make some adjustments for his portrayal.
“One of the things I noticed — and I didn’t know this before — is that Fleming was incredibly upper class, so the way he spoke was almost like the royal family or something which is so untenable for an American audience that I had to bring him back a little bit. I think an American audience might mistake that upper-classness for not being very masculine, so I had to try and give him a little more bass than Fleming actually spoke with. I wasn’t trying to do a scholarly impression of Fleming, I had to make it work for what the producers wanted, which was kind of having James Bond in an episode of the show.”
Appearing on Timeless gave Maguire a chance to reflect on some of his favorite Bond movies (“I love loads of them, but Casino Royale changed the series for the better”) and also to weigh in on the greatest time travel stories ever told. “H.G. Wells ‘Time Machine’ is kind of the definitive time travel one,” said Maguire of the 1895 novel, “but to be honest Bob Gale and Bob Zemeckis probably wrote the definitive time travel movie series with the Back to the Future [movies]. I think they say Back to the Future is almost a perfect script, it just ties up so neatly that it’s going to be tough for anybody to make a time travel movie that outdoes that in my opinion.” (Timeless acknowledged the Zemeckis series in its third episode, when a character attempts to have a telegram sent in 1962 delivered 50 years in the future, saying it was worth a shot since it worked in Back to the Future 2.)
Before Timeless, Maguire was a regular on Once Upon A Time as Robin Hood before being killed near the end of last season in a confrontation with Hades. It was announced in late September that he’d be reprising his role despite the fact Robin Hood was, you know, dead. Maguire begins shooting his return this month.
“It’s funny when you die on a show and it’s a ‘You’re definitely dead, you’re obliterated from existence, there’s absolutely no way anybody can come back from this’…and then you’re going back,” says the actor. “Television is magical in that way, rules are there for as far as we need them.” Maguire also didn’t rule out a return of Fleming to Timeless if showrunners Shawn Ryan and Eric Kripke decided they wanted to have him back: “I’d do it in a heartbeat.”
Timeless airs Mondays at 10:00 p.m. ET on NBC. Watch clips and full episodes of Timeless on Yahoo View.