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Jane Tranter Discusses How His Dark Materials Superfan James McAvoy Shaped His Character, Lord Asriel - Exclusive

Anyone who's spoken to James McAvoy about the actor's "His Dark Materials" role can tell you that no one is a bigger fan of the story and his character than McAvoy himself. And that passion isn't lost on the show's producers, Jane Tranter and Dan McCulloch. In fact, McAvoy inspired much of what we see in his character, Lord Asriel. McAvoy came into the role as both a fan and professional, more than ready to put his own stamp on the often villainous character. Luckily for McAvoy, the powers that be listened to McAvoy's vision and helped turn it into a reality instead of putting the character into a box and not budging.

But with a cast as talented as that of "His Dark Materials," the producers knew they had something special and trusted their actors to bring something unique and exciting to their respective roles. "His Dark Materials" invited Looper to the New York Comic Con press room, where Tranter discussed the highlights of working with the cast and how superfan McAvoy helped shape Lord Asriel.

Lord Asriel's biggest fan

On what it was like working with actors like Lin-Manuel Miranda and James McAvoy and if either of their acting choices inspired new storylines or characteristics that she didn't expect, Tranter said, "James McAvoy was an exceptional actor to work with on these adaptations because he's such a huge fan of the books and knows the books at least as well as we do. He had been living with the character of Lord Asriel for many years. He admires him and despises him all at the same time — Asriel is divisive like that." 

It can be an asset or a hindrance when an actor comes in knowing the ins and outs of a book adaptation, but in McAvoy's case, it was definitely a plus. "[McAvoy] came with a really clear idea of what he wanted to do with Asriel, and that was both very exhilarating and very exciting to see James put that performance together," Tranter added. "At the same time, [it] meant that we had to pick up our pace around him because literally, his arrival was like [a] hot knife through butter. We were [like], 'Okay, but what are we going to do? How are we going to ...?' That was one pace to work at."

The kids are all right

McAvoy isn't the only talented star in the series, however. "Then we have actors like Dafne [Keen] and Amir [Wilson] who were new, and we watched their talent emerge and grow during the course of three seasons. They needed a whole different type of encouragement and help until Season 3, where we step back and watch it more and wonder," Tranter noted. "The kids we first started working with are now these amazing, beautiful, super talented adults." Watching their performances expand and adapt just between the first and second seasons has been a joy, and Tranter got a front-row seat to that growth.

Of course, no one can forget about Lin-Manuel Miranda's and Ruth Wilson's stints on the show. "Then there's Lin-Manuel Miranda, who's everyone's favorite person and a complete dream, and so funny and warm and magnificent to work with," she continued. "We love them all ... Actually, I should say Ruth Wilson. I have never witnessed an actor put together a character and a performance in the way that Ruth does. That was probably one of the most inspiring things in my career to witness." Though the show is ending this season, the cast, creators, and fans will always have these moments to look back on.

New episodes of "His Dark Materials" are released on Mondays on HBO and HBO Max.