William Hamleigh, as played by David Oakes
Photos: Egon Endrenyi
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It was crucial to find the right actor for each part in a cast of characters that already lives so vividly in the imagination of readers. In some cases, however, one could argue there was some form of divine intervention at play. "I was given this book [by friends], and they were like: 'Read it. It will change your life, and there's a character in it that reminds us of you.' And I was like, 'Whatever,'" Eddie says. "Randomly, I was then in Los Angeles and I got a call saying, 'Scott Free—Ridley Scott's company—wants to meet you about this miniseries called The Pillars of the Earth,' and I was like, 'Wait a second, I remember that name.' So I went and read it and fell deeply in love with it. And here they offered me the part of Jack, and I was kind of blown away by the offer, to be honest. And also felt there's a weird fate or serendipity or whatever you call it to the fact that my close friends said, 'You'd be quite good at that guy.'"

Still, no casting director could have conceived that the face of pure evil would come from the shadows of the real-life structure that Ken based Kingsbridge Cathedral upon. The part of hateful brute William Hamleigh went to Trinity star David Oakes, whose father, Jeremy, is a canon at Follett's beloved Salisbury Cathedral. David was also educated at the Bishop Wordsworth School in the Salisbury Cathedral Close. "Sometimes stuff comes along and it just falls into place," he says. "I really grew up with the cathedral in my life."

Ken Follett on casting the film's villains. 

David says the cathedral was also at the heart of one of the most important lessons he learned as a child. "[The headmaster] said: 'The cathedral is the most amazing thing. When you're feeling a bit above yourself and a bit pompous and a bit big-headed, you look up at the cathedral and it'll put you right back into place. But when you're feeling insecure and vulnerable and needing some support, you can look up to the cathedral and it will pull you up to its level. You'll get all the support you'll need.'"

This notion of faith, David says, served him well during filming. "That kind of speaks to mind going into Pillars of the Earth," he says. "The message sort of runs through."

The miniseries' legacy

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