Aug. 27 (UPI) -- Jon Bernthal says he took a vow of silence to prepare to play a mute in Brendan Muldowney's Irish medieval drama, Pilgrimage.
The Walking Dead alum and The Punisher star told UPI when he first showed up to play his part in Pilgrimage, he and Muldowney decided he shouldn't speak for the first few weeks on and off set so they could figure out exactly who this man was.
"And I did that and I learned a lot about myself and I think I really learned a lot about the character," Bernthal said. "The first thing I noticed, when you stop talking is, obviously, you hear a lot more, you see a lot more. But, 2, I think you really have to forego your wants and your needs. We use our voice so much to ask for things -- a glass of water, a banana -- especially on a set when you have to stay in your place. I need to be excused for the bathroom. When you quit talking, any time you really want something, you go through this process of saying: 'Do I really want that? Do I really need that?' And, then, for this character, who has taken his vow of silence, in my interpretation, from the shame and the sort of inner torment of everything he has been through and everything he has done in the Crusades, you start asking yourself: 'Do I deserve it? Do I deserve this thing that I want? And maybe I'll just stay quiet and be penitent.' And there is something there for me that was really sort of the kernel of the character."
The actor admitted it was difficult to abstain from talking to his co-stars when the cameras stopped rolling in those early days of production.
"We were living in a place in western Ireland, on the coast, 30 miles from any town," the only American cast member recalled. "We lived all under the same roof. We ate all our meals together. So, for me, committing to this silence off-set meant I was around everyone, but I couldn't just turn it off and go into a pub and have a conversation or a meal. I was with these guys, so I had to remain silent. So, I think, in the beginning there was a real sense of mystery. A lot of these guys had never heard my voice and I was spending all day, every day with them. They were always unbelievably respectful and kind, but I could tell, also, that was probably a little annoying because there is a guy sitting there at the dinner table every night, they're all having a beer and I'm sitting there silent the whole time."
Once he found his voice, however, he and the other actors bonded quickly.
"I remember it was probably a week or maybe 10 days in on a Friday when we wrapped and I decided to introduce myself to some of the members of the cast who I'd been spending hours and hours and hours with and it was funny," he said. "We got to know each other really well and after I made the decision to say, 'OK, I've learned what I've learned from that and now it's time to start talking,' they all joked with me that they liked me a lot better when I was quiet. They were joking! But we all became enormously close and there are unbelievable bonds from this movie. It happens on some movies, it doesn't on others. But, I mean, really, really, really deep relationships were forged on this. Guys that I am enormously close with now, I consider them part of my family. We stay in touch and we see each other all the time."
Co-starring Tom Holland, Richard Armitage, Stanley Weber, Hugh O'Conor, John Lynch and Rory Conroy, Pilgrimage is now in select theaters and streaming via various video-on-demand platforms. It is set for DVD and Blu-ray release on Oct. 10.