Black Sails’ Zach McGowan on Charles Vane’s Final Moments


Starz’s Black Sails is a show like no other. More than just a costume drama, the show is like a swashbuckling tale of high seas piracy and a political thriller to match House of Cards. Last week, the penultimate episode of Season 3 saw the hanging of one of the show’s most infamous pirates, the brutal, passionate and always badass Charles Vane (portrayed by Zach McGowan). We caught up with McGowan to talk about his character’s untimely demise prior to the finale that airs Saturday at 9 p.m. ET on Starz and at 10 p.m. ET on Superchannel.

The TV Junkies: Charles Vane’s hanging was the most brutal death I’ve ever seen on TV! What was it like to film that scene, physically and emotionally?

Zach McGowan: Obviously shooting that day was very emotional. That whole sequence, that whole episode was–and actually to be honest the entire third season of Black Sails was an emotional roller coaster for Charles Vane. But that day in particular was pretty nuts because you’re working in front of the all extras, and you’re seeing how the reaction to the show is going to be just by watching the extras’ reactions, because they’re not aware of what’s going to happen. Before lunch we were shooting the run up to the hanging and everyone was like, “Yeah sure there’s going to be a rescue, someone’s going to come over the wall” and all that, and we just knew, man we got them on this one!

TTVJ: And your last words were so epic! Charles Vane always has something clever to say.

ZM: For a guy who doesn’t talk that much, when he has something to say he’s quite eloquent in his own way, which is I guess exemplary of the contradictions of Charles Vane in general. Literally all the lines in that last episode for me…I couldn’t have hoped for anything better. Reading the Black Sails’ scripts and reading the dialogue that they give me is always like, “Oh my god, I can’t wait to do this, I’ve got a hundred different ways I can do this, how can I do this?” So yeah, when I read that I was extremely excited.

TTVJ: What about your final scene with Eleanor Guthrie (Hannah New)? It was kind of heartbreaking that they never did reconcile.

ZM: I kind of took that scene as more than trying to reconcile his relationship with her, because [Vane] knew that was already over, he just wanted to essentially prove her contradictions, her absurdities. I kind of felt like the whole beginning part of the scene was just trying to get her to beat me up while I was chained and to make her have to do some of the violence. [Eleanor] has always been kind of the mob boss in the back ordering the hit, and not having to watch it, not having to do it, not having to deal with that, so that was to me the first time she had to do the violence and watch the hanging. To me it was about that. It was like, you think you’re so high and mighty, and that you’re so civilized and all these things, and you think I’m some sort of animal who is wallowing in the mud…and to get her to just unleash her animal, so to speak, and just go, alright you’re the same. Say what you want but you just beat a man chained to a rock. That was kind of the way I approached, knowing that she wasn’t going to come in there and go “Unlock him, release him” or any of that and that that ship had sailed.

TTVJ: Why did Vane come back to Nassau, after he expressed earlier in the season his contempt for the desire for a home or even for the pirates who had accepted pardons?

ZM: That wasn’t actually that hard for me to wrap my mind around because I had already in Season 2 wrapped my mind around saving Flint (Toby Stephens). The way I justified that is that he doesn’t have much else than this pirate community in Nassau that is essentially the closest thing he has to family. He had Black Beard as well obviously, but that was just a bunch of dudes on boats, and as fun as that is, there’s a limit to that. So I think more than anything it was his connection to the place. I think when Flint says to him “They took my home. I’m not going to let them do that, are you?” it’s something powerful. We established Vane as this person who doesn’t have a home, who doesn’t have a family since childhood, who doesn’t have that sense of ownership of relaxation anywhere, and I guess Nassau was the only place that represented that to him, so he went back to try to fight to get it back, which I think is a very human inclination. I think there was also a little part of him who was like, you know, his love life didn’t work out with Eleanor and I think he kind of wanted to make sure Jack [Rackham] and Anne [Bonny] figured it out.


What did you think of Vane’s death? Got any predictions for the finale? Let us hear them in the finale below!

The Black Sails finale airs Saturday at 9 p.m. ET on Starz and at 10 p.m. ET on Superchannel.