Mark Ryder: “Cesare Borgia is the most diverse and complex character I have played” (An interview with actor Mark Ryder)

Today I am deeply honoured to be hosting an interview conducted by Dragoș Moldoveanu of the AISR with the fantastic Mark Ryder who plays Cesare Borgia in “Borgia Faith and Fear”. The original interview can be found here.


We had the unique opportunity to interview the talented and modest young actor Mark Ryder. Born in Northern Ireland, Mark is best known for his role as Cesare Borgia, the ruthless and brilliant Renaissance figure.

Dragoș Moldoveanu: Mark Ryder, I am deeply honored! Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions.

First of all, how did you start acting?

Mark Ryder: I started acting when I was in secondary school around 15. I always enjoyed performing. I did a lot of musical theatre as a teenager and got my first professional job when I was 18 – “Five Minutes of Heaven”. I’ve been working in television and film ever since.

D.M.: What are your favorite actors?

Mark Ryder: I love Joaquin Phoenix – utterly convincing and captivating in all his performances. Best actor in the game is Jennifer Lawrence.

D.M.: What is your favorite character that you have performed?

Mark Ryder: Cesare Borgia, no doubt. The most diverse and complex character I have played and perhaps ever will play. The role was an immense challenge. The evolution from the first episode to the last was remarkable.

D.M.: What was your first reaction when you heard you will play the role of Cesare Borgia, the illustrious Renaissance prince?

Mark Ryder: I couldn’t believe it. You never know what is around the corner in acting and life. I was working in a veterinary clinic over the summer to pay the bills and I was on my lunch break. I got a call to say I was playing Cesare and starting next week. Life turned around in one phone call. I worked the rest of the day in the clinic with a giant grin on my face.

D.M.: What did you know about the son of Pope Alexander before the developing of Borgia series?

Mark Ryder: I knew nothing about the Borgia family. Whenever you’re sent an audition you obviously do as much research as you can to prepare for it. I read articles online about the Borgia’s to try and get a sense of the character. We’re not taught about the Borgia dynasty in history class in Belfast.

D.M.: How can you describe the relationship on the set with the other actors?

Mark Ryder: Three years spent every day with the same people in a foreign country – you’re going to get very close. The relationship with the actors on set was particularly close on Borgia and something I believe is very rare. As we were all from different nations, there was no rivalry between actors in the way there might be in England where most people know each other or know a friend of a friend. Everyone just wanted to have the best time. It created the most amazing family atmosphere. We ate together every night and partied at the weekend.

D.M.: Can you please describe a day on the set?

Mark Ryder: 5.30 – wake up and get picked up by the vans. It was very hard to get out of bed.

6.15 – arrive at the shooting location – get breakfast, go through costume, hair/makeup. I used this time to learn my lines for the next day.

8.00 – start shooting. The day always starts slow. Normally we shot 4-5 scenes per day depending on how complex they were; sometimes 1 or 2.

13.00 – lunch break for an hour. Eat as much as possible. I always tried to sneak in a 20 minutes nap for energy. Working 14-15 hours a day, you need to sleep as much as you can. One day in the third season I fell asleep 5 times on set… I’d usually have 3 espressos every day as well for little boosts of energy throughout the day.

20.00 – that’s a wrap for the day! Head back home, learn lines for 2 days ahead. Sleep like an angel.

D.M.: How did you work with Tom Fontana, the series` creator?

Mark Ryder: Tom is the most important man on the set. He runs the entire show. I loved having him on set because of his knowledge and understanding of the characters. Directors would change but Tom was involved throughout. Everything in the show started off in his brain, so if I ever needed help with a moment in a scene, I knew I could rely on him.


D.M.: It was difficult for a Northern-Irish actor to interpret an Italian Renaissance historical figure?

Mark Ryder: Not at all. The cast was hugely international, it didn’t matter where we were from. It is funny though that a little lad from Belfast played the great Cesare. Different cultures speak differently with their bodies and gestures. Italians are very expressive with their hands. It took me some time to gain a full understanding of that. In the first season I played Cesare very tight and restricted in his body, maybe I should have been a little more Italian and expressive.

D.M.: Cesare Borgia was a hero or a villain?

Mark Ryder: Both. He did some great things and some terrible things.

D.M.: Do you consider yourself a celebrity?

Mark Ryder: Absolutely not. Borgia is not big in my own country so no one knows who I am. I hope to keep it that way.

D.M.: Thank you, Mark, for your kind answers! In the end, can you address a few words to your fans?

Mark Ryder: Lots of love to all the fans of our crazy show. I’m very proud of what we have achieved and so your support means a lot.

This interview was conducted by Dragoş Moldoveanu, President of Asociaţia „Institutul pentru Studii Renascentiste” (The Institute of Renaissance Studies Association – AISR), author of the book Cesare Borgia, Prințul Renașterii. O cronică în două volume (Cesare Borgia, the Prince of the Renaissance.     A two volumes chronicle), 2014, Bucharest.


A huge thank you to Dragos and the AISR for allowing me to host this interview. I’ll be doing a lot more work with the AISR this year so please do keep an eye out. Also please do check out Borgia – available on Netflix and also to buy on Amazon.

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