Con O'Neill Reveals Whether He Would Return to Our Flag Means Death: “It Has to Be Right”
Izzy Hands may not be completely done just yet.
Con O’Neill needed cake to say goodbye to Izzy Hands.
In the wake of Max Original Our Flag Means Death Season 2, showrunner David Jenkins described telling the actor about his character’s death over dinner and cake. For O’Neill, it wasn’t that much of a shock, but the cake was still needed to soften the blow.
“I got an email halfway through shooting from David saying, ‘Are you free for dinner tonight?’” O’Neill tells Inverse. “And if you get a text from your showrunner midway through shooting saying ‘Do you want to come for dinner?’ It's never going to be good news. So I asked if it was a good dinner or bad dinner. He explained what it was and I said, ‘Okay, you're paying for dinner and I'm going to have cake.’”
Within the fandom, the cake became a symbol of one of the most tragic losses of the series. O’Neill brought Izzy Hands to life with a complex morality that went beyond just “villain” and “hero.” As Blackbeard and Stede Bonnet fell in love, Izzy was the wedge that drove them apart, and then slowly morphed into a sort of father figure, even given a unicorn’s leg as a prosthetic as a gesture of goodwill from the crew.
But even though Izzy is now dead and buried, it doesn’t necessarily mean he couldn’t return to the show for a possible Season 3 through a flashback, dream sequence, or good old-fashioned haunting. O’Neill spoke to Inverse about the reaction to Izzy’s death, how his character evolved, and whether or not he’d step into the unicorn leg one more time.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
How did you react to Izzy’s death?
I've been doing this a long time, and when a character is given the kind of arc that Izzy is given, it's inevitably going one way and they did it beautifully.
And also, Izzy's character as he is, he only works as a protagonist if Stede and Blackbeard are at odds. But they're together by the end of Season 2, they are together. So I'm not the sort of actor who wants to just repeat, repeat, repeat.
I was upset because I loved playing Izzy, but I was kind of relieved as well because I didn't want him to be diluted. And also I was exhausted shooting all that stuff in Season 2. So part of me was just going, "Yay, I can sleep for a while." I understood, I agree with David's decision, but it was tinged with sadness because he's a great character.
Were you worried about the fan response to Izzy's death?
Yeah. It didn't occur to me when we were filming it, but the response to it as the show was dropping and the love that was coming my way via Izzy was overwhelming. I did think me and David might have to go into hiding once the finale had aired, because he and his team had done such a good job in writing this reformative arc for a man that most people had painted in a certain way after Season 1, and were kind of blown away by how those closed doors suddenly opened. So yeah, once the show started to drop, I started to get worried.
David Jenkins has said that there's no version of this show that exists without Izzy Hands. Would you be willing to return in flashback or as a ghost?
That's a conversation that David and I will have when the time comes because it's not just... It has to be right. It has to honor what we've already created. And if anyone can do that, David can do that. I would love to play some more, yes, absolutely. But it's got to be right.
He also said that he wanted to “give you all the toys” this season. Was there anything you wanted to do this season that you couldn't?
I didn't have time to breathe this season. If I wasn't on set, I was learning to walk in that leg, or I was sword training, or I was working out, or I was recording a song... Honestly, other than juggling, I don't think he could have given me any more toys to play with.
And to be absolutely honest, I will be forever grateful for them allowing me to help create a character that is as complex and diverse and interesting and layered as Izzy Hands. And I think they've got absolutely the right level of stuff for him to be able to do that. So I don't think there's anything else we could have done.
How did you approach going at Izzy, not as the outward bad guy we saw in Season 1, but as this newly rich, morally complex character?
Well, to be honest, I think the beauty of what David's done is he doesn't change that much. The perfect example is the stuff with Lucius. He is giving him love and advice, but he's still calling him a twat.
The way Izzy responds to the crew once they've made him the leg, it's still him trying to be the best first mate he can be. That's his priority in everything he does. He's a bit more laid back because he needs to be because he's not as physically capable as he was prior to losing his leg.
That's the beauty of what the writers do. They haven't turned him into a sentimental character. They haven't turned him into somebody who suddenly does an awful Hollywood thing of becoming Father Christmas overnight. They haven't done that. They've kept him as he was but with maybe some gratitude. But I really love playing it because of that, because it didn't feel unbelievable to me. It felt very much that's to who he always was.
In your head, if you were to imagine the perfect possible Season 3, what's one thing that would happen in it?
More New Zealand. Beautiful place.