'Those About to Die': Anthony Hopkins' On-Screen Sons Praise the Legendary Actor's Performance (Exclusive)

Anthony Hopkins plays Roman Emporer Vespasian in the new Peacock series.

Get ready to enter the arena with Those About to Die – an epic new drama that explores the corrupt world of ancient Rome and the spectacle-driven gladiatorial battles. Ahead of the Thursday, July 18 premiere of the new Peacock series, starring Anthony Hopkins as Roman Emperor Vespasian, the cast opened up to PopCulture.com about working alongside the Oscar-winner to showcase an often-overlooked side of the ancient empire. 

Tom Hughes and Jojo Macari worked closely with Hopkins as the emperor's embattled sons – Titus Flavianus and his ambitious younger brother Domitian. Hughes told PopCulture he felt "very privileged" to bring the imperial family to life alongside his celebrated on-screen father.  

Those About To Die – Season 1
(Photo: Peacock)

"It was unbelievable and something that I feel very privileged to have had that time [with Hopkins]," the actor said. "It feels almost absurd for me to talk about his career and him and what he is. We all know that it goes before him. But what was really amazing was just quite how much of a gentleman he was. If anything, that's what I really took away from it – and his compassion, his energy, his playfulness, [the] joy that he was at work."

It was those traits that Hughes said gave himself and Macari "a freedom and a confidence to step into those scenes and bring our character's story" to the screen. Macari agreed that while it was "nerve-racking" to perform alongside "one of the greatest actors that has ever lived," there have been "very few actors [who] have ever made me feel so comfortable in a set." He joked, "And obviously, I've got my beady little eyes trying to watch everything he does and trying to learn from him. But he makes you feel as if you don't even need to."

The Sex Education star continued, "He makes you feel like you're the best in the world, which is crazy and not true because he is clearly at least one step ahead of me. ... But then coming home at the end of the day, having done a scene with Anthony and being like, 'I actually think he had a really good fun. I think he had a good time,' is even better."

The fight for the imperial throne is just one aspect of Roman life explored by Those About to Die, which also stars Game of Thrones' Iwan Rheon, Sara Martins, Moe Hashim, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson, Gabriella Pession, Dimitri Leonidas and others as characters "who collide at the explosive intersection of sports, politics, and dynasties."

Hashim and Jóhannesson, who play gladiators Kwame and Viggo, told PopCulture they were drawn by the new look at life inside the arena. Hashim was drawn to Kwame in order to "tell a story of someone that's from North Africa and their influence on the Roman history," while Jóhannesson enjoyed finding the humanity inside such a brutal world. "Just to be in Rome shooting a 10-part TV series with [director] Roland Emmerich, that's a yes for me right out the gate, just on that," he shared. "But finding the humanity and the friendship and the beauty of the relationships that the gladiators have in that situation they're in is what really attracted me to the story that we're telling."

All 10 episodes of Those About to Die premiere Thursday, July 18, on Peacock.