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EXCLUSIVE Interview with Noel Fisher of History's New Miniseries HATFIELDS & MCCOYS

Maj Canton - May 25, 2012




This Memorial Day, History presents the world premiere of HATFIELDS & MCCOYS, its three-night, six-hour miniseries, beginning Monday, May 28th at 9pm ET.  In our interview with Noel Fisher, who portrays Cotton Top Mounts, he dished secrets about his character, discussed his new-found love for riding horses, and revealed that he'd like to be on a sitcom -- so his character won't die.



HATFIELDS & MCCOYS tells the story of two close friends and comrades, Devil Anse Hatfield and Randall McCoy, who return from the Civil War to their neighboring homes -- Hatfield in West Virginia, McCoy just across the Tug River border in Kentucky -- and their subsequent feud. When Hatfield wins a legal battle against McCoy's cousin Perry Cline in a dispute over timber rights and after Devil Anse's uncle Jim is said to have killed Randall's brother, the tension explodes. Then, Randall's beautiful daughter Roseanna falls madly in love with Johnse Hatfield, Devil Anse Hatfield's oldest son, and the consequences are disastrous. As hostilities grow and more family members are massacred, friends, neighbors and outside forces join the fight, bringing the two states to the brink of another Civil War.

TV Tango: What did you know about the history of the real Hatfields & McCoys before you auditioned for the role?

Noel Fisher: I actually grew up in Canada; so I didn't know anything about the Hatfields & McCoys. I hadn't even heard of them.


As soon as I got involved in the project and saw that I was auditioning -- even for the audition, I did a slight bit of research. It's just kind of this whole crazy world of murder and revenge that had gone on. It kind of blew me away.

TV Tango: Did you know which role you were auditioning for when you were called in?

Noel Fisher: Yes, I only ever got called in for Cotton Top, and I got to read a little bit on him and see this poor person who's way in over his head.

TV Tango: When you talk to family and friends, how do you describe your character?

Noel Fisher: What I would call Cotton Top is a perpetual 10-year-old in an adult body in an adult situation. That's kind of how I would describe him. He doesn't have a mean bone in his body, and he's surrounded by a whole lot of hate.


TV Tango: How did he get the name Cotton Top?

Noel Fisher: I don't really know -- probably the hair. I don't know where the nickname comes from. It would either be that or his mental state.

TV Tango: What was your reaction when you first learned about Cotton Top's life and tragic death?

Noel Fisher: I was pretty blown away by it. 'Tragic' is a very perfect way of describing his entire situation in life, and in this movie, obviously. He's just so wrong place, wrong time. He never had a chance.

TV Tango: You described him as a perpetual 10-year-old, but how much of his own history do you think he knew as an adult?

Noel Fisher: I don't really think he was particularly aware of his own personal history. My understanding of people with the kind of challenges Cotton Top had are that they are very in-the-moment in terms of how they perceive the world. It's not so much about their own history or the future, in that regard; it's more about "Who do I know takes care of me and loves me? Who do I get positive energy from?"


In that kind of childlike state, you operate more on the feelings and the vibes you get from people more than anything else. If you know that this person is your uncle, then you know that they're OK. You've been told that they love you. They obviously treat you with love; so that goes under the good category.

TV Tango: So why do you think he had a connection with the Hatfields if he didn't know whether he was an illegitimate son or not?

Noel Fisher: I don't think he would have been able to wrap his head around illegitimate. He probably would've understood what other people thought of a bastard or illegitimate [child]. That's a negative word. That's something that is said with negative energy. That's something that is bad for some reason.


The reason for that being bad -- at least in my interpretation of Cotton Top -- would have escaped him. But if someone calls you a name that you don't understand, you still understand that you're being called a name. I think that's kind of where he comes from.


If someone is cussing you out in a language that you don't know how to speak, you still know that it's a negative thing. You understand that there's negative energy being put towards you.


I think he helped the Hatfields because he does understand his Dad is telling him that they need help to get the McCoys and the McCoys are bad, then that becomes his reality. He's going to go, "OK, the McCoys are bad. I'm being told that I have to help my family do whatever they need me to do; so I'm going to do that."

TV Tango: Do you think they included him because he wouldn't necessarily respect unwritten laws ?

Noel Fisher: I don't think it's so much that. I think in this time period, family and being part of that group -- I don't want to call it gang-like, but it seems like something similar to that, where you need all the help that you can get. And especially in this situation where there is a massive blood feud and most likely, the other side would do harm unto this person if they could -- just because of their association with an enemy family.


It kind of makes sense that the rest of the Hatfields would include him in whatever needed to be done. He's part of the family. Whether he knows about it or likes it, he's involved in a blood feud.  Whether he understands that, at a certain point it becomes kind of moot.


At least that's where I think those decisions came from.

TV Tango: Did Cotton Top have any girlfriends, lovers or wives?

Noel Fisher: Not that I know of, no. And not in the miniseries either.


I think in terms of larger things like that, they tried to stay true. History Channel obviously has a very huge respect for history. It's what they do. I think they stuck pretty close to facts on those things.


TV Tango: What were Cotton Top's last words?

Noel Fisher: In the miniseries, without giving away actual lines, he basically has somewhat of a realization that what's about to happen to him is really horrible and he doesn't really understand why. And that it's not his fault that he did these bad things. He didn't really understand what he was doing.

TV Tango: Did you visit any of the historical landmarks in West Virginia or Kentucky?

Noel Fisher: No, we didn't actually shoot in West Virginia or Kentucky. We shot in Romania. 


I do know that Bill Paxton (pictured) went to Randall McCoy's hometown and stayed there for like a week. He got to check all of that out.


I, unfortunately, did not have the opportunity to do that. I have yet to even visit West Virginia or Kentucky.

TV Tango: What was Bill's best story about being there?

Noel Fisher: There's a certain monument of where I think a big battle took place. It's near a building now, and there's like a hill. There's a monument put up right where this horrific thing happened -- unfortunately, what that actually is is escaping me right now -- but he had some photos of it. There might even be a school next to it, but there's this regular, modern building and right next to it is this little monument of some horrific event that took place during this whole feud.


He was just kind of talking about what the area smells like and feels like, and getting the vibe of the people in the town. It is very much part of American history, especially so in the area that was directly affected. He was saying he really wanted to go and check that out.

TV Tango: Did you get any stunt training to shoot or ride in the miniseries?

Noel Fisher: I had never gotten to ride horses before. They gave us some lessons here in Los Angeles -- over in Burbank -- and I got to ride around on these trails.


I completely fell in love with horse riding. I love it. I can't get enough of it.

TV Tango: Do you frequent the Los Angeles Equestrian Center now?

Noel Fisher: I haven't been able to frequent it a bunch, but I have been a couple times since being back. Me and my girl went for a couple of rides. It's just so much fun, and it's so relaxing in a really wonderful way to just be galloping around.


And it's so weird. There's this whole area of Los Angeles that is like this major hub of the whole horse world -- competitions and different kinds of riding -- and it's right across the hill from me.


TV Tango: You shot guns in THE PACIFIC and BATTLE: LOS ANGELES. What was different for HATFIELDS?

Noel Fisher: It was the worst rifle. Just the different time frames that are involved. WWII weapons are very diffferent from modern-day M-Force that we got to use on BATTLE: LA because we were modern-day Marines.


This was just a big rifle. [Laughing] It's a very different style of fighting. A lot more messy and a very different feel. You know Civil War kind of fighting, where you stand in a line and shoot at each other until one side's dead.


In this feud, no one just stood in line, but it's still very messy, and tactics are not really a big part of it.


We were using weapons that were very old. In terms of the weapons I got use, they were mostly just double-barreled shotguns really. Getting to put the slugs in, that's easy.


Because the movie takes place over a long period of time, there was an evolution of weaponry. At the beginning it was muskets, and you're loading your shot. By the end of the movie, it's more revolvers, six-shots and double barreled shotguns.


I don't think Cotton Top was particulary good with weapons. I don't think that was his forte. The whole purpose of it might have escaped him.

TV Tango: If you could portray any fictional TV character in history, which one would you choose?

Noel Fisher: You know what, there's so many. I really like anything involving zombies. One of the guys on THE WALKING DEAD would be really cool...but so many people die on that show!


TV Tango: But you're used to that.

Noel Fisher: [Laughing] I am, but I don't want to do every part where I just die. But I think that would be a really fun show to be on.


Something along the lines of THE BORGIAS would be really cool. Anybody on that would be kind of fun.

TV Tango: Of course, you pick the Pope and that family, where people die, too.

Noel Fisher: [Laughing] Maybe like a sitcom role. Not too many people die on sitcoms.

TV Tango: What TV shows are on your DVR?

Noel Fisher: The shows I'm really loving lately...obviously, GAME OF THRONES. HOMELAND is so good. BREAKING BAD is a ridiculously well-done show. Anything on Showtime, AMC, HBO...I'm pretty much hooked on all of them.