“Marco Polo” premiered on Netflix on December 12, 2014, and in preparation for its second season, its international casting call is reaching out to Mongolian talent.
The series tells the story of Khubilai Khaan through the eyes of Italian adventurer Marco Polo. It was conceived and written by John Fusco, who is famous for his screenplays for “Young Guns”, “Hidalgo”, and “The Forbidden Kingdom”. “Marco Polo” is produced by The Weinstein Company.
“Marco Polo” is the first Hollywood production to feature a Mongolian actor in a key role. Popular Mongolian star B.Amarsaikhan played the role of Arig Bukh in the series.
Auditions for the next round of the web series are taking place from March 12 to 15 at Mongolian National Broadcaster. The series coordinator in Mongolia, M.Orgil, project consultant O.Burenjargal, costume designer A.Saruul, and other people involved in the production spoke more about the casting in Ulaanbaatar.
Second season shooting is scheduled to start this June in Malaysia, Hungary, and New Zealand. The casting directors are auditioning artists for the role of Queen Sorkhagtani, her father Jakha Khambu, young Khubilai Khaan, baby Khaidu, as well as 50 to 70 extras.
As of press time, around 50 people had registered for the audition. The series’ project coordinators in Mongolia see the casting call as a great opportunity to promote the culture and history of Mongolia.
Queen Sortukhagtani is Khubilai’s mother, and is considered a major influence on Khubilai’s success as khaan. A woman around the age of 40 will play her role.
The casting directors are looking for a man who appears to be in his 60s for the role of Jakha Khambug. The character’s casting description reads: Jakha Khambug is like an experienced old wolf and he is the most influential elder in his land. His massive and callused hands are suitable for only war, but his only desire is to love and be with his grandchildren. His greatest weapon is his wisdom and mind, not his physical strength and giant stature.
Young Khublai will be played by a boy around the age of 12, “with red cheeks and bright demeanor.”
The casting crew have said, “Extras will not have any particular description. If they possess any particular strength or talent, it will be considered a bonus. They must be able to work on set for two to six months.”
Mongolian consultant for “Marco Polo” O.Burenjargal spoke to Mongol News Group about the series.
What kind of advice are you giving the project?
I’ve met with a few people on the American side. I’m mainly advising the Mongolian side. The advice seems to be reaching the creators of “Marco Polo”. Seeing as they are listening to people, I think they really respect Mongolian history.
My words go through people such as producer M.Orgil. The series has some non-Mongolian and inaccurate aspects. I gave my ideas on how to make them more Mongolian. Historically, Khubilai doesn’t kill his brother Arig Bukh, but he was killed off in the series.
Have you seen the series? As someone who translated “The Adventures of Marco Polo”, have you observed any inconsistencies.
There are some. Of course, you can’t make a series based on just a book. Books about Marco Polo have been translated in all European languages from documented experiences 740 years ago. I wanted to make this accessible to Mongolians and I translated it. Marco Polo recorded what he observed during his stay of around 17 years in the Great Mongol Empire. Historians view this in many ways. I think his notes can be trusted because his notes match the events of Mongolia during that period.
A Mongolian actor was cast in the first season and the second season might feature even more Mongolian actors. What do you hope to see from the series in terms of Mongolian culture?
It would be great if they show the lives of Mongolian in the 13th and 14th century, and show more about Khubilai Khaan’s state policies. Mongolians first came up with the idea to use paper for money. Station communications were invented during Ugudei Khaan’s era and were developed further in Khubilai Khaan’s time. Around 2,000 people and 20,000 horses operated the stations. They sent and received messages between Asia and Europe in just two weeks. Khubilai used to support Chinese farmers and Mongolian herders during droughts and blizzards. He set up the modern welfare system. It was clear from studying him that he was a man of great appreciation for the arts and culture. He had an orchestra of 500 and a great big library. Khubilai Khaan’s astronomy observatory has been preserved in Beijing.