‘Lord of the Rings’ Star Andy Serkis Says His ‘Christmas Carol’ Ghost Is Bored Until He Meets Scrooge

Andy Serkis has created many cinematic characters using performance capture technology. First was Gollum in Lord of the Rings. Then came King Kong himself. Then Caeser, the leader of the ape revolution in three Planet of the Apes films. Now he’s bringing a new version of The Ghost of Christmas Past to life in FX’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol

Lord of the Rings' Andy Serkis in A Christmas Carol
Andy Serkis in A Christmas Carol | Robert Viglasky/FX

Guy Pearce is the new Ebenezer Scrooge. He’ll be visited by three ghosts, and usually in these adaptations it’s the Ghost of Christmas Future that scares Scrooge straight. With Serkis playing Christmas Past, he’s going to give Christmas Future a run for his money. Serkis was on a Television Critics Association panel discussing the Ghost of Christmas Past. A Christmas Carol premieres December 19 at 7:30 p.m. on FX.

Andy Serkis is on a mission in ‘A Christmas Carol’

It’s the Ghost of Christmas Past who tries to show Scrooge the error of his past ways. It inevitably takes two more ghosts to make the point, but Andy Serkis saw his ghost as one who’s up for the challenge.

A Christmas Carol: Andy Serkis and Guy Pearce
L-R: Guy Pearce and Andy Serkis | Robert Viglasky/FX

“The journey that the Spirit of Christmas Past goes on is one of trying to crack open and make Scrooge face himself and open his soul up,” Serkis said. “He’s spent thousands of years kind of dealing with other people’s spirits and is, quite frankly, bored of the job. But this one, this character is such a nut to crack that he finds it kind of an enjoyable pursuit. But the more he goes on the journey, the tougher he finds the challenge.”

Andy Serkis’s Ghost of Christmas Past gets in Scrooge’s face

In other Christmas Carols, the Ghost of Christmas Past may be comic relief leading up to the more serious ghosts. Andy Serkis’s version isn’t playing around.

“In our version, we did want to make him a bit more confrontational and a little less sweet,” Serkis said. “ It is quite confrontational, and what’s behind it is this desire to hold the mirror up in a very direct and scary way. But he’s so tough that it becomes a much bigger job for him than he ever expected. So we made him a much more physically threatening and scary version.”

You’ll see the real Andy Serkis in ‘A Christmas Carol’

A Christmas ghost could easily qualify for one of Andy Serkis’s performance capture gigs. Ghosts are as magical as anything in Lord of the Rings but instead, Serkis appears in live-action on the set, albeit with prosthetic enhancements.

“I was wearing prosthetic makeup and had scars and an eye that is dead on one side,” Serkis said. “I was wearing a costume that weighed about 250 pounds and tripped every other actor up on set. The makeup calls were very long, but as you are going through that process of all of this stuff being put on you, it does certainly help you transform into the character. It is nice to play a character wearing a costume rather than a skimpy leotard with dots on the front of it.”

Andy Serkis as the Ghost of Christmas Past | Robert Viglasky/FX

It didn’t take hours to put on that leotard with dots in Lord of the Rings though.

“We started off being about between two and a half to three hours, and then the derig, getting it all off, actually took equally as long,” Serkis said of his Christmas Carol makeup and costume. “We managed to get it down. We managed to pin it down.”

The Ghost of Christmas Past still has magic

Andy Serkis’s Ghost of Christmas Past may be more physical than most ghosts, but he still uses his magic to make his point to Scrooge.

Andy Serkis in A Christmas Carol | Robert Viglasky/FX

“When they’re together, it isn’t just Scrooge talking to a ghost. You can’t just assume that people will buy the fact that you are playing a spirit. He has to have a real solid kind of psychological drive and base. So we wanted to make him like he appears as various different incarnations and transforms. He shape shifts and shows Ebenezer Scrooge various different parts of his life and shows him himself and how he’s coping, how he’s changing, how the circumstances and how his psychology is formed.”

Andy Serkis, Television Critics Association panel 8/6/19