Where did the “Black Sails” series film? The scenery is so beautiful.
—Garrett Sloane, Portland, Maine
The eight-episode Starz series, which is a prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island,” is shot in Cape Town, South Africa, rather than the actual Caribbean, which was the true home of pirates in the 18th century.
“We looked everywhere,” explains executive producer/creator Jon Steinberg. “We knew we needed access to beaches. We knew we needed access to controllable water — there aren’t that many water tanks in the world. We knew we needed access to a local talent pool, from which we could draw actors. When you start checking boxes off, Cape Town is probably the only place we could have done this.”
“Black Sails” is set during the golden age of piracy, circa 1715, so it works as a prequel to “Treasure Island,” and uses a town that was re-created to double as New Providence Island — since there are no existing structures remaining from this period in the Bahamas.
The set was built with instructions to make it as historically accurate as possible. “So dirty, grungy and bleached on the one hand; but also highlighting the natural beauty of a place that people today spend thousands of dollars to visit,” says Steinberg.
“Black Sails” is the fictional story of Captain Flint (Toby Stephens), one of the most brilliant and feared pirate captains of his day, who takes on a fast-talking addition to his crew named John Silver (Luke Arnold), who has essential knowledge about a very rich plunder. And also work toward preserving life as they know it on New Providence Island.
But before the men could take to the sea, two ships had to be built for the series: a half ship that could float in a water tank, and a full ship that could be wheeled around on land.
A master rigger — Joshua Spencer — was recruited to design the ships’ rigging. He was joined by three additional rigging specialists for the building phase. Everything was done from scratch, using virtually all of the materials and techniques of the bygone era, with the exception of synthetic hemp instead of natural hemp.
“There are very few people who know how to rig a tall ship,” Steinberg says. “We went out and found them.” Then to make sure everything was done right, the real-life riggers actually appear as pirates in the series.