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Francois Arnaud on 'The Borgias' finale, Juan's murder

By Curt Wagner

RedEye

11:37 AM CDT, June 17, 2012

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"It's like 'The Borgias' meets 'Game of Thrones' meets 'Dawson's Creek.'" That's how Francois Arnaud, who plays Cesare Borgia in Showtime's "The Borgias," described the Season 2 finale airing at 9 p.m. June 17.

Arnaud laughed as he said it, but he isn't far off with the tease. "The Confession" delivers "Creek"-like sweetness when Lucrezia (Holliday Grainger) meets a new suitor, "Thrones"-type power plays in the Vatican and its dungeon, and the fallout of Cesare's decision to kill his brother, Juan (David Oakes), in last week's shocking "World of Wonders."

"The [finale] reaches new stages of emotional depth," Arnaud told me during a phone conversation last week. "I think it's going to be good."

Viewers will hear not just one, but two confessions in "The Confession." One involves Savonarola (Steven Berkoff), the friar of Florence who preached against Pope Alexander VI (Jeremy Irons), and the other comes from Cesare.

Arnaud believes Cesare's confession lends as much drama to the finale as the murder of Juan gave last week's episode.

"The killing of Juan is obviously a major event. But I think the outcome of the murder is at least as interesting as the murder itself. It's just huge," he said. "I mean, how do you tell your father that you killed your brother? It's just unimaginable.

"I was really happy the first time I read those two episodes actually. I think they were my favorites ever."

As difficult as it is for Cesare to confess to his father that he killed Juan, Arnaud said he doesn't think Cesare has any doubts about gutting his brother. Cesare believes he did it for the good of the family, Arnaud said.

"I don't think [the murder was] something that he particularly enjoyed doing, but I think Cesare has great will power. I think it's something that he focused on and I think he can control his mind into having no second thoughts. And I think that's the only way you can rule in that era, really," he said.

"I think that ultimately, there had to be a little satisfaction in killing that useless Juan," he went on, laughing. "He's wanted him out for a while now ... But I think it was probably harder for him to do than he thought it would be."

Juan's death scene was hard to film as well, Arnaud said, because of the great performance by Oakes, whom Arnaud had spoken with on the phone just 30 minutes before our Wednesday interview.

"I told him I thought he did a great job," Arnaud said. "David's been such a strong part of 'The Borgias' on and off screen, really. It's a great character, and especially in Season 2 I think he did a hell of a job with it. I wasn't killing him for real, but it's hard to imagine going back to 'The Borgias' without David there ... He made it hard for a lot people to see Juan Borgia go."

Arnaud went on to say that Juan's murder was the last scene he, Oakes and Sean Harris, who plays Micheletto, shot for "World of Wonders," a lucky break since episodes are almost never shot in chronological order.

"It was great that it kind of all built up to that final scene between us. When Sean and I pushed him off of the bridge, it felt like the end of something," he said. "I think he did a tremendous job with the character."

Arnaud also praised the work of "The Confession" writer Guy Burt, whom he said has "captured the strongest moments of all the characters." Burt's script also completes Cesare's transformation "into what I thought he was from the very beginning," Arnaud said, "a warrior."

"I couldn't believe someone had written on paper my exact thoughts for this character for the past two years," he said, laughing. "It's like if I had written it myself, you know? I was really happy.

"But I haven't seen the results, so I can't say it's good or not, I don't know."

Arnaud needn't worry. "The Borgias" closes its second season on a high note with yet another shocking final scene, and the episode for the most part is riveting up to that conclusion.

I'll have more from Arnaud after the Season 2 finale of "The Borgias" airing at 9 p.m. Sunday on Showtime. Watch the preview clips below, and please come back and let me know what you thought of "The Confession" after seeing it.

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