Dr. Aaron Irvin interviewed in New York as historical consultant for documentary series
MURRAY, Ky. — Murray State University associate professor of history Dr. Aaron Irvin has made his second television appearance as a historical consultant for the Netflix documentary series “Roman Empire,” which chronicles the rise and fall of larger-than-life Roman emperors from Commodus to Julius Caesar and Caligula. The latest season premiered earlier this month.
Irvin said he was first approached by the show’s producers in early 2016, presumably after recognizing his previous work as an on-camera historical consultant for STARZ’s “Spartacus” TV series.
“The producers of the ‘Roman Empire’ series had apparently seen those interviews and saw something they liked, so in April, they flew me out to New York for a day of on-camera interviews,” Irvin said. “Again, I apparently did something right, because in July of the next year, they again invited me out to New York for a day to shoot interviews for the second and third seasons of the series.”
Irvin jokingly described the taping process as a “a mix between lecturing class and enduring a police interrogation,” acknowledging the hard work that editing crews and producers put into the final product. He said that on each day, producers would provide him with a list of topics and questions ahead of time to help him prepare for the actual taping, which placed him in front of the bright lights and a camera for about three hours.
The professor said working on “Roman Empire” taught him a lot about himself and his teaching and speaking style.
“With Roman history in particular, these are topics and periods and people who I absolutely love studying and being able to talk about, and so as I get excited talking about this material, I tend to move around a lot,” Irvin said. “I’m sure my students could attest to this, but it was something I was unaware of until I suddenly had to sit still and stay in one place for the camera.
“Likewise, speaking on camera requires you to change the tempo at which you speak, and be aware of allowing for breaks and pauses between phrases, and making sure you respond in complete ideas. All of this is so that an editor can come along later and easily slice up your response into usable soundbites and more easily edit you into the existing reenactment scenes.”
Irvin has taught at Murray State since 2012; he earned his Ph.D and master’s degree from the University of California. He teaches courses ranging from Roman, Greek and Egyptian history to world civilizations and more, and has authored numerous research publications.
“Roman Empire” is available for viewing on Netflix with a subscription.
Photo: Murray State history professor Dr. Aaron Irvin is pictured during a 2016 trip to New York, where he worked as a consultant for the Netflix documentary “Roman Empire.”