Jamie Blackley was the first celebrity I ever made an ass out of myself in front of, and well, I have made my share of embarrassing moves. I fainted in front of him (but he luckily doesn’t remember, and in all fairness I was one of the last people interviewing him and he was heading into the theater, so he could have not seen it). In my head, I felt like it was more humiliating than it was and I am thankful for that.
Anyhow, now that I have told you a story I didn’t need to, I will tell you that I was excited to talk to Jamie again. And I was definitely excited to talk to Romola Garai. The two star in Becoming Elizabeth as Robert Dudley and Princess Mary, respectively.
Mary is the one character that scared me in Becoming Elizabeth. Why? Because Romola Garai brings her to life in such a way that you see this intimidating, cunning, devout woman who will not let anyone get in her way. Mary felt so quick to want to make things right for everyone, but in the same moment seemed to fall for every lie that was told to her. She seemed to feel betrayed by everyone and everything. And hey, that my friends, is scary. Because when a person has nothing left to lose, it’s when you should be terrified.
Robert Dudley on the other hand is a boy finding his way at court. He’s energetic and spunky. He’s kind and giving. He’s the person that Elizabeth trusts the most and well, you can see that he loves her. But as we’ve learned, just because you know a Princess, doesn’t mean you’re meant to marry one. Jamie Blackley is so different than I have ever seen him, but that’s what makes me love him as an actor.
Sitting down to talk to the two, I don’t know what I expected. Truthfully, I was a little scared.
It was the interviewing two people who you have yet to figure out how their characters go together that will throw me off. But being scared keep you on your toes.
Q for Jamie: Your character is intriguing. Doing research I realized how close Robert Dudley and Elizabeth are. You’re not really much in the first four episodes. So are we gonna see more of you and how your relationship with Elizabeth really is?
Jamie: Yes, for sure. Very much this season they’re both figuring out who and what they are in each others lives. That is definitely part of the story. They are on kind of a coming of age journey. So that involves the both of them, but separately there is a lot of other stuff going on as well.
Q: So Mary the only character in the series to scare the crap out of me.
M: Like that, that’s a job well done. My work and in my life, I feel my mission is complete.
Q for Romola: She’s so strong and so intimidating, and she doesn’t let anyone tell her what to do. And being religion is such an important thing here and she’s so steadfast in her morals. Why do you think that was a good thing for her to do and why do you think she just never backed down?
Romola: Because her father used to threaten to kill her from like the age of 9 onwards. She grew up, after Henry the VIII, divorced her mother Catherine of Aragon, Mary spent the next 20 years of her life negotiating with this homicidal maniac of a father. He was constantly trying to get her to convert in order to rubber stamp his marriage to Anne Boleyn, which you know she never accepted. She was put in the tower all the time and she was constantly being threatened with her life. Actually in her real personality I think Mary isn’t someone who would have sought out a highly antagonistic position in court. Her religion was non negotiable. And so she very much had to adopt this veneer of calm and status in order to protect herself because she was in an extremely vulnerable position. Basically for many many years, until she regained the throne. In this period of time, her life was almost always in constant risk so she had to assume that era of being a bit scary.
Q for Both: Was there a scene that you guys filmed that didn’t make it into the series that you wish would have? Or was there something about your characters that you wished would have made it into the film that would have made people like or dislike your characters more?
Romola: I would say, maybe true for both of us, that Anya labored over these scripts. There aren’t scenes that didn’t work and aren’t in it. It was a complete act of love for her, the script, the screenplay. We were extremely faithful to her writing throughout and she very much had a vision for the whole show. I don’t think that there was a lot of extra material. In terms of things that I wished, well, the good stuff for Mary is still to come. It may not be in yet, but it will be in eventually because she obviously becomes are a really interesting woman and you get to see the vulnerability at the core of who she was and the vulnerability that led to her making some poor decisions, which I think is interesting because obviously Elizabeth would have seen that happen and that must have informed the kind of monarch that she became.
Q for Jamie: Why do you think that Robert Dudley never made his play for Elizabeth? It’s obvious that he loves her. When he gave her the knife, I was fearful that he was going to be beheaded for giving it to her when she killed the stag. I know in history he never did. But why?
Jamie: I think that whole knife thing, it’s the danger of it. We very much wanted to play that as a decision of his. Originally she snatched it from him, but they wanted it to be a decision made between the two of them, which is more interesting. I think that he’s just some people who are meant to marry princesses and he’s just not one of them. He’s not someone that has any clout to do that. He has to keep himself to himself but that’s all part of the world that he’s discovering as a young man. Where does he fit? What can he and what can’t he do?
Q for Both: How are you guys most like your characters and how are you most different than your characters?
Jamie: I think that Robs a sensitive soul and I very much relate to that and his steadfastness. Maybe I differ from him in the sense I wish I said what I thought more. I do hold that back where he is very forthright. I wish I was more like that.
Romola: I am quite like her I think. She was a very black and white thinking person. I am an incredibly black and white thinking person. I’m like all cyclists are awful, there is only one kind of cake that’s good. And I think that wasn’t a help to her in her ascent to the throne. In what way am I different from her, well, she was extremely religious. That is not something that I am, so.
Q for Both: Last question – I fear Mary the most just watching the first four episodes, but who should we really fear. Who is really the big villain in this story?
Romola: Who’s the villain? Hmm…
Jamie: I have an answer to that but equally I am worried that it’s a bit spoilery.
Romola: Even the characters that become really significant are they villains though?
Jamie: I guess not, but I am thinking in terms of my world.
Romola: Oh ya.
Jamie: Who becomes the villain for me. But I feel like I shouldn’t say it. But there definitely is someone who becomes that for Rob.
Q: I am banking on it being Thomas Seymour, but that’s just my guess
Jamie: You would be wrong.
Romola: Mary doesn’t like Thomas Seymour, that’s fact.
Q: I completely agree with Mary on this. She may scare me, but gurl is smart.
Romola: [laughs] She didn’t always make the best choices for men for herself but on that one…
Princess Mary may intimidate me, but let me tell you Romola Garai is a fun interview. As is Jamie.
Episode 2 of Becoming Elizabeth premieres this Sunday on Starz.