When watching Becoming Elizabeth, there is no surprise that there are characters that we love and characters that we hate. That’s any show and definitely any Tudor drama.
When it comes to this show, we both love and hate Catherine Parr and Thomas Seymour. Both are confusing, self obsessed, and full on a need for power. Thomas Seymour and Catherine Parr are perfect for each other.
If Thomas Seymour could stay focused and not steered by hormones.
Sitting down and talking to the actors behind them, Tom Cullen and Jessica Raines was a treat. They were fun and the way the banter off each other makes me love them even more.
Fangirlish: So Catherine Parr seemed to be one of the smartest and literally the most cunning people at court. Do you think people feared her or liked her? And do you think anyone besides Thomas really understood her?
Jessica: I think she’s constantly underestimated and sort of maligned just because she’s a woman, but if you look at her history and how much she’s been through, how intelligent she is, she’s the first woman to have an original work published in England. She’s a devout Protestant. She knows how she would rule England, given the chance, and she knows that she could. She’s got this incredible confidence and swagger to her that I found really seductive. I thought, “Oh my God, you’re just incredible.” She’s not afraid of confrontation. She knows what she wants. So I think a lot of the men at court don’t really know what to do with her. Especially Somerset, played by John Heffernan, and Gardener.
They want to crush her. They want to get rid of her as soon as humanly possible. And she just won’t have that. So she’s been planning almost for this event, Henry’s death, and she knows exactly how she’s going to play it. She’s going to invite Elizabeth into the home. She’s going to get her on side. She’s going to teach her to act in court and she’s going to manipulate her for her own gain. So, she was just so exciting to play. And I do think she was probably feared, but no one would probably admit to that.
Fangirlish: I think that Thomas, he seemed to be … Tom, you seem to be … Thomas seemed to be desperate for acceptance from his family. But he also seemed to be desperate for acceptance from Catherine, but didn’t show it in the right way. Do you think he was more angling towards power or do you think that he was angling towards really truly being cared about and seen since his brother seemed to be the one getting all of the attention?
Tom: Oh, that’s such an amazing observation and I think that you’re absolutely right. I think it’s easy to look at this and just think this is a show with people fueled by power. But I think that it’s always far more than that. I think what you’ve done is you’ve asked the question of why. And I think the why, for Thomas, is most certainly to do with his familial situation, especially his brother. They’ve lost their sister in childbirth and Thomas has been ostracized by Henry VIII and he’s come back and his brother holds favor in court and his older brother has always kind of belittled him, or so he thinks. He’s kind of like the golden boy. And Thomas, I think, feels deeply insecure about himself.
And so I think you’re right. I think he’s just looking for acceptance and love from his brother. But even when he gets it, he’s so blinded by his own jealousy and his own narrative that he can’t see it. And I think that that is often the case with anybody who is punchy, anyone who is searching for power or is essentially a bully. I think that it actually always comes from this place of insecurity. And I think that Thomas’s insecurity is definitely his relationship with his brother.
Fangirlish: Thomas had a lot of energy in the morning. I would’ve banished him to the stables, with how much frigging energy he had. So why do you think that he’s that way, and also for you, Jessica, why do you think Catherine put up with that?
Jessica: Well, I think she loves it. I think she’s completely and utterly in love with him. I think she loves impulsiveness. She’s not stupid. She knows what he’s like. She knows that he charms women, but I just think she’s just completely … Her one tragedy is that she’s fallen in love with Thomas Seymour. She’s got everything going for her, but she’s fallen in love with this very ambitious man whose head is turned very quickly and you know, she puts these great plans in place and he’s…
Tom: Yeah, but he listens to her. He listens to her. He makes her feel seen. She’s surrounded by men who don’t respect her. And he’s-
Jessica: That’s exactly right.
Tom: … absolutely bowled over by her and he gives her the space and that’s the sad kind of irony of Thomas, is that he’s somebody who respects women and he certainly respects Catherine, but that’s the thing. He’s also manipulative. He’s also a chauvinist.
Jessica: Yeah. I think they’ve got this great energy together that is irresistible. And she has never been listened to by any man before. And they are a great team. They really work together and they really listen to each other and they really implement the plan together. But they’re both very strong willed and they do end up spinning off into their own worlds, I guess.
Tom: It’s a real tragedy, really, because they’re just fantastic together and they love each other so much. Yeah.
Fangirlish: Well, I honestly thought he loved her and then he didn’t even wait until the body was cold before he was like, “Elizabeth, marry me.” I was like, “Damn.” Because that was a lot.
Tom: Yeah. I think he’s overcome with grief, but that’s the spoiler.
Fangirlish: Well, yeah. Honestly, I ordered $200 worth of books last night to learn more about this because that’s how much I enjoyed the show.
Tom: Oh, that’s great.
Fangirlish: I think that it’s just so good. So who do you think was more in control of the relationship? Because Thomas and Catherine are both very manipulative, but who was more in control of the relationship and the plan and their future?
Tom: Catherine, I think. Would you say, Jess? I think it’s probably initially very equal. I think that they worked very well together. I think that Tom, this is impulsiveness and spontaneity and bravery counter. Maybe Catherine’s more smarter, calculated and bigger picture stuff. I’m not sure what you think.
Jessica: Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I think that’s right. I think she can kind of plan ahead a little more than Thomas. Because there are scenes where Thomas is a bit panicky about what’s happening and Catherine’s like, “Don’t worry. This is the plan. We’re going to do this.”
Tom: Totally. He’s not always kind of even clued up to what’s happening right beneath his nose.
Fangirlish: Definitely. And one last question. Catherine seems to really have loved her children and then doesn’t. I don’t know. I’m kind of wishy-washy on that, but do you think she truly did? And why did she choose Thomas over her children?
Jessica: Catherine … what do you mean by children? Her stepchildren?
Fangirlish: Her stepchildren.
Jessica: Oh. Yeah. Well she’s really instrumental in getting Elizabeth and Edward back into the fold and I think she does care about them, but you can’t ignore the fact of their status and how useful it is to have them in her household. I don’t know. And that’s her stepchildren, so they’re not actually her children, but she does have a maternal instinct with Elizabeth, which makes the whole thing so much darker as well. Are you asking me who she’d choose or who she chooses? I don’t know.
Fangirlish: No, I just … Why would she choose Thomas over her kids? Because I feel like she did. Her step kids, but …
Jessica: Yeah. I think head over heels in love with someone and has three passionless, horrific marriages behind her and I kind of go for it. I’m kind of up for her being out for herself. Her biggest ally is herself and because Edward and Elizabeth are going to rule. They’re her stepchildren. I’m not sure how close they are in terms of … she’s not really mothered them that much. Because they’re all in different palaces across the country. So ah, she just goes for the love of her life.
Full disclosure, we held this interview, because I talked about Catherines death, which I wasn’t supposed to do. But I will say this – if you want to watch a great Tudor drama, this is that show.
Are you watching Becoming Elizabeth? Episode 5 airs tonight on Starz.