Interview extra

Jenna ColemanAugust 18, 2016

Victoria

In this lavish eight-part period drama, former Doctor Who star Jenna Coleman plays the young Queen Victoria. The story begins when Victoria is just 18 years old, and follows her life from her Coronation and relationship with Prime Minister Lord Melbourne (Rufus Sewell) through to the early days of her marriage to Prince Albert (Tom Hughes).
Here, Jenna tells TV Choice about researching the role, the attention to detail needed in playing the part, and life after Doctor Who.

Is the whole script quite close to reality?
Yeah, most of it. I think a lot of the storylines of the downstairs characters are fictional, but a lot of it is based on fact. We have used Victoria’s diaries, and we have used accounts from people that have written about her as well. We got a lot of access into her interior life in a way as well, as we used her sketchbooks and her watercolours.

Have you done a lot of your own research?
It is kind of impossible not to, really, when it's there. But there’s a lot to touch upon, dates aren’t exactly the same, and there are some things we’ve drawn from that actually happened later, but we’ve bought them forward to tell a good story.

What type of personality do you think VIctoria had, and how are you playing her?
I wish I had my little book with me, actually, the one I write my notes in. The thing about her that I really like is that she had a kind of zest for life. She was really impulsive and so unbelievably stubborn, but incredibly loyal. It is really interesting, because you’ve got all these things clashing against each other. You’ve got somebody who’s playful and impulsive - she was obsessed with the opera, and the melodrama and passion of it. Then at the same time, she was a Queen, and a young girl as well, so you’ve got these opposing forces all the time. I think she was very temperamental, and I think she took her duty very, very seriously. But she was also very flawed and didn't always get it right. She was unwaveringly loyal and compassionate. In quite a lot of things I’ve read about her, it says that once her mind was made up, there was no power on earth that would change it.

What sort of notes do you keep in your little book?
Lots of things! Other people’s descriptions of her, which are really interesting because you get a distanced point of view. Another really fascinating thing about her diaries is that when she likes something, she writes it in capitals. I think she just loved the melodrama and passion. She’s funny as well – she’s got a hilarious sense of humour. When she took a liking to someone, she really liked them, and if she didn’t, they were out. She was quite impatient, as well. It’s a wonderful part to play. There are times when she is full of etiquette and form and there’s other times where she’s just a young girl who wants to get on her knees and play with her dog and break out of her corset, until she’s told she has to remember to be a queen again. I love that conflict – of being a young girl, really naïve, artless and impulsive, and then remembering her duty and being pulled back to that all the time.

Was she nervous about taking over as Queen?
Yes, I think so, but also incredibly proud. There’s lots of things I have read, lots of diary entries where she says she felt unfit for her station, and then on other days, like her coronation day, she talks about how she’s so proud to be monarch of such a great nation. What’s also interesting is the world around her, and the way she grew up in the Kensington system. She didn’t have anyone. She had Dash, her dog, but other than that, she was brought up and treated like a pawn in a way. She was constantly being manipulated or flattered by people who didn’t want to know her for her, they were trying to get something. So her relationship with Lord Melbourne (Rufus Sewell) is a really fascinating relationship, because he’s one person in this sea of flatterers that suddenly isn’t trying to achieve something with her other than be friends and listen. They develop this incredible relationship, which I haven’t seen played out anywhere else. In her diary entries, she was obsessed with him. I don’t know if it's love or friendship. Some say it was like a father-daughter relationship. I think as she became Queen, she leant on him and really needed him.

How does this compare to Doctor Who? Was this a deliberate ploy to do something very different or did it just appeal?
No, it was quite serendipitous really how it all happened. To be honest, I thought I was going to take a break for a little while, and then this came up and I met everybody and was reading loads about it. The two things are so, so different – it’s a lovely change of scene.

ITV, starts Sunday

Cecile Metcalf 

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