Thursday afternoon. Security guards are manoeuvring the tourist crowds while publicists are tapping in their high-heels around the Orangery restaurant, surrounded by Kensington Palace gardens. It’s not a coincidence that this royal scenery was chosen for the premiere of the ambitious ITV and Mammoth Screen drama – Victoria.
The Sunday night treat will portray the it love story of the nineteenth century between the young Queen Victoria (played by Jenna Coleman) and Prince Albert (played by Tom Hughes) who’ll be forced to balance their personal and professional duties in the scandalous court where the Queen is supported by a fatherly figure, the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne (played by Rufus Sewell). But their close friendship may threaten the stability of the government and ill repute the good name of the young yet impulsive Queen.
Behind the ambitious eight-part drama is the novelist and screenwriter Daisy Goodwin, who became fascinated with the royal figure at the university. “I was like nineteen, sitting in the university library and I was looking through the diaries of the Queen Victoria, because I had to write an essay about the media and the monarchy. I was thinking ok, Victoria, old bag, a bonnet... And I suddenly saw this text that said I’ve just seen my darling Albert in white cashmere britches with nothing on underneath,” said Daisy accentuating that the drama will reveal the unobserved side of the Queen’s life. “This is Victoria that people don’t know. They don’t know about her relationship with Melbourne, they don’t know about how she falls in love with Albert and they certainly don’t know about the scandals that beset the beginning of the monarchy and how difficult it was for her to become the Queen.”
The Queen herself, Jenna Coleman, said that this role has been quite a revelation for her. Surprisingly, some people assured the actress that she can’t tackle this role. “People were telling me that I can’t play Victoria. She was stern and old and wore black for the rest of her life. And actually, I don’t think people are quite aware of how vivid she is and what kind of lust of the life she has. Considering the way she was brought up and the role which she was born to step into, but yet none of that really seemed to squash any of that spirit in her. I find that fascinating.” The Doctor Who star admitted that even though the first thing she said after leaving the BBC series was “no more tv series for a while”, it was impossible to turn down this offer as “it’s absolutely a gift being able to explore Victoria” and reveal the mundane and the human side of the royal family life.
Rufus Sewell, who joined the press conference from the other side of the pond via a video chat said that he didn’t know anything about “Lord M”. “I was quite suspicious. He seems to be such an interesting guy and I thought if he’d really existed and that relationship been like that, we’d already know about it. But I did my research and it’s all true,” said the actor. As for the challenges which the BAFTA nominee was forced to tackle, there was one. And it had a name … Rupert. “As Jenna would tell you, one of the biggest challenges was the horses. It seemed there was no clear way of which end of the horse the complaints were coming from. It was the sound of an animal complaining about how boring his rider was,” laughed Rufus. “I think he was mimicking you,” teased Jenna.
Victoria is already surrounded by high expectations and titled the new Downton Abbey (no pressure at all). The scale of the production and the storytelling tools are no less than impressive. What’s more, there’s also an undeniable on and off-screen chemistry amongst the members of the cast. And for the drama itself, it has everything what a truly good drama can have from the very first minute – twists and turns, romance, scandals, and the sense of realism mixed with a high-class acting.
A victory for ITV? Yes.
Victoria starts on the 28th of August.