“Women throughout history have been accused of being witches”: Samantha Morton and cast on The Serpent Queen
Gone are the days of period drama being confined to stuffy, corseted, all-white casts and arduous dialogue – and Starzplay are leading the charge with their recent raft of female-led, period shows. Latest offering The Serpent Queen is no exception. The series, created by Justin Haythe and based on the 2004 non-fiction book by Leonie Frieda, takes as its subject the formidable French queen, Catherine de Medici, who, despite being little-known as a historical figure, was an oft-misunderstood and commonly villainised character, who in fact had a wide-reaching impact on pop culture, whether it be in the Grimm fairytales or modern ideas of witches and black magic.
A dazzlingly diverse cast, impeccable production values and a solid dollop of blacker-than-coal wit drag this story out of the history books and right into the 21st century, complete with Fleabag-esque fourth-wall breaks (put to better use here than the recent disastrous Persuasion adaptation from Netflix) and deadpan, tongue-in-cheek references to the general barbarism with which women and anyone not of privilege were treated. As its tag line (“Tell me what you would have done differently”) indicates, this show ushers in a new kind of period drama that aims to reclaim historical narratives and demonstrate that every story has more than one interpretation.
The incomparable Samantha Morton takes on the queen herself, delivering each line with deliciously biting precision, while rising star Liv Hill proves her potential with a fearless interpretation of the young Catherine, downtrodden but far from tamed. The Upcoming caught up with the cast of the show ahead of its launch to hear more about its production.
We had the privilege of speaking with Morton about her role as the Serpent Queen, what was so captivating about her as a character, having the chance to revisit her story through a contemporary, feminist lens and how impressed she was by Hill playing her younger counterpart.
We also spoke with Hill about playing the young Catherine, the research she undertook ahead of the shoot, the highlights and challenges of working on a 16th century period set, and the blazing path her own career has taken since her breakout roles in Three Girls and Jellyfish.
Game of Thrones star Amrita Acharia shared her insights on playing Aabis, a Christian convert who is a part of Catherine’s entourage, and the appeal for her of being involved in the show.
Ray Panthaki further chatted to us about his character, Charles de Guise, the fun he had playing the role, and the importance of greater diversity on set, particularly in period dramas. He also reflected on his own career and the blinding success of Boiling Point.
Danny Kirrane and Nicholas Burns finally told us a bit about Louis and Antoine de Bourbon, whom they play in the series, and the experience of acting alongside a phenomenal ensemble cast.
The Serpent Queen is released on 11th September 2022.
Watch the trailer for The Serpent Queen here: