Something odd is happening in France. The CW's newest drama, "Reign," may be set in the 16th century, but it certainly doesn't look it. It has been called "Game of Thrones" meets "Gossip Girl," but it's so much more -- like "GG" meets "A Knight's Tale" with a little "GoT" and "Supernatural" thrown in.
"Reign" follows a young Mary, Queen of Scots (Adelaide Kane), who comes out of hiding at a convent after an attempt is made on her life. She arrives in France to marry Prince Francis of France (Toby Regbo) but love has nothing to do with it; their engagement is more of a political arrangement, an alliance between France and Scotland. But things get a little awkward when Francis' bastard brother, Bash (Torrance Coombs), shows his own interest in Mary. So, no, the series won't be taking an old-timey turn (this is The CW after all, so historical accuracy isn't of utmost importance). Entertainment, on the other hand? Well, that's where "Reign" brings it.
HuffPost Canada TV was on the Toronto set (sadly, not where they shoot in Ireland). They know their show will garner criticism and haters are gonna hate, but the actors were more than happy to defend their show.
The women and men of "Reign" engage in a bit of light-hearted frivolity.
Mary, Queen Of Scots
Alan Van Sprung
Adelaide Kane Plays Mary, Queen of Scots
On how things suck for Mary: "She just can't catch a break. Girl cannot catch a break! There's been a lot of jealousy and miscommunication and there's new love interests popping up left and right ... and it's just so hard for her! She can't really have a romance with anybody really, other than Francis. And if he doesn't want it, she's kind of left adrift. She can't have boyfriends. Just a whiff of scandal, just a rumour that she's not chaste, it'll ruin the alliance. And she'll be screwed. She'll never get married. He's put her in a very difficult and very lonely position and has been back-and-forth-ing and being hot and cold on her all season. Which isn't fair on her, because she doesn't have anybody else. He can, because he's a boy! He can do whatever he wants! But she can't."
On who Mary can count on: "I think Sebastian is her closest confidante, because he's the one person in court who can't hurt her. He has nothing to gain by selling her out, because he has nothing to gain. Nobody can give him anything, because he's illegitimate. They just can't. He can't be given favour by anybody other than his father. The only reason he's at court is because he's in his father's favour. So I think that he's the only other person she can really trust. And that's very dangerous for her, because she's attracted to him and she relaxes and feels comfortable around him -- and he's the one man she can't have."
On her relationship with Catherine: "Queen Catherine hoards her power. She may be a queen, but she was an untitled, wealthy, noble girl before she married the king. And she will do anything to maintain her position of power. It's very uncertain, because once her husband dies and her son is king, she needs to either control her son or control her son through her son's wife. Mary doesn't feel like she is in any way socially inferior to Queen Catherine because she is nobility in her own right. And she has not only a title, but royal blood from several families. Theoretically speaking, in terms of bloodlines, she is of a higher station than Queen Catherine -- not just by virtue of the fact that she's a queen in her own right, not just by marriage. So that's a very interesting and rather contentious relationship. Because I think Queen Catherine sees her as a threat, not only because she's her son's fiancée, but also because she is a powerful woman and has more power -- more independent power -- than Catherine has."
On watching Megan Follows in action: "[Catherine is] such a great character, and Megan's perfect. It's such a lesson every time I work with her. It's wonderful!"
Toby Regbo Plays Prince Francis, Son Of Henry and Catherine
On why characters in projects set in France always sport British accents: "Just like, say, "The Borgias," where they would all be speaking Italian, they're speaking with English accents. But we're speaking with the equivalent accent of what those people would be speaking with. I think it would make less sense for us to be speaking English with a French accent. If you're going to speak French, then speak French and have the subtitles. But obviously American TV won't accept that. So you've got to do English ... English with English accents. It's TV [Laughs]."
On that old saying, "If I can't have her, no one can": "She has a few suitors. I'm not the only one that has my eyes on Mary. Not Bash either. We're not the only two. She's a powerful queen and people want to get hold of her, so I'm going to have my work cut out [for me], trying to keep her at a distance but also trying to keep her mine. I do have feelings for her but I'm trying to quash them, quell them."
On how crazy his mother gets: "She goes far. Not further than some of the pushy moms of the child actors that I work with [Laughs]. Yeah, she's like a child star's mom who breaks the legs of that ballerina who's about to go on stage so that her kid can win the talent contest. He's going to start wondering what mommy's up to."
Anna Popplewell Plays Lola, One Of Mary's Ladies-In-Waiting
On a whole new genre, "history/fantasy": "It's kind of like historical fan fiction. It's history/fantasy, so you're taking characters that you know, that did exist, that people may know a lot about, and you're putting them in situations that are sometimes based on historical events, and sometimes not, sometimes they're in new relationships with characters that never existed, sometimes they stick to exploring little details of relationships that did exist. I think it's kind of original in that way."
On how she's balancing the history and fantasy: "I've been trying not to be too wedded to the history books. I did the reading and I did the research but that's not what we're going for with this show. So I think it's helpful to know the history and know what you're deviating from, but I think you could waste a lot of energy as an actor thinking why that's not that and that's not that and that's not that and that's kind of not the point with this. I have been trying to focus on the humanity of it and the character of it, and watching these five young girls leave their home and be thrust into this quite brutal, fast-paced court in another country."
On how sexy "Reign" gets: "Well, these girls are very mischievous. There are a lot of hijinks in store. Relationships obviously develop but I think you're gonna see love interests come and go. Aside from the central love triangle, no one's gonna be with anyone for the duration of the series. It's going to be very fast-paced on the romantic side of things ... It's not gonna be like "Game of Thrones." And it's not going to be quite "Tudors" level. I think it's always going to tread that fine line of being incredibly suggestive and those things are to be explored ... It's definitely naughty."
Torrance Coombs Plays Sebastian, a.k.a. Bash, Son Of Henry And Diane
On the bastard label: "The bastard thing really defines who you are in many ways because a bastard is trapped between worlds. I'm a bastard that has the king's favour so I'm allowed to be at court, I sometimes get assistance from servants for various things, I get to show up for the parties. But I have no real say in policy, I'm not being groomed to be king, I can't be with the girl I want to be with. There's all kinds of things that come along with that and everybody looks down on me for being somewhat lesser, even though, genetically, we're all the same."
On Bash's feelings for Mary: "She brings in a fresh sort of energy, she's very 'unqueenly.' She's also, in a sense, a victim of the system, kind of trapped at French court for an alliance that may or may not hold, in this marriage that may or may not happen, that may or may not have a love component to it. I feel for her in that and I don't think I consciously see an opening but I think I see, perhaps, a kindred spirit, someone else that sees how silly the whole enterprise can be and we bond over that."
On Bash's relationship with Francis: "Interestingly enough, it's great. We've really established that there's a lot of love there. They grew up together. They do things together as brothers. They go hunting. They spend time together. I mean, our parents put a strain on our relationship, and then, certainly, when Mary comes in that puts a little bit of a strain on our relationship as well. But, ultimately, we soldier forward with love."
Janessa Grant Plays Aylee, One Of Mary's Ladies-In-Waiting
On her closeness to Mary: "Aylee is probably Mary's closest friend, her confidante, the one she goes to whenever she's freaking out on the inside. She can't show that at court. And even with the other girls, it's a little bit harder. So, yeah. I'm the go-to girl. I've figured out at this point that if Mary succeeds at court, if everything goes OK for Mary, then I can figure out my own life. Then we'll all be safe and OK, and I can worry about that later. So I kind of push my own wants and desires to the side, for the greater cause."
On the mysterious presence in the castle: "We don't exactly know who she is yet. We don't know whether she's living or dead. Maybe she's a spirit who haunts the castle, and you don't know if she's alive, maybe she was horribly disfigured in some accident. And you don't really know who she serves. The queen knows about her. Nostradamus knows about her. And she befriends Mary, and helps her out."
On potential romance for Aylee: "Aylee is the youngest of the other girls, so I think she tries to pass off that she knows more about boys than she really does, but she's lying through her teeth. And it kind of scares her at this point ... that's another thing about putting your friends first, and helping them with their relationships. That's a really smart way to avoid having to have relationships of your own."
Alan Van Sprang Plays King Henry II, Husband Of Catherine, And Father To Francis And Sebastian
On how naughty the King is: "I didn't even know he was so dirty. I just thought he was just going to be a figurehead on the show, and it was just going to be a show about a bunch of young girls fornicating around the kingdom. I didn't know the fornicator was going to be me. I just thought I would pop in there for a couple of scenes, but no. He's like a full-on dirty old man."
On balancing his wife, Catherine, with his mistress, Diane: "They're absolutely aware of who they are in terms of the reign and the kingdom. Catherine knows how powerful she is, she's extremely smart. But Diane also knows she is basically the person in my life, the person my heart belongs to ... my relationship with Catherine is, 'OK, let's get Scotland, and then through Scotland, we can get England.' So ideally, it's a political relationship with Catherine. So he enjoys her for that. Whereas Diane, she's just the rock star of his life. I mean, she really is. He adores her, they sleep together, they share the bedroom, it's not really he and Catherine who share anything aside from sitting beside each other on the throne."
On who he's modelling his Henry after: "Bill Clinton. Absolutely. One hundred percent. I thought, 'OK, what is this guy like? Who is he like? Who do I know and immediately ... and not just because of Monica Lewinsky or anything like that. I just think that Clinton was just such a personable, fun-loving guy who would pop into Arsenio Hall and play the saxophone. And he still is. He is just so approachable, and so easy-going, and his wife is so powerful. It was a relationship set up in spades for me. Because it was all about Hillary Clinton for me. That's what I see with Catherine, she's the power behind me, absolutely. So that's why I thought of Bill Clinton. And then there's Monica Lewinsky..."
Caitlin Stasey Plays Kenna, One Of Mary's Ladies-In-Waiting
On being the show's bad girl: "Kenna is just an incredibly lively, albeit selfish individual. She's incredibly hedonistic, and she pursues pleasure to a fault, I think I would say. Due to the nature of the show, we're being more defined by the events that occur to us ... [Mary and the ladies-in-waiting] provide counsel for one another, like any other group of friends, yet we're all, at this point, forging these individual paths, and going off on our own. Kenna perhaps more so than anybody, because she is, once again, sort of out for herself. Not for the sake of power, or self-improvement. She just wants what she enjoys, to the detriment of all other things. She just goes off and does it."
On Kenna's first dalliance within the castle: "She has a relationship with somebody that I suppose you could say is in a position of power. What a tumultuous and turbulent relationship to get yourself into! Within those times, you couldn't, I mean there was no such thing as dating. You could court one another, but only if your intention was marriage. Thereby, you give up your virtue. So you have to be incredibly careful. I mean, it was a very sexist time, obviously. Women weren't liberated or empowered in any way, but I feel like we are trying to combat that with this show. These women are straddling fine lines between being reckless and just enjoying themselves. So, we're each developing our own relationships, at the moment - some that fail, some that don't."
On balancing a woman in the 16th century vs. a modern one: "It must be hard, in the context of this show, to have empowered women. Because, obviously, it was set in a time where women were objectified and held at this level of being these angelic sexless creatures, so it's very demeaning. But, I feel like we're all managing as writers, as actors, as showrunners, as producers, to create these characters that are upstanding, strong-willed and compassionate, and I would hope good-enough role models, in some regards. It would always break my heart to feel like I was doing anything that betrayed my sex. And fortunately, in this instance, I don't feel that way. I feel like we're just a product of the times, and in the context of the show."
Celina Sinden Plays Greer, One Of Mary's Ladies-In-Waiting
On Greer's goal: "She comes from wealth, but she's not titled. She's not a Lady or a Duchess which, I think, gives her insecurities. She's been sent to the court to land a man, to get this title. She's very ambitious. She's witty, self-assured, fiery, intelligent. I guess the difference between Greer and the other three girls is that they're so secure in themselves. They don't feel that ambition to rise in the world because they have it already."
On Greer's end game: "I think if she could get a king ... she aims high but she'll accept a couple of notches down, maybe [Laughs]. She's not looking for love, she's looking for something completely different, which I think is hard to relate to for modern women. But I've had to put myself in those shoes and think about the real pressure she was under and how that is the only way, as a woman at the time, to rise in the world. Even though she's got money, that makes no difference. She'll never be treated with respect until she's titled."
Megan Follows Plays Catherine de' Medici, Wife Of King Henry II And Mother Of Francis
On playing the bad guy: "She's kind of the bad guy, which is always delicious, right? She's the bad guy with great intentions. So it's not that easy. She's torn. She's got conflicting motivations -- except for that she's obviously fiercely loyal to her son and wanting to make sure he's OK and protected."
On not being labelled a villain: "I think that she's having to make really difficult choices out of necessity. And some of them are very dark. None of that is done with glee. She's not someone who gets off on being horrible. She's far too intelligent. She's someone of great empathy, believe it or not!"
On how powerful Catherine truly is: "She recognizes that power is secured through her sons. And that was historically true. She was very clever, ultimately got something put in place. She created a title, which saved her, called Queen Consort. And that meant that she was always that, regardless of her sons. She outlived three of her sons. Also, just as a mother, having so many children, losing children like that? Outliving your children -- no mother wants to experience that. Three of them, they're ruling, you're older, wiser ... you don't actually get to be the one, you're not the poster child for the ruling. But you're the one behind it. I mean, that's a lot of work!"
"Reign" premieres Wednesday, Oct. 16 at 8 p.m. ET on M3 in Canada and Thursday, Oct. 17 at 9 p.m. ET on The CW in the U.S.