The Queen is the most formidable piece in any game of chess – and that same rule applies to "Reign," where Queen Catherine (Megan Follows) is not be crossed. She's schemed to have Mary (Adelaide Kane), Queen of Scots, raped in order to ruin the relationship between her and Prince Francis (Toby Regbo). Catherine plotted the assassination of Bash (Torrance Coombs), the illegitimate son of her husband, King Henry (Alan Van Sprang). She's manipulated Henry, treated others like pawns and poisoned her enemies.
On the other end of the spectrum, Catherine has proven resourceful and extremely protective of her children. Nobody should ever underestimate Catherine -- and it's that ruthless, but compassionate dichotomy which has turned her into one of the most compelling characters on television.
Jumping on the phone to preview "Reign"'s second season, Megan Follows spoke to HuffPost Canada TV about Catherine's goals and conniving ways. The Canadian actress also reminisced about her starring role in the beloved mini-series, "Anne of Green Gables."
HuffPost Canada TV: It's been a while since you were a series regular. What made you want to stay with this character for an extended period of time?
Megan Follows: I think she's a fantastic character. It's true. To be on something long-term and have an overriding arc is fantastic. I'm excited by her unpredictability. She's a strong, interesting woman. I love playing her.
People love period pieces such as "The Tudors" or "Dangerous Liaisons." What do you love about them?
What I love, and certainly in this, is once you get away from the spectacle of the costumes and the space and the place, you are really stripped of a lot of modern distractions and gadgetry that can be a huge part of shows, particularly if they are procedurals or medical dramas and cop dramas. All of them can be phenomenal and have excellent story arcs. What's interesting on "Reign" is you can hide somewhat behind a sword or lance, but all you really have are the politics. I would say the show is almost a medieval, political soap opera combining personal and political forces at that time.
There was no Michael Kors back then. How comfortable are the costumes?
We are obviously very flexible and playful with our depiction of that era. "Reign" really is a historical fantasy. I'm probably the closest to being the matriarch on the show. I have a lot of high collars. The weight of the clothes is beautiful. We just finished an episode where we did a lot of stuff outside, walking in woods and crawling around. It was quite something in all of those layers.
Costumes are so critical in terms of your interpretation of your part. They become an extension of the character. As I said, it's obviously not historically accurate and they (the producers) were never claiming that. There's a real playfulness and modernness to it, yet there's length and silhouettes.
In the season one finale, King Henry was killed. Were you surprised by that development and simultaneously how it would affect Catherine?
I wasn't surprised because historically he was killed. There are certain historic benchmarks that are honoured and some are playfully massaged. This one was critical in terms of a shift in power.
And yes, I know what his death meant historically, but I'm not sure what it will mean in the context of our show. For me, he was such a huge thorn in my side that I loved, that I kept putting back in. We had such a great dynamic. For the older viewership, it was sadly a very recognizable and fun relationship. It was a marital nightmare. The betrayals. The hurt. The mistresses.
In King Henry's absence, has Catherine lost some of her power?
Catherine always had an interesting power position. She always had a tremendous amount of power, but she didn't have the privilege of going through the front door. She had to be extraordinarily strategic. She's a survivalist, so her power has always been based on the men she is associated with. Really into Elizabeth I, in terms of her ownership of power, women were always at the mercy of being reflected through the male. Even if he's intellectually inferior, he's the one who has the power.
What's fun about our show is I'm this fiercely loyal mother and my son is everything to me, but he's everything to me because without him, my own position is extremely precarious. What's amazing about these dramas is how your personal and political agendas get mixed together.
There's no lost love between Catherine and Mary. Where do they stand?
For Catherine, what's the expression? "The devil you know is better than the one you don't." Or, "Keep your enemies closer." Having played out the first story arc already, Catherine is embracing Mary for now because she has to.
A lot of Catherine's animosity towards Mary stems from Nostradamus' (Rossif Sutherland) prediction surrounding Francis' death. What have you enjoyed about Catherine's interactions with him?
What I love about the Nostradamus/Catherine relationship is it's an adult friendship, a very complicated relationship, which is not ensnared by a romantic theme. It's an intellectual meeting of the minds, even when they disagree. Catherine has a brutal sense of right and wrong. Nostradamus is more open. He doesn't have to rule a country, so he doesn't have to make those hardline decisions. It gives her someone to reveal parts of herself to that she can't anywhere else.
Will his visions continue to drive Catherine's actions?
There's a turn that will happen. There are lines that get crossed that are hard to mend. Let's put it that way.
The season two premiere is called "The Plague." How does this epidemic put everyone to the test?
One of the things is it gives us an external force greater than our political machinations. There's something in nature that is a bigger threat to us, so we have to put our personal differences aside for a greater foe. That's part of what happens. Then in terms of leadership, who is prepared to make the choices necessary to keep that at bay?
Narcisse (Craig Parker) is a new face this season. How will he shake things up?
Narcisse is representing the power of the nobility, who have an extraordinary power with the wealthy and landholdings. His ability is to put pressure on his agenda, and not only the agenda of the Catholic Church, but the nobility associated with the Catholic Church and their interests. We're playing with those things.
Is there an attraction there with Catherine?
He's exploring relationships with other characters in the show.
What else can you hint about this season?
We just shot an episode which was very playful. I really appreciated that. It's featuring Catherine and Mary. They are outside the castle. Something happens that makes them fend for themselves in a way.
Besides "Reign," it's impossible not to talk about your starring role in "Anne of Green Gables." Why do you believe people connected with that mini-series?
It's the power of that character. Anne is an amazing character. She represents something really profound for people considering she is an orphaned, undervalued, displaced soul, who is told she is trash. And Anne's certainly the wrong gender to have value in the world. However, she turns around a community by absolutely remaining true to her spirit. There are so many pictures of the beauty of the island where it took place, which is a huge part of the story. That, in itself, would not speak to so many people globally. I can go anywhere in the world, whether it's in Africa, China, Cambodia and that story touched people. It gives a tremendous sense of value to the human spirit.
The other thing is she's not a character who was defined by her male counterparts. For young women, and women, that's critical. When I did it and I was young, I didn't realize how rare that was as a role. Because she's a young person, she's also not defined by her sexual value. She's admired for her intelligence.
Have you recently seen "Anne of Green Gables" and what memories did it elicit?
I have not seen it in a while. All I can say is the very first time I saw it, I remember the screening was at the Ontario Science Centre. Somewhere into it, I forgot that was me. We shot "Anne of Green Gables" very quickly. That was tough slogging when I reflect back on the hours in a day we shot. We had Richard Farnsworth for only six days in that first one. That's it. I would often shoot my close-ups a month later. I would be riding in a buggy with a grip stand and a hat with it. It was a testament to one's ability to stay focused as a young actor. I'm very, very proud at what we accomplished with it.
"Reign" returns Wednesday, Oct. 1 on M3.
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