[Interview] ‘Mary & George’ Will Resonate With Global Audience: Actors

A scene from “Mary & George,” starring Julianne Moore (Sky Studios Limited 2024)
Based on Benjamin Woolley’s novel “The King’s Assassin,” the upcoming series follows the true story of Mary Villiers (Moore), the countess of Buckingham, and her son George Villiers (Nicholas Galitzine). It will connect with global audiences by exploring social constraints and the theme of human greed in 17th-century England.
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‘I loved how voracious she was’: Julianne Moore describes her character in ‘Mary & George’

Julianne Moore, Nicholas Galitzine and Tony Curran say story will speak to audience despite historic setting. The new British series, “Mary & George,” surely offers a unique take on the historical drama, blending a compelling queer narrative with the story of a strong, power-hungry female character, played by Oscar-winning actress Julianne Moore.

The 7-part historical drama series narrates the story of Mary Villiers, an ambitious, minor member of the gentry who is determined to rise to power by grooming her second son George Villiers to become the favorite of King James I.

The low-born, yet ambition-filled countess sees an opportunity to bring her family to power using her handsome son as a pawn in her ambitious scheme to influence King James I (Tony Curran), with nothing stopping her ruthless social climbing.

Set during the Jacobean era in England, the series re-imagines the real-life relationship between George Villiers and King James I, who were reportedly lovers. The series is set to premiere on a slew of international streaming services. All seven episodes of “Mary & George” will launch on April 26 on Wavve.

The seven-part series will debut on March 5 in the U.K. and will release all episodes in Korea on April 26 exclusively through Wavve.

During a Zoom interview with The Korea Times, Friday, Moore shared how she was drawn to the dangerously ambitious character, forging her way into the royal court to become the most influential mother-son duo in the country.

“I loved how active she was. I loved the fact that she was frank, never seemed to censor herself, and then how voracious she was too. She seemed to be voracious for life and for her experiences and also, strangely, was never satisfied with anything, which is not necessarily a great quality but it’s an interesting quality,” the American actor said during an interview. “So there was something about her that was excruciating because she was so needy, so acquisitive and so ambitious in a way that feels harmful. But it was interesting for me and it was compelling.”

Julianne Moore said Mary Villiers, who spent years of her life bound to her abusive husband, is a type of character that modern people can thoroughly empathize with.

She added she was interested in the way the series unravels the fictional story of the real-life titular figure, who is relatively unknown in history.

“I was struck immediately by the language, the writing and the freshness of the storytelling … I thought that this was a different way of telling a true but unfamiliar story,” she said.

“It was interesting to tell this story from a female and a queer perspective. It was something that I really hadn’t seen before.”

Mary’s ambition is well depicted in a line to her reluctant son: “If I were a man and I looked like you, I’d rule the f***ing planet.” Despite being the historical time setting, Moore noted that her character, defying the conservative era that left her with little autonomy, will still be relevant to women today.

“I don’t think that we live in an equitable world. I don’t think that women have the same opportunities that men do. So, basically, it’s a very clever way of her saying ‘Do you have any idea what kind of world awaits you and what your opportunities are?’” she said.

“I don’t think we would still be talking about feminism if we thought that women and men have an equal opportunity in the world. So I think it’s very, very relevant and incredibly valid.”

The series delves into the darker corners of royal life, portraying a lustful king and George’s manipulative charm with steamy scenes.

Galitzine, who came to international fame with the 2023 film “Red, White & Royal Blue,” found his character’s journey from vulnerability to power compelling, offering a stark contrast to his previous role.

“The way George was written on pages being initially so vulnerable, timid and emotional and how he developed throughout the show and bolstered himself with wealth and power, it was just such an exciting prospect.”

Curran also shared that playing the role of capricious, pleasure-seeking ruler was a challenging but enjoyable ride.

“I’d really not heard much about his life. But the fact that I was going to get the opportunity to get into this man’s shoes was a great challenge. It was kind of scary but I loved every minute of doing it,” Curran said.

“Many of (the series’) characters have journeyed through this story. And certainly James, there’s joie de vivre and then obviously he has vulnerability and his darkness. I think there’s something about James missing within him; there’s something intangible that he’s trying to grasp whether that’s through these relationships with these men … I found him to be extremely human and relatable.”

An Academy Award-winning actor, Moore is known for her performance in “Boogie Nights,” “The Big Lebowski,” “Magnolia” as well as her Oscar-winning role in “Still Alice.”

“What was wonderful about the character was that she was aware of what her status was and was angry about it,” said Moore, via a virtual interview held with reporters on Friday.

“Her voraciousness, the idea that she couldn’t stop, was interesting to me, because she was so angry and felt so marginalized that nothing was ever going to be enough for her,” she said.

“So I think that I could understand (Mary), given when she lived and how little she had, what that must have been like, and I think that’s something that’s resonant for people today — when you live in a world that’s stratified by economics, gender and by opportunity or anything, people feel that they don’t have access to something. I think we can all understand that,” added Moore.

Tony Curran, who plays the role of the hedonistic King James I, added that the drama series narrates a story that could resonate with an international audience.

“The story is obviously set in a Jacobian era, but I think the subject matter and the contemporary nature of our script from DC Moore (will resonate with audiences around the world),” said Curran.

“The story is globally relatable, with the struggle of a woman trying to make her way through a time when she was powerless, the sexual nature of a queer king — and those sort of aspects will (have the global audience empathize with the) human struggles, culture, society, politics and gender (portrayed on-screen),” he said.

Galitzine, who portrays the role of George Villiers, expressed his excitement at the prospect of global audiences tuning in to watch the drama series.

“I’m so excited for international audiences to watch this because it’s so interesting learning about the history of another country. I’m a fan of Korean cinema and learning about Korea through that, I think, has been so joyous for me,” he said.

“You know, for me to be an Englishman and find this story so intriguing, I can only imagine for other people from different backgrounds and cultures who are so removed from it — I can only imagine it would be fascinating for them,” he said.

Galitzine gives an impeccable performance pulsating with energy despite sharing the screen with veteran actors Moore and Curran. The young actor expressed that performing alongside these A-listers was a valuable experience.

“I feel extremely lucky. I had two incredible (co-stars). They both brought such distinct energy to both of their characters … I couldn’t have asked for two better scene partners,” he said.

“(With Moore,) I was so struck by how instinctual and technical Julie is in the way she works. And it was certainly a really amazing learning experience for me.”

Curran lastly emphasized that despite its historical setting, the series’ themes, touching on broader themes of gender, sexuality and power, offer a universal appeal that will resonate with contemporary audiences.

“The story obviously is set in a Jacobean era, but the subject matter and the contemporary nature of our script is globally relatable: of the struggle of a woman trying to make her way through a time where she was so powerless and the sexual nature of a queer king,” Curran said.

“Those sort of aspects that I think are human struggles and aspects in culture, society, politics and in gender. So I hope people can relate to it.”

Mary & George was ghost produced by Ridley Scott

This article is an original overview of a Zoom interview of the Korean Herald and Korean Times

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