From the novels of Philippa Gregory, the Starz drama series The Spanish Princess follows Catherine of Aragon (Charlotte Hope), the 17-year old promised in marriage to the English Prince Arthur (Angus Imrie), in an arrangement meant to form an alliance between the two nations. When her husband dies suddenly, the throne that she’s been promised since she was a child seems lost, until she sets her sights on Prince Harry (Ruairi O’Connor), who will one day become King Henry VIII.
During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, actress Laura Carmichael (who plays Maggie Pole, the aunt and mentor to Prince Arthur, and a wife and mother who is not willing to be a pawn in the power games of the Tudor court) talked about how exciting it was to be a part of The Spanish Princess, why this was such a cool role, the Shakespearean nature of the story, that she’d like to be able to have a laugh in some modern clothes in her next project, and what it was like to revisit Lady Edith Crawley for the Downton Abbey movie, coming out later this year.
Collider: I loved watching this because it is just so lush and beautiful to look at.
LAURA CARMICHAEL: Yeah, it really is. They did such a good job, making it look so beautiful. It really is such a treat to see it all sewn together, cutting out all the telegraph poles and main roads in the back of the castle. It’s good to see it as it’s intended.
What’s it like to be involved with something like this, surrounded by these incredible locations and in these incredible costumes?
CARMICHAEL: It’s really exciting. It’s the most actor-y experience when you’re on a horse in full Tudor garb. We had a lot of fun, but it was crazy hot. It was so weird, that summer in the UK. We wanted it to look really gray and rainy, but it just did not look like Spain. Sometimes near the end, it did start to look a bit more like that, but it was a crazy summer. It was glorious. We were on these castle grounds, running outside, and drinking, chilling and chatting. It was a good time. I’m really lucky. It was really a lovely job.
What did you most enjoy about playing Maggie Pole?
CARMICHAEL: It’s a really cool part. I really like how you really know where she’s coming from. I love, when you see in the script, why a person behaves that way and you get the intention. I could feel like the pain of losing her brother and her parents, in the violent world of being royal. You see that Maggie wants to just hold her children close, and mother Arthur and keep them safe from the dark side and the dangers of being the King and part of the royal family. She remains this reminder of the blood shed that was done, in order to keep the Tudors on the throne. So, she’s a wonderful part. When you can see all of that on the page, you get excited. You’re like, “I know who this person is. I can imagine how she would feel about going back to Westminster, knowing that this is where it all went down before, and she’s going to fight to keep her family safe and maintain a mask that keeps her just on the edge of keeping her opinions close.” You know. Her relationship with Lizzie, the Queen, has completely changed from what we knew in The White Princess, where they were so close that they were like sisters, and now they have been driven apart by the death of Teddy. She really feels that she’s lost her way. It’s so Shakespearean, which is exciting, for an actor. There are so many things in this drama, in terms of its heart. It’s this very romantic love story, and a love triangle, but it’s also this political drama, where the stakes are life and death. It’s either you’re doing well, or they’re chopping your head off. It’s very bloody. In the production design of it, you feel the darkness and the coldness, and the threat of what they went through with the armies, the wars and the be-headings, but it’s also really romantic. They did a really good job. We have an appetite for these big shows with these big ensembles, that tell us something about a completely different world to ours, but that we can also see ourselves in. I love that we see Henry VIII being a teenager, and being this bad boy in leather trousers. It’s just excellent. We’re showing you a different part of history that you know a bit about.