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Starz’s Becoming Elizabeth explores Queen Elizabeth I’s life in an unconventional way by exploring her teen years and the drama she and her siblings encounter while struggling with their new power. It stars Alicia von Rittberg as Queen Elizabeth, Romola Garai as Queen Mary I, Jessica Raine as Catherine Parr, Tom Cullen as Thomas Seymour, Jamie Blackley as Robert Dudley, and is created by Anya Reiss with George Ormond as the executive producer.
I talked to Alicia von Rittberg, who plays Elizabeth, about her favorite scene to shoot, how Elizabeth is handling her new life and what she would miss most about modern times if she had to travel back in time.
I read that you were born into a noble family yourself. Did that experience and background affect your performance at all as Elizabeth or was this all very new to you?
No, this was all very new to me. To imagine what it must have been 500 years ago to grow up in such a dangerous environment is nothing I can relate to.
How was it like growing and evolving with a character who is literally a teenager at the beginning, she’s 14, and then eventually becomes queen. How was it like evolving with her and how did you approach each stage of her life?
I think I actually tried to not look at the queen we know from the books and not let her later life inform the choice she makes because she can’t know what’s going to come yet. Therefore, I tried to find the very human behind this young princess we showed. I really tried to look behind the curtains and concentrate on the relationships between her and her siblings and her and her uncle and stepmother. And I think that’s what is so special about the show as well that you actually get the feeling for the human beings behind those public figures.
Even though the show starts with the tragedy of Elizabeth losing her father, it’s also going into teenagehood and getting all this attention. She’s going into this new world and is very excited about intrigued by that. Can you speak about that?
I think it’s such a brutal world. So when her father dies, no matter how difficult their relationship it must have been, she’s on her own. So she starts at a very dark place. And then you hold on to anything that you can get. So when her uncle and all take her in, that sounds great in the first place. But little did she know how difficult it was going to be. While she’s trying to make the right decision on whether to go with her brother or sister, she’s also just a young girl who wants to fall in love for the first time. And experience love for the first time. And to see that taken away from her as well is just a constant struggle but I think everyone can relate to it very much.
If you had to travel back into Elizabethan times what do you think you would miss most about modern times?
I think I would miss the safety in a way. I can hardly imagine how hard it must have been, how brutal it must have been to realize that if you made the wrong decision that it can probably mean your head on a spike. I just feel lucky we aren’t in that situation anymore.
What was your favorite scene to shoot?
There is this one scene, the dress cutting.
Anya [show creator] and George [EP] talk about that earlier, that that was one of their favorite scenes too.
I absolutely love that scene. There is so much in it. It just shows the love, the fun, but at the same time the danger but at the same time as a pawn and being manipulated. They’re just so much on it that stands for the series. There is no black and white, there is no goodie or baddie. It’s all in between and constantly shifting, and you have to be ready to react. So I think that scene wasn’t just fun, but it stands for the whole show very much.
You can see my interviews with Tom Cullen (Thomas Seymour), Jessica Raine (Catherine Parr), Romola Garai (Queen Mary I), Jamie Blackley (John Dudley), Anya Reiss (creator), and George Ormond (EP) here.
Subscribe to Starz on Amazon to watch Becoming Elizabeth and other Starz shows.