The true story of Mary Queen of Scots, who took the sickly 14-year-old Francis, the Dauphin of France, for her first husband, doesn't seem like the stuff of a romantic CW drama. But, with a little tweaking, "Reign" (premiering Thurs. Oct. 17 at 9:00 p.m.) is giving history a slick, sexy remodel, according to the panel for the show at press tour.
Though Toby Regbo, who plays Prince Francis, joked that his character (who in real life died shortly after wedding Mary) won't be going anytime soon. "Our show is like '24'; it's done in real time, so I'm going to last until season six."
On a more serious note, executive producer Laurie McCarthy said, "The real facts of her life are so extraordinary and dramatic, and we're coming in at an early stage, [so] she has a ways to go before the wedding takes place. They have a ways to go as a married couple, and what we learn as a prophecy of young Francis' death, we'll actually embrace it. We won't shy away from it."
As to what will be based in truth and what will be fictionalized, McCarthy said, "I think in each episode we'll educate people on what element of history helps our story. There is a certain amount of latitude in dramatizing events. You read things in books, Wikipedia, [but] there are many things that happened that didn't make it into books. What did thy really wear when they weren't taking portraits?"
"It's TV," Adelaide Kane, who plays Mary, shrugged. "Of court we're going to dramatize events."
"I like a little creative license, because historically, I don't exist," added Torrance Combs, who plays (the entirely made up) character Bash.
Still, Kane says that, creative license or not, she researched her character. "I love the way people dress up, it's so awesome. I did quite a lot of research on her. She was really a remarkable woman. There is literature about her personality. Very witty, charming, six languages, she golfed, she hawked, an incredibly energetic vivacious woman. She was married three times and widowed twice by 26. Sort of marrying what I'd read about her and how she's written in the script and a little piece of myself. You read it, take it on board, then you see how it pans out. The way she's written, I endeavor to bring a little of that fun. She and her friends used to drink and go down to the village and prank people like that. I try to bring a little humor to the table."
Kane, who was very happy to answer questions directed at her, at McCarthy, and the panel as a whole, also talked about how she landed the role. After explaining she had auditioned for several shows on The CW, she found out about "Reign" and asked to take a shot. As she's "half Scottish and the tartan on my mother's side is… Stewart," she "was, would you like to audition me, maybe? It was a bit unusual in that I got to go into the CW and pick my scenes from the script, which was so exciting…I auditioned, I threw a couple different accent variations at them, and I gave them a little video diary and… that was kinda it." McCarthy confirmed that she was the only actress she saw for the part.
Megan Follows, who plays Queen Catherine and is best known for her role in "Anne of Green Gables," explained what she liked about her character. "She's such a bitch!… She's got a deep and credible sense of loyalty for her son. It brings out huge ethical and moral dilemmas for her, which sometimes require brutal action, but it's coming from a sincere place. It's a dark world and heads do roll."
Because the story is based in fact, McCarthy was asked if she saw a natural endpoint for the show dictated by history. "I actually feel liberated by the actual facts of her life, that she was engaged so many times and found love in a forced marriage… I think if you take that architecture of a time that's so dramatic, if you dig into it and find what did that really feel like, that's where the show lives."
There's also the appearance of Nostradamus, played by Rossif Sutherland. Though his appearance is based in fact, he isn't the fityish man we might expect from history books. "My take on him changed a little bit when he got so hunky," McCarthy said. "We'll delve into his actual history. He really was an advisor of Catherine's… Catherine definitely believes his prophecies were spot on, [and] you'll realize his warning about Francis' death is spot on. He'll see things in visions and dreams, and he'll often misdirect people to treacherous and tragic ends, but he's well meaning," adding that, his story will be deepened by the fact he was "a guy who lost his wife and kids to the plague."
As to a younger actor playing the role, McCarhty said, "We brought those [older] guys in, and then he came in and I said, that's Nostradamus. We took some liberties. My job is tell compelling stories… We're not gonna have him fly or have him do something Nostradamus never did, but we cast people who were right for the role for the story we wanted to tell."
Though some fans of the Lumineers will probably be excited about the inclusion of their music in the pilot, those who find modern music jarring to a period drama might not. " It is a soundtrack; it's not music the characters are hearing. We're still putting together the pilot. We're still working with music. The Lumineers have gotten involved with [the series] and they wrote a song for the pilot. [The music has] a little Celtic feel to it to transport you emotionally not disconnect you from what's happening on screen," McCarthy said.
"The show has many facets," the executive producer promised. "It's a love story, there's a horror element to it. I feel like it has legs." As to how much history we'll see, she said, "There will be escalations in violence. It' a show about rulers, young rulers, so we will track political events including skirmishes and wars, and what our characters have to do to deal with that... Francis is not the only future king going around."