You probably know you’re watching The CW when you see a historical drama based on Mary Stuart (Mary, Queen of Scots) and the screen is filled with impossibly beautiful young people wearing clothes not quite of the era, including stiletto heels. And to drive home the fact that a bit of creative license was taken with The CW’s new series Reign, star Adelaide Kane (Teen Wolf), who plays Mary, confirmed for me in an interview this summer at the Television Critics Association Press Tour that, “This isn’t the History Channel. … It’s a TV show. It’s supposed to be fun! You’re supposed to enjoy it!”
Reign is fun in The CW sort of way, featuring the type of behind-the-back sniping and dealing common on the network’s high-school dramas — and in the courts of Mary’s era.
The series follows a teenage Mary as she arrives in France with four close friends who serve as her ladies-in-waiting. Mary has been sent to secure Scotland’s strategic alliance by formalizing her arranged engagement to the French king’s son, Francis (Toby Regbo). Complicating things are Bash (Torrance Coombs), Francis’ handsome half-brother, and Francis’ mother, Queen Catherine (Megan Follows).
The circumstances of Mary’s arrival were a bit of liberty that the series took with actual history for dramatic purposes, as Kane told me.
“We’ve fabricated a story where there was an assassination attempt when she was like 9 or 10,” Kane said. “She was shipped off to a convent for the last six or seven years. She’s been very sheltered and very out of the loop, politically speaking. She doesn’t realize how ruthless [politics] really is.”
Ruthless though it may have been, Mary eventually finds her way through her strength. In that respect — Mary’s determination — Reign may have something actually aligning with the historical record. Kane, who told me that she has “very strong opinions about gender equality and feminism,” explained how impressed she was with the actual Mary, following some research.
“She was a remarkable woman, very intelligent. Spoke six languages, played two different instruments. She could hold a conversation with anybody; she was witty, charming. She was very active; she rode, hunted. She golfed, she danced. She and her girlfriends were very mischievous.”
Kane told me she hoped that Mary’s fun side would come out more as the series progressed, but at the time of our conversation the show had just begun filming, so it was still pretty much a serious state of events in which Mary found herself.
But that’s not to say no fun was had. Kane particularly enjoyed dressing in the costumes, as uncomfortable as they may have been.
“Who doesn’t want to play dress-up?” the Australian actress laughed. “I am a girl, after all. They were uncomfortable, admittedly, but the most uncomfortable elements of the costume were the corsets and the heels. I wear stilettos; we have a lot of ‘shoe porn’ on the show. The shoes are extremely uncomfortable, but they are amazing. All women wear heels. But if you’re a complete ‘shoe whore,’ like I am, you will put up with a lot of pain for a beautiful pair of shoes. And a beautiful pair of shoes can do a lot to make you feel powerful, tall, you stand upright, you feel sexy in heels; it’s very empowering. The corsets are uncomfortable, but they are such a useful tool character-wise, and as an actor, I don’t have to think about my posture, I don’t have to think about how much I ate for lunch. It changed everything. It changes how you walk, how you talk, how you emote, how you breathe when you’re crying, how you gesture. All the costumes are constricting, and they teach you a new way to move, the way that they might have moved back then.”
Not everything about Reign is as it might have been “back then,” Kane admitted, as she explained some further historical tweaks that were made in the production.
“We are taking creative license with the clothes, because fashion is going to be a large element [of the series]. We’re going to break some ground in terms of mixing modern fashion with fashion through the ages. We have multiple time periods; it’s really a beautiful mishmash. Which will be quite fun.
“We’ve [also] loosened up the language a little bit. It’s very difficult to be conversational in, like, iambic pentameter or something like that. We can’t speak archaic old English because nobody would understand what the hell we were saying. We’ve made concessions on that, [and] we’ve made concessions in terms of accents. … It is very, very difficult to act in a different accent. It’s very tricky. Some actors can be the most brilliant actors in the world, but if they have a bad accent, you don’t pay attention to their performance. A British accent is relatively easy, and it opens up casting choices to people who are just really good and might not be able to do a Scottish accent or a really specific accent. It really opens us up. We took a bit of creative license with that and with the storyline as well, just to add a little bit of drama.”
Reign airs Thursdays at 9pm ET beginning Oct. 17 on The CW.
Adelaide Kane (left) as Mary, Queen of Scots in The CW’s Reign: © 2013 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Credit Christos Kalohoridis