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VERSAILLES Q&A w/ George Blagden, Alexander Vlahos, David Wolstencroft + Episode Guide

Maj Canton - June 1, 2017

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Set in France during the reign of Louis XIV, VERSAILLES is a lavish 10-episode production that tells the riveting story of the “Sun King,” the building of his opulent palace, and all the sex, murder, and power plays that roiled his court. Watch the drama unfold as Versailles becomes a battleground for romantic intrigue, power grabs, and declarations of war. VERSAILLES is a unique take on a defining period of French history. The year is 1667 and King Louis XIV is a 28-year-old monarch on the cusp of greatness. A ruthless leader, he will stop at nothing to achieve his vision of creating the most beautiful palace in Europe and seizing absolute control of France -- and his enemies.

On June 1, 2017 Ovation announced that Season 2 of VERSAILLES will premiere Saturday, September 30, 2017 at 10pm. The returning cast includes George Blagden as King Louis, Alexander Vlahos as Philippe and Anna Brewster as Madame de Montespan. Joining the cast this season are Greta Scacchi and Harry Hadden-Paton . The dark side of Versailles is front and center in Season 2 as Louis overcomes many obstacles – both political and private.  As Louis’ power grows, so does the Palace, but his lofty ambitions are sometime overshadowed by his private fears, fueled by the strong women in his life. Watch the trailer here:

 

 

 

This past August at the Television Critics Association (TCA) Summer Press Tour, Ovation presented a VERSAILLLES panel that included stars George Blagden and Alexander Vlahos and Creator/Executive Producer David Wolstencroft. Here are a few highlights (edited for clarity and readability) from that panel.

 


David Wolstencroft

Question: How did you gain access? Did you have to submit the script in advance?


David Wolstencroft: Well, if you do a show in France about French history, then politics isn't going to be too far away from what you're doing. We were very, very lucky because, as soon as we announced the show, the Palace of Versailles, the Chatêau de Versailles, which is the part of the French government patrimony, were pretty much opened doors for us, and they're closed every Monday, so we were able to shoot there every Monday. Of course the way the palace is right now, the chateau is not the way it was in 1667 when the show starts in the beginning of Season 1. The first two scripts were read. Mathieu da Vinha, who is one of the heads of research there, was our historical consultant. They all embraced the creative endeavor that we were doing, the ambition of it, and the idea that we were doing this as this global series in English about the French monarch.



George Blagden & Alexander Vlahos

Question: To what extent did you know about Louis XIV before this started? What surprised you? And what do you find really interesting about him?


George Blagden: Well, I knew very little. I had a very basic education of the man, IT was a great concern of mine coming into the show that I didn't want to play a two-dimensional character, and as soon as I met with the production team it was clear that they were not trying to achieve that with this series. THE thing that got me really excited was the vulnerability of this man. And I was going to be allowed to show that and open a season of a show of this scale with a man this weak, with a man this fragile. And that was kind of the key for me in getting into this role, was being allowed to show this really fragile side to this king, who we've only known really in popular culture and popular history as this omnipotent figure. Of course, then that journey as an actor to start off the first season where this man is at the most fragile point in his life and grow him into this figure that we know him to be from history was really exciting for me, and it's still a continuing process. We've just wrapped Season 2, and I still feel like I'm on that journey with him.

Alexander Vlahos: He's a gift of a character to play as a 27-year-old actor. I described him as quadrophenic in personality. He's an open homosexual in a time where in Catholic courts was deemed almost completely wrong. Fearsome warrior, would lead any battle and victorious always. He's married to his wife, but he's also a cross-dresser. It was probably the most challenging physically, mentally, emotionally draining part I've ever played, because of that bipolar/quadrophenic personality traits that he has. In one scene he is arguing with his brother. He will walk around the corridor. He'll kiss and make love to his boyfriend. He will leave the bedroom, go to his wife's room, kiss her on the forehead and wish her good luck, and then get into his warrior outfit and go charge into battle, come out of battle and then put a women's dress on. It's kind of like how do you get continuity. Then I discovered quite early on that I shouldn't worry about the continuity and embrace Philippe's extravagance, his peacock qualities. I get to show so much range, hopefully show so much of my capabilities and just inhabit Philippe. These are real people. So I'm hoping I am doing the real Philippe d'Orleans justice.


 

Question: What was it like the first moment when you're in your costume walking on the Versailles garden grounds, what that experience was like for you?


George Blagden: Quite simply, incredible. Wee shot the first time at Versailles about two weeks into production and we spent most of the morning in the gardens looking up at this monstrous building that symbolized everything we were trying to achieve on the show. And I think the moment where we all sort of -- our jaws hit the floor was at the end of that first day, we were shooting a scene of Louis having a dream sequence doing a speech to camera envisioning this idea of light and beauty and luxury that he wants to create, and it was the end of the day, and just the idea of being this man in that room on my own is something I probably will never experience again in my career, a moment that is where everything comes together into a beautiful serendipitous amazing moment, and the sun, it was overcast all day, and just we had about six minutes to shoot it, and just as we turned over, the sun dipped under the clouds, and this orange light flooded in, just like he designed it to do, bounced off the mirrors and just filled the room in this orange light for me to do in five minutes this monologue.

Alexander Vlahos: Never a day goes by where you don't count your lucky stars that you're doing a job like this. There tends to be sometimes a moment where maybe at the end of Season 2 you've done two blocks of six months of filming over the last two and a half years where you go to another beautiful castle. "Oh, another beautiful castle. Oh, God. Oh, what a tough life we live," and what happens, you become numb to the beautifulness, the fantastical idea that we're shooting a series. And it takes someone's outside response. Takes someone to come up and say, "Do you realize how lucky you are?" And you look around, and you go, "God, I'm playing this character, and I'm filming in this series actually in Versailles." We're very, very lucky people.

 



George Blagden as Louis XIV

Question: Can you talk about Louis' relationship with his mother?


David Wolstencroft: It was a very interesting relationship in that she had enormous power when Louis was five years old, and she's the one who sort of put Philippe under in the shadows to make sure he didn't grow into a threat to his brother. Her impact kind of tails away as we go through the series, really, because we wanted it to be more about Louis taking control of his own destiny, but the way that you shake off the trappings of your parents, if you're a king, there's a very interesting moment that happens with Louis' father, in fact. Don't forget. Louis' father is the one who built this hunting lodge, and you have to question when the king started to really build Versailles, he didn't demolish the hunting lodge. Every builder and every architect said, “we can just tear it down and then build properly on a better foundation." He said, "No. And if you take" -- I think his words were, "If you take one brick out of this, I will put it back. If you destroy it, I will rebuild it brick by brick."

George Blagden: It was sort of the creative keystone to set Louis on this journey of becoming the Sun King, really, was the fact that up until that point, he had was made King of France age 5. And up until this age, 27, 28, he had been operating his monarchy really under the regency of his mother. So this was the first time in his life where he has to operate totally on his own and had to make that brave choice to say I am not going to be dictated to by my advisors. I am going to be an absolute monarch. So that the death of his mother was sort of the catalyst for this incredible journey he had to go on. And it was definitely a kind of thing that I enjoyed wrestling with was that relationship with Anne of Austria and trying to hang onto it and let go of it. So she was the most important figure in his formative years.


Episode Guide

 

Episode 1: “Welcome to Versailles” Premieres Saturday, October 1 at 10pm ET

In France, 1667 prroud young King Louis XIV seeks to stamp his authority on court and country, but faces resistance and betrayal, even from those closest to him. Shifting the seat of power to a luxurious rural hunting lodge that he plans to enlarge only adds to his problems.

 

 

 

Episode 2: “I Am the State” Premieres Saturday, October 1 at 11pm ET

Harsh steps must be taken to preserve the royal reputation; while flamboyant Philippe, the King’s brother, causes a stir of his own. The King hopes that humiliating a noble suspect will bring others to heel.

 

 

 

Episode 3: “Mirror for Princes” Airs Saturday, October 8 at 10pm ET

The African Prince Annaba visits Louis at Versailles; Louis uses his wife Marie-Thérèse to gain access to the African territories. Meanwhile, Philippe’s wife, Henriette, is harassed by the unrelenting Chevalier de Lorraine.

 

 

 

Episode 4: “The Road” Airs Saturday, October 15 at 10pm ET

Louis is troubled by his brother Philippe’s rumored expertise on the battlefield; Louise de Valliere is out-shined in the Court by the Madame de Montespan.

 

 

 

Episode 5: “Bow to Your King” Airs Saturday, October 22 at 10pm ET

Philippe returns victorious from the front, while attacks continue outside Versailles. The King invites the biggest noble families to Versailles to celebrate the peace treaty.

 

 

 

Episode 6: “Invalides” Airs Saturday, October 29 at 10pm ET

Soldiers working at Versailles revolt; the Duke of Cassel heads to the palace after a decree from the king stating that nobles who move to the area will be relieved of their debts.

 

 

 

Episode 7: “Revelations” Airs Saturday, November 5 at 10pm ET

Bontemps is worried about the King’s high fever and summons a doctor; an emergency council meets to discuss a course of action if the King’s condition worsens.

 

 

 

Episode 8: “Diplomacy” Airs Saturday, November 12 at 10pm ET

Chevalier is visited by the head of the plot to insure that he does not name his fellow conspirators; Louis proves himself to be a master strategist.

 

 

 

Episode 9: “Etiquette” Airs Saturday, November 19 at 10pm ET

Henriette takes the lead in negotiations with her brother King Charles III, while Montespan gains power in the court as she wins over Louis’ heart. Fabien plans his revenge.

 

 

 

Episode 10: “Bring the Garden Here” Airs Saturday, November 19 at 11pm ET

As Henriette’s health rapidly declines, Claudine works feverishly to save her patient. When the palace is put on lock-down, Louis is determined to save his son from the oppressive atmosphere of the court.


Louis and His Ladies