When The CW first introduced Reign as its take on 16th Century France and the rule of Mary Queen of Scots, fans weren’t sure what to expect: How historically accurate would it be? How often would people be shirtless? Are royal politics even interesting? However, by the time the pilot garnered attention for a trimmed masturbation scene, it was clear that the show was at least going to be a topic of discussion.
Cut to half a season later, and fans were hooked on the sex-filled, politically charged new drama. But Reign didn’t slow down at its halfway point. Instead, by introducing the story of King Henry going mad, the show gave viewers the most memorable moment of the year: While sleeping with a visitor of the castle, King Henry humped said visitor out of a window to her death.
Looking back on the GIF-able moment, we talked with showrunner Laurie McCarthy about how the writers came up with the idea and how exactly you cast someone whose sole purpose is being humped out of a window. Click here for more stories behind the year’s top TV moments.
Driving to work one day, McCarthy started to reflect on many of the real-life adventures of France’s King Henry. For all of the horrible and shocking things he’d done, she couldn’t believe that he wasn’t remembered as a “mad king.” Despite anything they could do on the show, she knew that “the truth really is so much more insanely bizarre than the fiction that we created.” Not to be outdone by history, she thought, “Well, we should just make him nuts.”
From there, McCarthy immediately starting asking herself how they should begin that journey. What should they do to make him crazy? How do they kick off this string of events? “You hear these stories in the news about people who are having kind of semi-public sex at hotels and tragedy ensues, and I was just driving to work and I thought, we should start a course of his madness and it should start in a way that seems kind of like a black comedy, and then, within an episode or two, turns and you realize, ‘Oh wait a minute, he’s crazy. It wasn’t just an accident; he’s a predator.’ But I definitely wanted to start it with a shocking moment.”
And because Henry had already been painted as being very sexually active on the show, McCarthy thought, “What if she just went out a window?” And from there, she got the idea to have Henry and Catherine spend an entire episode bonding over cleaning up a corpse, a thought McCarthy couldn’t turn down.
Of course, she then had to pitch her idea to the writers room. “I don’t think anyone said anything for a couple seconds,” she said, laughing. But after a moment of pause, they went straight to the board.
Check out EW’s new store for this year’s coolest entertainment gifts
The next manner of business, apart from giving the cast the script and leading a hysterical table read, was casting the woman. Although McCarthy herself often wonders about what the actress thought about her role, she does believe that the actress knew what she was getting into. “I don’t think we’d want to surprise anyone with that,” she said, before adding, “I’m sure [the character description] said, ‘Nudity required; will not be recurring.'”
But thanks to a cast McCarthy says is always “game,” the scene came together flawlessly, providing the exact shock factor McCarthy had hoped for. And when asked if any crazy Henry ideas were shot down in the writers’ room over the course of season 1, she said, “No I think we actually did them. I’m sure that there were ideas batted around the table, things that we might’ve done if we weren’t on network television but truthfully, I like the kinds of shows where you have the latitude to have a certain kind of speech and to film certain things that you wouldn’t maybe otherwise see, but I almost never want to go any further in terms of violence.”
Her personal favorite Alan Van Sprang moment? Henry being tied up during the Queen of the Bean contest. (But humped-out-a-window is close to the top.)
Now, McCarthy is off to create something even more memorable. “I’m gonna go task the writers with something to top Henry and the window. You’ve inspired me.”
Everyone better lock their windows.