This year, things are going to look a little different on Reign. When the show picks up a few months after its season 2 finale, there will be a new court in the mix: Yep, we’re headed to England. At least part-time.
“Mary’s life is still set in France but we will be cutting away to Elizabethan court,” showrunner Laurie McCarthy tells EW. And though the jumps won’t occur every episode, McCarthy says the stories will be significant. So significant, in fact, that a number of characters will find themselves moving between courts as well.
“Season 3 feels global, and I think that global in their times meant expanding to looking around at what’s going on in Spain and the Netherlands and specifically the court of Elizabeth,” McCarthy says. “They’re dealing with bigger issues and yet the stories are really personal. When we get to the court of Elizabeth, I was excited to play the more intimate personal stories for Elizabeth just like we did for Mary when we were first meeting her. But we meet Elizabeth a little bit later in her role, she’s a little bit more sophisticated. She’s a few years older than Mary, which allows for some sexually charged court intrigue.”
And by spending so much time with Elizabeth, it’s possible fans will start to see her as less of a villain. At least, that’s the hope of star Rachel Skarsten. “Because Elizabeth is Mary’s foe, she is by default more of a villain, but I wanted to make sure that people rooted for Elizabeth, that they didn’t just love to hate her,” Skarsten explains. “I really like how they’ve taken Elizabeth in this show and they’ve made her publicly very powerful, but it’s still early in her rule, so she’s incredibly insecure. She’s just this incredibly accessible flawed human being so we get to see the dichotomy of those two things and it’s been interesting to play. I feel a little bit schizophrenic: one minute I’m the queen and then I’m crying.”
Compared to the other queens on the show, Skarsten feels that Elizabeth is a combination of Catherine and Mary. “Elizabeth was born as royalty but never thought that she’d be a queen. So while she’s been raised with all the tools and everything that perhaps Catherine didn’t have, she’s thrust into this limelight that Mary expected to be thrust into, and I think that that’s very challenging for her and we see her stumble around a little bit like Mary did but also have this wisdom that Catherine, who obviously is her senior, has as well.”
And yet, because Elizabeth is still a child, Skarsten says that she’s still highly susceptible to Catherine’s manipulations, despite the fact that she doesn’t hate Mary as much as you might think she does. “Elizabeth is incredibly threatened by the fact that Mary is a queen and has a stake to her throne, but I think she very much doesn’t want to kill Mary or bring harm to her,” Skarsten says. “I think she just wants to establish herself as the queen of England and if Mary were happy to stay in France the rest of her life and that was that, I’m sure Elizabeth would be fine with that, but of course, we’re also dealing with the fact that they actually have no direct communication. It’s like when you have beef with someone and then you’re playing broken telephone. It tends to get worse.”
McCarthy wouldn’t say whether Mary and Elizabeth will come face-to-face this season, though Skarsten certainly thinks it’s a possibility. At the very least, we will see Elizabeth outside of England.
Generally, McCarthy promised more black comedy this season, saying she really just wanted this season to be “fun,” focusing less on politics and more on court intrigue. And yes, the writers are still trying to top the moment from season 1 in which Henry humped a woman out of a window. “That’s the bar and we’re aiming for it,” McCarthy says. “I’m not kidding.”
Reign returns Friday, Oct. 9 at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.
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