By Maureen Lee Lenker
October 05, 2018 at 09:00 AM EDT
Thibault Grabherr/Ovation TV


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Without the foppish wigs and the frippery of their coats and high-heeled shoes, Alexander Vlahos and Evan Williams seem quite far — centuries, in fact — from the men of King Louis XIV’s court whom they bring to life on Ovation’s Versailles.

But there’s one key thing they share with Philippe (Vlahos) and Chevalier (Williams), the fan-favorite couple viewers have dubbed MonChevy: As intensely as Philippe and Chevalier love each other, so too do Williams and Vlahos share a deep bond of friendship, forged over four years of working together and frequently baring it all, both emotionally and physically.

“We would pull each other above water,” Vlahos tells EW. “We kept each other afloat, both of us holding each other up and going, ‘We’re doing this.’”

Williams adds, “We just lucked out with chemistry with each other from the beginning.” Indeed, the pair’s very first rehearsal involved a kissing scene, and things got more intimate from there.

Now having wrapped their third and final season, Williams and Vlahos are taking a victory-lap press tour before Versailles returns stateside Saturday on Ovation. Their bond is evident as they look to each other for assurance and jovially interrupt one another.

Fans should lap up the warmth and playfulness while they can because, as Vlahos teases, season 3 leaves “the relationship of the Chevalier by the wayside.” Williams adds, “We get to examine what happens when two men have wildly different experiences and then come back expecting it to be the same, and what do we do when it’s not the same relationship that has been the whole arc of the show.”

Thibault Grabherr/Ovation TV

For Vlahos, that meant a chance to play Sherlock Holmes, as Philippe becomes obsessed with uncovering the identity of the Man in the Iron Mask alongside Fabien Marchal (Tygh Runyan). “Tygh would say it’s Sherlock and Batman,” Vlahos jokes. He also says the time away from Chevalier came as something as a relief after plumbing the emotional depths of that relationship in season 2. “We gave everything to that relationship, and I was fearful that me and Evan couldn’t do that again in season 3.”

Chevalier, meanwhile, will be trying (and failing) to land a wealthy widow, while also struggling to make sense of his identity without Philippe. “He’s a manipulator, and he’s always played Philippe like a fiddle.… When he’s a fish out of water trying to do tricks on a woman where none of his tricks will work, we get to see him flounder in a whole new way,” Williams teases. “He’s a very broken person, and he’s just looking for a place where he belongs. Over the course of season 3, we see him find his feet and truly find what his true identity is, which will give him a platform to really love Philippe the way that he deserves.”

So does that mean he will eventually be reunited with Philippe? Both Vlahos and Williams promise that fans will find closure. “It was cool to know we were going to be wrapping it up with a bow,” hints Williams, adding, “We know we’re playing real guys, and we know they stayed together in their lives for over 70 years. We know it’s true love.”

That closure also gave Vlahos and Williams a chance to delve even deeper into their characters, bridging historical fact and their own performances. “In season 3, we go deeper into the layers than we ever have before,” Williams says. “The character that is created is equal parts the historical person and the thing that’s come from inside me.” It’s for this reason that Vlahos says he didn’t do too much digging into the historical legend of the Man in the Iron Mask: “We’re not making a documentary; we’re making a drama, and there are moments where we are free and liberated and there is flexibility within that.”

While wrapping Versailles was bittersweet for Vlahos and Williams — bidding adieu to the family the cast and crew built together — they took home more than memories. Vlahos reveals that he kept Philippe’s shoes, which famously cost his character 50,000 French livres. “The memory of those shoes was the first script I ever read,” he says. “They now hold a pride of place as a doorstop in my house.” Williams also kept a wardrobe item, one of Chevalier’s beautiful coats, though he wishes he could have kept his wig: “As soon as I put that wig on, the character just jumped out, and it happened more and more strongly over the course of the three years.”

Thibault Grabherr/Ovation TV

Another thing they won’t let go of is the impact their onscreen relationship has had on viewers around the world, foregrounding an LGBTQ couple as a central love story in a historical drama. Both actors say they regularly receive messages from fans about how their relationship helped them find love or make strides in accepting their own identity. Vlahos’ character, for example, helped a young trans man in England come to terms with his femininity, and he even met Vlahos and thanked him in person.

Vlahos notes that the writers never explicitly used the word “gay,” choosing instead to normalize their characters’ relationship as a matter-of-fact couple at the court. Williams adds that he thinks the MonChevy pairing has spoken to people because the distance of time and space can be helpful. “It was this beautiful aesthetic in this sort of fantasy realm, even though it was historically accurate,” he says. “[We had] the opportunity to exist just as two men in love, so we really got to start from a heart place, and we didn’t have to worry about stereotype and expectation. That gave us the freedom to tell the story the way we did and give it the weight we feel we did.”

It’s a weight that has made an impact, one reflected in a nearly daily outpouring of love and inspiring stories. “People have found MonChevy as their way into the show — and maybe they didn’t expect to and they came with a lot of prejudice and their minds got changed,” Vlahos says. “That transcends ratings and success. That’s bigger than anything we could ever set out to accomplish when we started.”

The final season of Versailles premieres Saturday, Oct. 6, at 10 p.m. ET on Ovation.

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