Currently being broadcast in Europe, The White Queen premieres in the US on Starz on August 10th. Based on Philippa Gregory’s novels, the miniseries set in Britain in 1464, spotlights the War of the Roses, between the Houses of York and Lancaster, told through the eyes of three women, Elizabeth Woodville (Rebecca Ferguson), Margaret Beaufort (Amanda Hale) and Anne Neville (Faye Marsay).
Rebecca Ferguson and Max Irons, who portrays King Edward IV, appeared at the TV Critics tour to discuss the series.
I read that you made a video audition for the role of Elizabeth. How did that come about?
Rebecca: I was asked to do a little presentation. No one was there to help me.
So I built a little shelf out of books and chairs on top of tables, just to get a good height. And I pressed ‘play,’ and I talked about weird, random things. And I pressed ‘stop,’ and I got it 2 minutes and 59 seconds. I was very proud.
Then I flew over to meet them, and that’s when I had the screen test. But I guess this is the tape that people talk about.
You had great chemistry together in this. Can you talk about the first time you met?
Max: The first time we met, I had done several chemistry tests with potential Elizabeths.
It’s always an extraordinary process and you see how many different interpretations there are. But then Rebecca walked in and gave her reading, it knocked us all for six.
That’s a cricket reference, by the way! She not only had the power, the intelligence and the sexuality required, but she could walk that political line so delicately.
She had the ability to manipulate without appearing to be manipulating.
She had all the skill that Elizabeth had to have to survive the court. It was clear from that moment that she was the person to play the role.
Rebecca: I’d never done a chemistry test, so it was all very new for me. I walked into this room and [there was] Max Irons sitting there, not only intelligent, smart, tall and handsome, [but there was also] a director and a producer.
It was a very safe environment. It doesn’t always happen. We all know that. You sometimes meet people, and sometimes it just works.
This time it was an amazing chemistry and a security from day one, from the first second. And I think we kept that, and we still have it. Are we still friends?
Max: Yeah, we are.
Rebecca: Okay. There we go.
Were you fascinated by the War of the Roses story?
Rebecca: This is not my history, being Swedish, so I was amazed by the high stakes. This is what happened during this time. You’d be York, then Lancaster, you’re on the throne, you’re off the throne, you’re in a monastery!
For me, it was just hanging in there with Elizabeth, just thinking how do you protect your boys? How do you protect the heir, off and on the throne, whether you are white or red or blue or black?
I was amazed at how quickly things would change during that time.
Max, you show a bit of yourself in The White Queen. Your dad, Jeremy, is known for colorful commentary. Did he have anything to say about your showing your butt?
Max: Thankfully, he hasn’t seen it yet. But if he did have a problem with it, I would just refer him to his back catalog, and hopefully the conversation would end there!
As for him having opinions on things, thankfully he does. But when it comes to my career, he understands that we all have to have our own successes and our own failures and we have to own them.
So he lets me go off and make my decisions as I see fit, which I thank him for.