In a STACK exclusive, Versailles star George Blagden reveals what we can expect from the second season of this majestic historical series.
Where do we find the King at the start of this series?
We left him quite isolated at the end of season one: his brother had walked out on him, and he finally got this power that he’d been looking for – but the challenge now is to keep it. In this season we see him stop listening to the people he should be listening to and instead to the wrong kind of people. So we get to see him a bit more out of control, abusing his power and the repercussions of that.
He’s also more paranoid….
Yes! One aspect of Louis that we really tap into in this series is the slippery slide of becoming insecure and getting lost in his own dark head space. At the same time he was right to be paranoid: a lot of people around him in that world weren’t big fans of his, because he had a bigger picture in his head. He was obsessed with his legacy – the things he’s famous for today basically, creating modern luxury and art and fashion and culture. But if you wanted to be remembered hundreds of years after you die then you’ll probably going to upset a few people along the way.
Even now you have been playing him a while does it still strike you how amazing it was that the King was so young?
I know. All of the characters in our shows are in their mid-twenties with their fingers on the red button, and it’s incredible when you think of the wealth and power they had at that age.
What about your relationship with your brother Philippe?
Well he’s barely visible in the first episode which is really clever I think. I won’t ruin it, but Louis realises that the absence of Philippe from Versailles has a much larger effect than he’d anticipated, so he needs to work out how to get him back because he needs him to bounce off. They’ve also been two characters that need one another.
It’s a sort of love/hate relationship isn’t it.
I think so yes. Alex and I don’t have brothers in real life but a lot of people who do say that often the dynamics of brothers and brothers is this love/hate thing. You don’t bother to fight with people you don’t care about, ultimately.
There’s some great scenes between Louis’s wife Marie Theresa and Montespan, his mistress.
Yes, there’s a big battle that goes on throughout most of season two, which is that Marie Theresa represents this sort of pure, evangelical, religious life at court and Montespan represents everything else – the hedonism, the struggle for power. Basically, at the start of season two the two most prominent women in his life are at complete odds with one another. He recognises that but to his detriment he ignores it and that’s one big reason why he loses control.
As with season one, there are plenty of love scenes. Do they get easier as time goes on?
I don’t know if they get easier. They’ve always been odd, because they’re very technical actually and quite dull and boring. It’s just like with the dance scenes really, it’s very technical. But the glorious thing about TV is that you become really close with the actors that you’re working with over many seasons and that helps. If you’re doing a big Hollywood film, and you go in on your first day, and you have to do some love scene with Daniel Craig and it’s your only scene with him – well that’s probably a lot more bizarre.
Prior to the first season there was a bit of carping from the French press about two British guys playing these historical icons. Have you won them over?
Funnily enough we did a press junket in France a few weeks ago and the difference between that and the first one we did for season one was amazing. I think it is very odd for them – like you interviewing a French actor playing Winston Churchill in French. What I found fascinating when I went to shoot season one was everyone I met adored this man, all of the crew, all of the Parisians I met – they really, really loved him as an icon, which I found fascinating for a country that is so proud of being a Republic! Anyway now they seem genuinely excited by the show which is really gratifying. And actually someone said that if Louis was alive today, he would probably be really happy that an English man was playing him because that means that an international audience can see it. It would appeal to his vanity.
At which point in the costume process do you think ‘’Yes, I’m Louis now?’’. Is it the wig, the shoes?
I think the wig is a big deal and usually it goes on at a time when you’re still a bit bleary eyed, like 5.30 in the morning. So, at some point you look at yourself in the mirror and go ‘’oh, I’ve got my hair on now.’’ And for me my hair completely changes the way my face looks. It’s amazing.
How long does the process of becoming Louis take overall?
About two hours. The wig takes about 45 minutes as you have to have all of your hair gelled down, and then the wig is glued on. The front layers are very delicate. It’s amazing really, we film at the highest level of high definition and it looks like real human hair. Then there’s about half an hour in makeup and another half hour for wardrobe.
Was it particularly special to be able to film in Versailles?
Absolutely; I mean it’s one of the wonders of the world. The access that they give us at Versailles, it’s unbelievable. I did this one shot in season two where they set up a rig on me. I wore a harness with scaffolding poles that came out and held our big studio camera, and I went into the Galerie des Glaces. They shut all the doors and they were remotely controlling the camera from outside the room so I was in there totally on my own. The curator of Versailles was saying not even François Hollande or VIP leaders of the world when they get given a private visit is ever allowed the opportunity to stand in that room entirely on their own. So that was amazing.