Tuesday 27 September 2016

New British drama Victoria shaping up to be the new Downton Abbey

Published 11/08/2016 | 23:08

Jenna Coleman at the premiere screening of ITV's Victoria at The Orangery on August 11. (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)
Jenna Coleman at the premiere screening of ITV's Victoria at The Orangery on August 11. (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)
Jenna Coleman attending the world premiere screening of ITV's Victoria at Kensington Palace, London

The creator of new ITV period drama Victoria has said she would be flattered if the show can follow in the footsteps of Downton Abbey - but those are "big shoes to fill".

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Executive producer and writer Daisy Goodwin's eight-part Sunday night drama stars Jenna Coleman as the young Queen Victoria.

The drama may draw comparisons to ITV's previous flagship drama as it tells the story of the monarch's relationship with prime minister Lord Melbourne (Rufus Sewell) and her courtship with Prince Albert (Tom Hughes) and also examines life below stairs.

Goodwin said: "It's very big shoes to fill, but I love Sunday night telly, so if people enjoy watching this as much as they did Downton, then our work is done."

Speaking at a press event at Kensington Palace, she said: "Downton Abbey is such a great show, I couldn't possibly hope to replicate that, but I hope it will give people pleasure."

Asked if she would be flattered by comparisons, she said: "Of course I would be, it's a wonderful show."

Former Doctor Who star Coleman, who played assistant Clara Oswald, admitted she was not planning to sign up for another TV series after leaving the BBC show.

But she said the chance to play Queen Victoria was "impossible to turn down".

"When I left Doctor Who the first thing I said was, I just don't want to do a series for a while," she said.

"And then Daisy and Damien (Timmer) took me out for lunch, and so it changed. But it's been such a gift."

Connecting with the character was no challenge, she said - once she got over Victoria's inconsistencies.

"She's just too impulsive and too tempestuous, so there's a thousand different directions you can go in, and if it's not logical then that's fine," the 30-year-old explained.

But she did face another challenge: her horse.

She said: "My horse is a show horse, so he likes to do the Spanish walk.

"When he gets bored on set he likes to Spanish walk while I'm on him, but I've realised it makes me look a little bit cool so I've gone with it now."

Her co-star Sewell appeared via video link to tell the story of his own issues with his horse, Rupert.

He explained: "It was never quite clear which end of the horse the complaints were coming from, but midway through my dialogue would come this noise - which is the sound of an animal complaining about how boring its rider is.

"I managed to keep a straight face, the same cannot be said of the Queen."

Coleman also had to put up with wearing blue contacts to look authentically like Victoria.

"I mean we must have gone - I think we are in the region of about 70 pairs, we tried," she said.

"Any of the portraits you see, the first thing you see are her eyes. They pop out at you."

Hughes said filming with Sewell and Coleman had been "electric".

He added: "I didn't really know too much about the era before, my knowledge of the era was through the image of Victoria post-Albert's death."

On starring as Albert, he said: "I think what I found most surprising to play was his quiet strength."

Goodwin said audiences may be surprised to meet an 18-year-old Victoria - who is most like Prince Harry.

She said: "I think most people think of Victoria as an old bag in a bonnet don't they? That sourpuss with a crown who never smiled.

"But I've tried to show that Victoria is actually, at the beginning of her reign, a bit of a party girl. She loved dancing, she liked men, she had sex, she's more like Prince Harry than she was like Elizabeth II.

"Victoria came to the throne looking for action."

Victoria will launch on August 28 on ITV at 9pm.

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