Samantha Morton channeled mob donation to play Catherine de’ Medici in The Serpent Queen


The latest in a long line of gripping female-led period dramas on Starz, The Serpent Queen is set in 16th century France and tells the story of Catherine de’ Medici’s rise to power at court against all odds.

Harper Vivace Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France

The series is based on the non-fiction book Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France, by Leonie Frieda, and will jump between two timelines to explore Catherine’s history and present. In the flashback timeline, a teenage orphan, Catherine, arrives from Italy to marry King Henry II – only to find on her wedding night that her new husband is deeply in love with another woman.

The series will then show how this naïve young woman became a conniving and fearsome queen, who is played in the future timeline by British actress Samantha Morton. According to the official synopsis, “With her future suddenly uncertain and with little hope of conceiving, Catherine must quickly find out who she can trust – both within her personal entourage of courtiers and members of the royal court – while foiling anyone who underestimates their determination to survive at all costs.”

During the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour this week, Morton spoke of the “fascinating, complex, alluring and devastating” role alongside showrunner Justin Haythe and co-stars Ludivine Sagnier, Sennia Nanua and Liv Hill.

“Keeping in mind that she’s Italian, I felt like she was almost like a don in The Godfather“, Morton explained. “He’s a very reserved person. She thinks. She doesn’t feel the need to have knee-jerk reactions to anything.”

Although Catherine is often portrayed as a villainous character by historians, The Serpent Queen paints a much more complex picture. “I liked the idea of ​​a villain in the story coming up to us and saying, ‘Let me tell you why I did the things I did, and you’ll judge me differently,'” Haythe said. “You really have to ask yourself if this is an evil person with slivers of good, or if this is a good person who is capable of doing evil in order to survive.”

Haythe went on to point out that Catherine is brought to court in the role of essentially “a mail-order bride”, and yet ended up ruling over everyone. “She’s also kind of defined by heartache, and heartache can seem evil from a certain angle.”

But at the start of the show, when Catherine is still new to court, the villain of the play is Diane de Poitiers, Henry’s mistress. “She becomes a phenomenal deceit for Catherine, who is alone, who is an orphan, who comes into a very hostile environment and she thinks she can trust her and unfortunately is going to be the biggest threat to her,” Sagnier told about his character. “But she has her own reasons. She’s in love with Henry, I honestly think. She could be perceived as evil, but to me she’s just a survivor like Catherine, because you have to remember that at In those days, women had no rights.. and the only way they could play was to be fierce and ruthless. So of course, she is all that for Catherine, but she has no choice.

Samantha Morton as Catherine de' Medici


Surrounded by hostile forces, Catherine eventually finds power in unorthodox places. Haythe noted that according to many scholars, Catherine was the inspiration for the Evil Queen in White as snowin part due to his use of dark magic.

“I saw this as a very practical, very modern story for someone who was just born in the 16th century and had to treat black magic as a practice in some way,” Haythe explained. “I mean, it’s another tool that’s at her disposal. But at the same time, she had ten children and only survived one, which kind of feels like a fairy tale curse. fairies.”

Morton added that the way the story remembers Catherine is impossible to disentangle from gender norms. “We look back in history and women who were midwives, or understood the herbs or qualities of certain fungi, or prayed under a full moon, were called witches. Men are smart. Oh, they are alchemists, they are scientists, they “I am astronomers; they are very intelligent. But I think the story describes women as ‘evil women’, or as evil, just because they’re incredibly smart and shrewd.”

The Serpent Queen will premiere on Starz on September 11.

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