Imagine being awakened one morning to suddenly find out you’re in charge of one of the most powerful nations in the world.
That’s what happened to the Great Britain’s Queen Victoria, and Doctor Who beauty Jenna Coleman has gotten into her head to play the woman who reined for over 60 years at age 18.
We caught up with the actress to ask all about PBS’s epic new Masterpiece Theatre miniseries, Victoria, which debuts this Sunday 9/8c—and whether she’ll ever return to Dr. Who.
“It’s amazing to think of anyone at eighteen years old taking on this job. I kinda love how unapologetic she is.”
What was it like to play Victoria?
She’s an 18‑year‑old who has had quite a sheltered life, so to speak, being brought up in the Kensington system, having not spent a night alone without her mother before, ever, before the night she becomes queen. She has never been in a room with a man alone before…. and has a lot to face overnight. She always keeps that vein of iron, that spark in her, which remained for her life.
What kind of research did you do?
She’s one of the most prolific journal writers of history, and I think there’s something like over 62 million words that she wrote in her diaries, which have been censored… her vivacious nature just comes out on the page. She writes in capitals when she’s excited. She underlines, underlines, underlines. You can kind of see her passionate nature on the page.
For me what I found most interesting was her sketch work—I had no idea that she could even draw—but she was quite a prolific water colorist. I think seeing what drew her eye, and also to see the world through her eye uncensored, untouched, it’s really interesting because so much of it is not grandeur… more portraits of people, self-portraits, landscapes. And also when she was a lot younger, she used to love the theatre, like the romantic and the death scenes and anything that was kind of full of emotion —she drew that a lot.
You read books about her.
A.N. Wilson we read. I got lots of stuff… like kind of books put together. And then it was a case of going from voice training to horse riding, waltz training. It’s been a fun process. It’s more kind of where do you begin, I suppose.
How did you feel when you put on the costumes? Like you were back in that time period?
Yeah, everything and anything. The production value, stepping onto a set, which was built in an airport hangar. So you literally come off an airfield, walk into a huge airport hangar. And you’re into [this] Buckingham Palace that production designer Michael Howells has created. So coming in with the costumes and the makeup… I put in blue eyes in the morning. Anything that transforms you and takes you into a different world is fantastic.
People have an idea of who Victoria is in her later years but there was so much to her much before that.
There is a kind of stereotype, people put her in a box and aren’t aware of how vivid, vivacious and full of life and humor she was. I think that is going to come as a surprise and it’s lovely to be uncovering that for people. To break that image that we all see of her [which] is just that, really—an image—that’s been a total revelation to me.
How much did you know of Victoria beforehand?
Not a great amount, nothing to what I know now.
What surprised you about her?
Her diversity and will. As a young, inexperienced girl, it was fascinating and profound. It’s amazing to think of anyone at eighteen years old taking on this job. I kinda love how unapologetic she is. It’s very fun to play.
You appeared in the American movie Me Before You. Did you like it? Would you do more?
Yeah, for me it’s always based on scripts really. The experience was great; I managed to do it while I was filming Dr. Who. It was a lovely project to be a part of. It was a very contemporary love story. The message of the film is beautiful.
Would you ever go back to Dr. Who?
Maybe but I am very hesitant. It took a long time for the exit to be in the works.