Flaunt Magazine – “New mothers are a silent tribe of warriors,” actress Jenna Coleman tells me, just a few minutes after her arrival for our meeting in London’s bohemian Soho neighborhood. She’s effortlessly pretty—deep brown eyes, a winning smile, chestnut hair and striking brows. The words, she explains, are not hers but those of a close friend: a new mother she spoke to ahead of filming her latest drama, The Cry. Whilst Coleman, a youthful 32-years-old, is not a mother herself, she already knows a thing or two about motherhood: playing the titular queen in television series Victoria, she’s already given birth on screen not one, but seven times. “Seven babies, nine altogether,” Coleman laughs. “Two more to go yet!”
Her role as new mother Joanna in The Cry is one of Coleman’s most controversial to date. A psychological thriller based on the novel by Australian author Helen Fitzgerald, the drama is already winning praise for its unflinching portrayal of motherhood. In the early episodes of the program, Coleman’s character struggles to adapt to the manifold challenges that motherhood brings. “She’s lost her identity,” Coleman says of Joanna, a new mum whose ideas of motherhood prove at odds with the reality. More truth is needed, Coleman says, about portrayals of mothers—and women—on our screens.
“There’s so much pressure on it being the most beautiful, precious, and special time of your life. If you don’t treasure every minute of it, then somehow you’re a failure. The reality is wildly different,” Coleman says, matter-of-factly. The two characters Coleman plays—Queen Victoria and new mum Joanna—couldn’t be further apart. Yet playing each emphasized to Coleman the differences in the way modern society treats new mothers compared to the past. “In the Victorian era if you had a baby, you had to go into confinement for a month to help your body to recover, and people helped you with the transition into motherhood. Now, you can literally be out of the hospital in six hours and you’re left to it. In our society, perhaps we need to be more open to how much of a challenge it can be…we need greater empathy.”
Fans of Coleman jumped to conclusions recently when a picture of the star pushing a pram was posted on social media. When I mention the story, Coleman turns scarlet with embarrassment. “I’m not insane, I promise… I was practicing,” she tells me, staring down at her white sneakers. Coleman hadn’t given birth—to help immerse herself in character, she took a pram out as she went shopping. The preparation didn’t end there either: she visited a midwife at a hospital, spent extensive time with children on set, and emailed all of her friends with children in the hope of garnering as many experiences as she could.
“Each of their experiences was so completely different,” Coleman says, explaining how nervous she was before filming began. “There’s this primal bond between a mother and a child. I emailed my friends and was like, ‘I’ve taken on this part and I really feel like I’m not…’” her voice trails off. “In the prep I definitely felt a growing pressure. The fact that I’d taken on a mountain hit home.” While her performance has been widely praised for its realism, Coleman tells me she had fears about authenticity, not being a mother herself. She reels off the questions she asked her friends: “What does it feel like? What are your hormones doing? What does the lack of sleep do to you? What’s the day-to-day like?”
We’re sitting alongside each other on a comfy sofa-seat inside a private members club in Soho on a sunny autumn afternoon. Dressed in a smart pinstriped dress and sneakers, Coleman often traverses the formal and the informal. Her answers are thoughtful and considered, and she’s exceedingly modest: when I mention how she is often described as “driven,” she angles her head away, turns scarlet once more and winces. “It feels like there’s something ruthless about it,” Coleman says of the term “driven”—her demeanor demonstrating that she’s anything but. “I used to balk at it.”
After we talk about it at length, Coleman concludes that the reason she is so uncomfortable with the term comes down to portrayals of women in the media. Just as her latest character Joanna is vilified by the media for being a “bad mother,” women who seem ambitious or career-driven still attract similar criticisms. “I don’t think being described as driven is anything that you should be ashamed of—that you love your job and want to keep doing it, that you really value it and want to explore it… yet for some reason, I always felt like being described as ‘driven’ or ‘determined’ was a dirty word.”
“I think I just perhaps need to own that, and not actually see it as a bad thing and be proud of the fact that I’m passionate about my job and that’s okay.” She looks down at the floor again, as if she only half believes it. “I shan’t apologize anymore,” she tells me, mimicking the regal voice of Queen Victoria. “I love how I’ve just said that in the most polite way possible…I need to stop apologizing.”
Part of the apologizing may come down – at least in part – to her working class background and education. Growing up in Blackpool, a seaside town in the north of England, Coleman began her first professional acting role aged just 18, in the long-running British soap opera Emmerdale. It was an inspirational drama teacher, Mr. Snell, who encouraged her to pursue acting, giving her practical advice and support through a self-funded theatre company run via her school. “Without him, I wouldn’t have known where to begin. We operated as a semi-professional theatre company in between school and holidays. We’d do all the props and set up ourselves…and travelled just anywhere it would take us; the shows would eventually pay for themselves. That kind of experience was invaluable. I’ve definitely not taken the traditional route, that’s for sure.”
Since then, she’s worked continuously in a number of increasingly high-profile roles, including as Doctor Who’s assistant on the long-running cult sci-fi television show and Lydia in the Pride and Prejudice spin-off Death Comes to Pemberley. But despite her rapid ascent, Coleman admits she still struggles with feeling unqualified, which she pins on her unorthodox path to acting. “I definitely feel a hole from having not been to drama school,” she tells me. “I still don’t feel qualified in any sense.” This is remarkable for an actress who is regularly acclaimed for her work.
Next year, for the first time since being a member of Mr. Snell’s theatre company, Coleman is heading back to theatre for a leading role in Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, alongside Sally Field and Bill Pullman, in London’s West End. “It definitely doesn’t feel like a muscle I’ve flexed in a while,” Coleman says when I ask about her preparation and rehearsals. They’ll begin next year, after a rest and some time to stand still. “It’s an unknown, and I’ve got the fear,” Coleman says about the role. “But it’s a good fear,” she quantifies, laughing.
Coleman draws parallels between her role in The Cry and All My Sons, speaking about the depth and nuance of both roles. “There’s so much to play with under the veneer again…it’s like you’re playing chess but you’re playing chess with one of the most emotionally traumatic and scarring experiences that someone can go through,” she says of The Cry, after a dark secret is revealed mid-series. Is investing so much in characters with such emotional weight exhausting? Yes, she says, but she knows how to switch off. “Once you get into a filming schedule it takes over and you go home, you switch the lights off and you go to sleep… because the role was such an emotional marathon, I somehow trained myself to be light in between takes. Otherwise it would be like walking through mud all the time.”
Coleman tells me, through a deep sigh, that characters like this don’t come around very often. “It’s been really eye opening. I’ve realized there are not many places I can say I’ve seen it on television before,” she says of struggling mum Joanna. Scripts depicting age-old stereotypes of women are still more likely to land on her desk.
“I think there’s definitely a movement of people wanting to see everyday society reflected in film and television, and I definitely think there’s need for such a movement. But for every decent script that I’ve read, I’m still sent ten scripts that are very much ‘the girlfriend’ or ‘girl next door’ roles that revert to type. This is why The Cry felt really exciting. When you read a script and there’s so much going on between the lines, it’s invigorating.”
As a young actor auditioning for roles, Coleman made dozens of audition tapes, shifting between hundreds of identities, often feeling in a perpetual transient state. The idea of doing more film work soon is attractive to her, not least because it allows stability. “There’s something about a film where you can research it and immerse yourself for longer. There’s one director, one piece, one telling of a story. I think there’s something nice about that.”
We walk downstairs to the streets of Soho. Coleman dons a checked winter mac, stepping out into the strange autumnal sunshine. She tells me she is looking forward to standing still for a time and, crucially, not giving birth on-screen for a few months until Victoria has her next two. “No more babies. I’ll babysit my friends’ children for a little while, but then happily give the child back,” she beams, before walking off to her next audition.
Check the pictures in our gallery:
VARIETY – Jenna Coleman will return to her role as British monarch “Victoria” after ITV and PBS Masterpiece greenlit a third season of the royal drama. Coleman plays the young Queen Victoria opposite Tom Hughes as Prince Albert, and who also returns for Season 3, which will continue to follow the life of the monarch and her family and the events of the day.
The second series followed Victoria from her accession to the throne to her marriage to Prince Albert. The show was created by Daisy Goodwin, who revealed the setting for the next outing. “Series three will start in 1848 which was a hugely dramatic and eventful time for both the royal family and Europe, with revolutions on the continent and uncertainty around the monarchy. Viewers can expect more drama than ever before in the third series,” she said Tuesday.
The show has fared well on ITV in the U.K. with Season 2 garnering a 25% audience share. It is sold internationally by the broadcaster’s distribution arm, ITV Studios Global Entertainment, which has done deals in 150 territories for the show.
It is produced by ITV-backed Mammoth Screen. Company managing director Damien Timmer said: “Jenna Coleman and Tom Hughes shine as Victoria and Albert and it’s an honor to have them back for a third series, which covers a tumultuous period in our country’s history, filled to the brim with royal scandals, political skirmishes and constitutional crises, as new historical figures enter the saga to challenge Victoria and Albert as never before.”
“Victoria” is a co-production with Masterpiece on PBS, with PBS’ Rebecca Eaton among the executive producers. The new season was commissioned by ITV’s head of drama, Polly Hill, who said: “Filled with romance, political crises and family drama, Daisy Goodwin’s scripts bring this fascinating part of history to life so vividly and we look forward to regaling audiences with the next part of the illustrious queen’s reign.”
Jenna was spotted on the set of Victoria Season 2 today in East Yorkshire with Tom Hughes, I have added the photos to our gallery enjoy!
The first season of the eight-part drama series Victoria (which has already been picked up for a second season), airing on Masterpiece on PBS, follows the young Queen Victoria (Jenna Coleman) from her accession to the throne as a very young and vulnerable 18-year-old, through her education in politics, courtship and marriage. It is the story of a monarch who was raised to be the pawn of her powerful elders, but who wasted no time in voicing her own opinion and taking charge in her own way, as she learned what it meant to be the most powerful woman in the world.
During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, actress Jenna Coleman (Doctor Who) talked about her first time playing someone real, what she did to prepare for the role, what she loves most about Queen Victoria, understanding what it must have been like to be in a position like this, the huge journey she gets to take with the role, and what having been a part of the much beloved Doctor Who means to her, personally and professionally.
Collider: What’s it been like to take on Queen Victoria?
JENNA COLEMAN: I’ve never played anybody real before. It’s always been fiction that you can research through a book or whatever has been adapted, but nothing that’s really happened. There’s so much to access. It’s history and it’s interesting reading from biography to biography because the voices are very different and it can be so subjective. I just read a range. (Show Creator) Daisy [Goodwin ] gave me a bit list of stuff to read, to try to get an idea of her character.
Can you imagine what it must have been like to be in a position like this while being so young? That must have been so crazy!
COLEMAN: Daisy was having a conversation with her daughter and turned around and looked at her and thought, “Wow, could you imagine if you became the most powerful woman in the room tomorrow? You’re a teenager!” The thing about Victoria is that she was extremely obstinate and stubborn, by all accounts. Lord Melbourne said, “The Queen only tends to think forwards. Once she’s made up her mind, there is no unearthly power that will make her go ‘round.” It’s that stubbornness and that will that made her who she was. Otherwise, being an 18-year-old in that position, I can’t begin to imagine. She’d never really spent any time by herself or spent a night in a room by herself or had been in a room alone with a man before, and she was becoming the most powerful woman in the world and had to navigate Parliament. When you put it into context, it is an extraordinary story.
Do you think the fact that she didn’t seem to know or care about how she was supposed to behave is what helped people like her?
COLEMAN: Yeah, and it’s one of the things I love most about her. None of the way she’s supposed to behave and the uniform of her life has squashed her lust for life, regardless of growing up in the Kensington system. I find that really amazing about her. Also, she’s so unapologetically herself. She’s flawed, in that way, but I think it’s what makes her really human. It’s really interesting to play because she’s so inconsistent. She’s so many things. She can be quite childish and frivolous, at times, and emotional, but other times, she’s like the wisest person in the world, way above her years. She was tempestuous and she was known for violent outbursts when she was younger, but she was incredibly romantic and with a big heart. She was very loyal to her servants. She was such a multitude of things, so trying to play that inconsistency of her character and also be unapologetically flawed yet likeable has been interesting to navigate. It’s all really, really fun to play. I keep watching Judi Dench’s Mrs. Brown. That’s what Daisy said she thinks is the most accurate performance of the Victoria she has studied and read. It’s interesting to think, “Okay, that’s the Victoria in 40 years time. That’s where we’re headed.” That way, you can get the essence, but she’s a lot younger and she’s very vibrant. She’s been through a lot, but you can see where she’s headed to, in a way.
Did it ever get totally overwhelming playing someone like this, especially with all of the emotional ups and downs?
COLEMAN: Yeah. I always want more time. You want more time to shoot, but you have to just roll with the punches. You do as much prep as you can, and then you throw it all away, get on set, and see what happens and what the other actors bring ‘cause that changes everything. You get as prepared as you can be, but then you have to be willing to fuck it all up. Peter Capaldi probably taught me that the most. You just want to keep it alive, and hopefully, if you’ve prepped well enough, that’s there. It’s interesting because there’s such growth in this series. We really start at a place where she’s really, really young and really vulnerable and uncertain, and then we really see her grow into Queen and that role of command. You’ll see her fall in love and go through the coronation, and get pregnant and become a mother. The arc of the series is one of huge growth, and of becoming more and more Victoria, as we go on.
What was it like for you to go from fighting aliens to ruling a kingdom? Did it feel equally daunting?
COLEMAN: It’s just different ways of working. It’s interesting, working on the voice was something I felt a lot of pressure on, in particular. It’s trying to get the sense of someone who’s younger yet regal, and that doesn’t distance, but is really accessible. I thought Emily Blunt did an amazing job in Young Victoria. There wasn’t really a day on set that wasn’t huge. You’ve got these journals that she’s written in, that tell you how she felt on the day. It just felt like you could shoot it as a feature film, but we were shooting in for TV, and we just wanted to get the detail. There is so much detail and you move through it all so fast. There’s so much wealth in all of the moment and you want to capture that.
What was it like to put on the clothes and the contacts, be on these sets, and have people call you, “Your Majesty”?
COLEMAN: Alastair Bruce, who worked on Downton Abbey a lot, comes in and talks about protocol, and he was like, “Look, when you’re in a position like this, you never play the power. It’s just inherent that it’s there. It’s about the way people respond to you, rather than you trying to project a certain status.” I think that, if you have that status, you don’t need to. He was really useful. He said, “It’s the people around you that make you Queen by their reaction to you, but you’ve got nothing to prove.” She’s an inexperienced 18-year-old girl, going through everything that an 18-year-old girl goes through, at the same time that you’re navigating ruling and being the most powerful woman in the world. She was 4’11” and 18 years old, and so openly passionate. It’s fascinating.
Did you ever put yourself in her shoes and wonder if you could have stepped into a role like that, at 18 years old?
COLEMAN: Yeah, and the answer is resolutely no. Her mother told her that she had to sign a regency to give up her power until she turned 21, and she just said no. She was about to become the Queen of England and her mother was telling her to do this, and she said no. She was a force of nature, and she remained that way. People just see these images of her, but by all accounts, she loved to laugh. Her humor was so apparent. She was very sociable, she had a love of opera and music, and she used to paint all of the dramatic scenes of the opera. It really captured her imagination.
You were one of the longest running Companions on Doctor Who. What was that experience like for you? Do you feel like it really made you grow, as an actor?
COLEMAN: Yeah, it really did. It’s such a different way of working. It’s such a unique show and a unique beast, in itself. Every two weeks, it’s so different, and you’re playing an over-arching character. It’s the relationships with Matt [Smith] and Peter [Capaldi] that made that job everything that it is, and what they taught me, as actors. They’re so uniquely wonderful and really amazing friends. I think I was very lucky to have fallen into the hands of both of them, and we’re really good friends today
Victoria premieres on Masterpiece on PBS on January 15th.
PBS Shared this interview of Jenna talking about playing Queen Victoria. Victoria airs on January 15th on 9/8C.
Following the success of The Crown, the critically acclaimed Netflix show about the Windsors, the appetite for royal dramas shows no sign of abating. Victoria, the new PBS Masterpiece series airing this month and starring British actors Jenna Coleman as the queen, Tom Hughes as Prince Albert, and Rufus Sewell as prime minister Lord Melbourne, does not stint on lavish locations. For the country-house fan, the show offers a whirlwind tour of some of Yorkshire’s most famous stately homes. Castle Howard, Carlton Towers, Bramham Park, and Wentworth Woodhouse stand in for such royal residences as Kensington Palace and Windsor Castle.
“Victoria was an unlikely character,” says Coleman when I meet her at London’s Covent Garden Hotel for tea. “She grew up very isolated and then became the most powerful woman in the world overnight. She was so inexperienced, so inconsistent—apparently she even threw scissors at her governess! But through all her flaws her core was good. Her diaries show that there was a pureness to her, a will to do a good job.”
I watched the series with one eye on the screen and another stuck into a fascinating new biography—Victoria: The Queen (Random House), by Julia Baird—that reflects Goodwin’s view that while Victoria was “the first woman to have it all,” she could also be “a mean girl. She was very troubled and tempestuous,” often lashing out at those close to her. A fascinating episode covers the scandal of Lady Flora Hastings, a lady-in-waiting whom court rivals accused of becoming pregnant by Sir John Conroy after she developed a swollen abdomen. The queen insisted that Hastings, who was a virgin, undergo a humiliating series of medical examinations. When she died soon afterward, it was revealed she was suffering from a horribly enlarged liver.