For Elizabeth Tudor, it was a long and often treacherous road to becoming the Queen of England. The new STARZ series Becoming Elizabeth, premiering June 12, chronicles the days of Elizabeth before she wore the crown, and there was plenty of drama to go around. HollywoodLife spoke EXCLUSIVELY with creator/executive producer Anya Reiss and executive producer George Ormond about exploring the formative years of the Tudor queen.
“Every other version of Elizabeth basically starts with her becoming queen,” George told HollywoodLife. “This is a long time before that, and she’s got a long road to travel. She’s still figuring out who she is. She doesn’t know that she’s going to become queen. She’s got no idea that’s going to happen. She’s got a really rocky road to try and navigate. It’s very, very dangerous, so following those really formative years is totally fascinating.”
One of the most talked-about scandals of Elizabeth’s earlier years was about her relationship with Thomas Seymour and what really happened between them. Thomas, who was much older than Elizabeth and eventually married King Henry VIII’s widow Catherine Parr, crossed paths with the young Elizabeth when she went to live with Catherine.
“Catherine is kind of the closest thing that Elizabeth’s ever had to a mother. While she’s there, she meets Thomas, and she’s attracted to Thomas. He’s charming. He shows real interest in her. He listens to her, and she’s really drawn to him. What she doesn’t know is that Thomas and Catherine have secretly married each other because nobles are not allowed to marry at the time without permission of the Privy Council. Thomas and Catherine were in love before Henry married Catherine, so they’ve waited a long time for this to happen,” George revealed.
George noted that this relationship is “written very much through the eyes of Elizabeth, a teenager who thinks she’s an adult and thinks she’s in control. But actually, she’s in a relationship with a much older man who is very powerful. As the series progresses, her perspective on that relationship shifts, and quite, you know, I think the drama asks lots of questions about the nature of the relationship and power and what’s going on there. It takes Elizabeth to some really dangerous places.”
When the show begins, Elizabeth’s younger brother Edward has become the King of England. Elizabeth, Edward, and Mary were tied together by blood but divided by the crown. Anya stressed that the sibling dynamics between the Tudor children will be a key component of Becoming Elizabeth.
“I think of all things that really surprised me when reading history, it was seeing how close they were, or at least how in touch they were, and how much they had to do with each other,” Anya said. “I thought I had grown up uninformed by going like, oh, well, no one really cared about each other in the past. They just had a different way of thinking about things and then reading letters and accounts and speeches and just suddenly going like, I recognize these people. There’s so much humanity in them. They’re not different creatures from who we are now, and I think that was really exciting. It may be very obvious. For me, it was a revelation, so exploring that sibling dynamic was kind of central to that.”
Becoming Elizabeth will also explore the close bond between Elizabeth and Robert Dudley, who was her childhood friend and became one of her closest confidants. He has long been speculated to have been Elizabeth’s great love.
“Robert Dudley was around for a very long time,” Anya told HollywoodLife. “That early part of her reign and her relationship with him was a major talking point at court and decided so much of the political things that were going on. So it feels very strange not to do what happened to them to make that happen.”
George added, “We know that Robert and Elizabeth were really close from childhood, but we get the chance to follow that relationship as it grows and evolves. They circle around each other. I mean, it’s an incredible relationship and it’s an incredible story that I hope will really draw you in.”
For Anya and George, the hope is that Becoming Elizabeth will be a seasons-long journey. “We obviously hope the show does really well, and we would love to do more series. It’s always been our intention,” George said. Anya told HollywoodLife that she would love “Alicia [von Rittberg] to be our Elizabeth for as long as possible.” Becoming Elizabeth airs Sundays on STARZ.