Reign tells the tale of the teenage Mary Stuart (Queen of Scotland), who arrives in France after an attempted assassination to spend time with her future husband (Prince Francis) and his family. Joined by her four ladies in waiting, Mary tries to navigate this new world of political intrigue, love triangles and royal treachery.
When asked to describe the liberties that Reign takes with history, star Anna Popplewell said “It’s kind of a fresh take on it. The way I’m thinking of it is it’s kind of like historical fan fiction. It’s history/fantasy, so you’re taking characters that you know, that did exist, that people may know a lot about, or they know a lot about, and you’re putting them in situations that are sometimes based on historical events, and sometimes not, sometimes they’re in new relationships with characters that never existed, sometimes they stick to exploring little details of relationships that did exist.”
During a recent visit to the Toronto set of Reign, we spoke to the ladies of the cast — Adelaide Kane, Celina Sinden, Anna Popplewell, Caitlin Stasey, and Jessica Grant — about what’s in store for Mary and her friends at the French court.
Queen Mary (Adelaide Kane)
Mary is a giirl who has always groomed to be Queen. While knowing you had such an important title since you were an infant could turn some people into a spoiled, power-hungry brat, Mary is actually sensible, mature and kind. She is slightly naïve when it comes to the treacherous climate at the French court, but there are many people around to help her. Although, they often have aspirations of their own. Adelaide hinted that “Her ladies in waiting are looking to get married and leave her! Her ladies in waiting aren’t as there for her as they could be, because they are looking to get married. Once they’re married, they’ll go to the house of their husband and have children and have their own lives. They are her ladies in waiting. It’s like being in college. They are waiting on her only until they find better circumstances for themselves. And then when they have children, their children will probably wait on her daughters and that’s how it works. But when they get married and they move on — unless they stay at court with their husbands — they will no longer be her ladies in waiting. And some of them will. But some of them will marry border lords or something like that and move on.”
Mary’s relationship with Francis is rocky. Toby Regbo hinted that there are feelings there, even if he feels pressured to marry her, but her relationship with Bash is far more straightforward. “[Other than her ladies] I think Sebastian is her closest confidante. Because he is the one person in court who can’t hurt her. He has nothing to gain by selling her out, because he has nothing to gain. Nobody can give him anything, because he is illegitimate. They just can’t. He can’t be given favor by anybody other than his father. The only reason he’s at court is because he’s in his father’s favor. So I think that he’s the only other person she can really trust. And that’s very dangerous for her, because she’s attracted to him and she relaxes and feels comfortable around him — and he’s the one man she can’t have.”
Kenna (Caitlin Stasey)
Kenna is, perhaps, the most adventurous of the group. “Kenna is just an incredibly lively, albeit selfish, individual. I mean, she’s just incredibly hedonistic, and she pursues pleasure to a fault,” Caitlin said.
In fact, each of the girls fulfills a particular purpose, according to Caitlin. “You have like Greer, who’s very sort of proper. You have Lola, who’s very romantic. You have Aylee, who’s very loyal. And then you have Kenna, who’s just reckless I think, maybe you would say. We all provide each other with comfort. We’re obviously all very far from home. We just provide counsel for one another, like any other group of friends, yet we’re all, at this point, forging these individual paths, and going off on our own. Kenna perhaps more so than anybody, because she is, once again, sort of out for herself. But also not for the sake of power, or self-improvement. She just wants what she enjoys, to the detriment of all other things. She just goes off and does it.”
Watch for Kenna to engage in an impulsive action in the premiere that will likely have long-lasting consequences for her and others.
Lola (Anna Popplewell)
Lola is, according to Anna, “full of feeling, she’s very romantic, she’s a little emotional. But she’s kind of got strength in that feeling. I always think of her like one of those pre-Raphaelite women but transplanted into the 16th century. I think that all of these characters, all of the ladies certainly who have traveled from Scotland to France, are struggling with this sense of their duty to their queen and their friendship with their queen. I mean, they’ve grown up together and in going away from home, they’re kind of thrown together, they’re kind of isolated in this new world, at least at first. And I think that’s frightening, but it also bonds them further, I think. Certainly in the first episode you see that struggle between what Lola feels for Mary as a friend and what she feels for her as a queen and sometimes that friendship and that duty are in conflict with each other.”
When it comes to the ladies’ clothes, expect to be dazzled. But don’t be surprised if you recognize a skirt or dress worn by one of the 16th century ladies in waiting. “I think it’s quite an original period aesthetic because it’s kind of a mash-up,” Anna explained. “We are wearing some period things that they would’ve worn at the time. But we’re also wearing Oscar de la Renta earrings and Barney’s shoes and 1930s ball gowns and tulle and corsets so it’s amazing because you kind of have all these layers of decades and centuries of fabric and beading and lace and velvet and it’s very opulent and grand and visually stunning, I think. So I’ll be wearing a Tudor corset with a Free People skirt. We’re stealing all of the best things from all of the centuries, basically.”
Aylee (Janessa Grant)
Of all of Mary’s ladies, Aylee is, according to Janessa, “probably Mary’s closest friend, her confidant. Just like the one she goes to whenever she’s freaking out on the inside. She can’t show that at court. And even like with the other girls, it’s a little bit harder. I’m the go-to girl. And I’m very, very happy to assume that role. And, I’ve figured out at this point that if Mary succeeds at court, if everything goes OK for Mary, then I can figure out my own life. Then we’ll all be safe and OK, and I can worry about that later. So I kind of push my own wants and desires to the side, for the greater cause. It’s funny because she does that herself. She’s like ‘I need to serve my country, and so I can’t always have what’s best for me’, and I think I do that on some level, too. I take that in, and I look up to her that it’s like ‘OK. I’ll do that, too. I’ll do what’s best for Mary, instead for worrying about myself’.”
Expect to learn more backstories for the girls as Reign progresses. Janessa explained that Aylee’s family lives on the border between England and Scotland and, like the Stark family in “Game of Thrones”, they act as protectors of the border. “And that’s kind of where my idea of morality comes in, with protecting the throne, [and] protecting Mary. And, something happens with my family, where they are under siege, during one of the episodes. And you start to get more (backstories) with the other girls. Like Greer, and a little bit of Lola’s story. And Kenna kind of stays a bit mysterious, but I’m sure we’ll get there.”
Greer (Celina Sinden)
According to Celina, Greer comes from wealth, but “she’s not titled. Which, I think, gives her insecurities and she’s been sent to the court to land a man [laughs] to get this title. She’s very ambitious. She’s witty, self-assured, fiery, and intelligent.” Her quest to land a man hasn’t necessarily caused any jealousy among the girls yet in terms of chasing eligible suitors. “I guess the difference between Greer and the other three girls is that they’re so secure in themselves. They don’t feel that ambition to rise in the world because they have it already. I think, if anything, they support her and know where she’s coming from and the pressure she’s under. It’s more of that kind of relationship where they want to help her achieve her goals.”
But Greer is under tremendous pressure and aside from her duty to protect Mary (she says the girls do have a great relationship with their Queen), her search for a husband will be a big plot for her. As Celina explained, “She’s not looking for love, she’s looking for something completely different, which I think is hard to relate to for modern women but I’ve had to put myself in those shoes and think about the real pressure she was under and how that is the only way, as a woman at the time, to rise in the world. She’s got money but that makes no difference. She’ll never be treated with respect until she’s titled.”
Watch some network interviews below with the stars and tune in to the premiere of Reign tonight at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.