The success of two countries lied squarely on Mary Stuart's political performance when she left Scotland for France in 1557. Similarly, the success of Reign, which chronicles Mary's life en francais, lies squarely on Adelaide Kane's performance as she takes the lead on The CW's most ambitious series to date. Thankfully the network's outstanding casting department has, once again, uncovered the perfect vehicle to let this rising star shine.
Kane brings an essential modernity to the regal role, yet never feels like, well, Keanu Reeves in Much Ado About Nothing as she exudes an elegance not often found in today's actors. Aiding Kane in transporting audiences to the 1500's is a smart script, to-die-for locations and a touch of the supernatural.
I caught up with Kane at The Television Critics Association Press Tour to talk about one of ETonline's 10 Best New Shows, find out what drew her to the role and learn why the key to becoming Mary Queen of Scots is to only play Mary Stuart.
ETonline: When you read this script, did you ever think it would actually make the air?
Adelaide Kane: It was a very unusual step for The CW to take. There was a lot of skepticism, but I'm quite impressed, frankly, for them to be going so far outside their box. It was something different and from all the pilots The CW was making, I got the sense they were trying to do different things this year and I think that’s awesome. Plus, what little girl doesn't want to be a princess?!? It's an ideal job. I don't know what I would rather be doing for my first really big project.
ETonline: In watching the pilot, I felt like I never saw you playing "a queen" but simply a girl. Is that the key?
Kane: Yes, I approached her as a girl, not a queen because she is not that person yet. She is not a queen yet. And even then, I feel like playing someone as their occupation isn't honest and true. It's lazy. She is technically a queen, but not in her own right, just in name. She's a figure-head who is not taken seriously at court. She needs to build a name and reputation for herself. You can be born with a title, but not respect -- you have to earn that and she must forge her own path because if she lets people do it for her, she can't bitch about the consequences.
ETonline: What kind of research did you do?
Kane: I did a lot of research because I wanted to get to know her as a women, not just a dry, historical figure. She is fascinating woman. She spoke six languages, played two instruments, she rode horses, she hunted, she was witty and could hold her own with anybody; she was a very lively, vivacious, bright woman. Which was an exceptional thing to be in those days. I want to bring a bit of that to her, but it's difficult because there's a real responsibility when you're playing a real person. Since we just have conjecture and text, I have a lot of license in building her as a fully fleshed out character.
ETonline: What was important to you when building her as a character?
Kane: I wanted her to be very human. Someone who makes mistakes, someone who is irritable and someone you won't like all the time because you shouldn't. Nobody likes someone all the time. She is a person and I want the audience to think she's a bitch sometimes and not just a hand-puppet who will play out this story. She's not a storybook, picture-perfect woman. Sometimes she's unlikable, sometimes she f*cks up and sometimes she's mean; everyone has their slip-ups and so does she because super likable characters are boring. Nobody wants to watch perfect people.
ETonline: This is The CW, so obviously the love story is important, but how much of the romance is in service of the political storyline?
Kane: The romance is a large part, but you know how it ends. She's going to marry Francis and he's going to die. History tells us that. We may take some license with our show, but they are going to get married at some point, but I think there's a lot of potential for romantic disaster until they marry. They could form other alliances, fall in love with other people; the political landscape as well as the romantic landscape is very fluid. I quite like the idea of them using a romantic relationship as a political vehicle to further their own ends. I don't know if she's going to use her feminine wiles to manipulate people politically at first, but she will grow into that because, in those days, it was a huge weapon in a woman's arsenal.
ETonline: Reign is a period piece but feels remarkably modern. How do you bring in the contemporary spirit of a woman while still making it era appropriate?
Kane: A lot of that is helped by the writing and a lot of that comes from the show's style -- if you place us in that setting, people will believe it's so. The difficulty comes from making that kind of language seem natural, and having the characters look at ease in those clothes. They need to look like they wear these clothes every day, walk like that every day. Everything about our show needs to play like second nature to these characters. It's about making the audience feel comfortable despite how foreign this world really is.
ETonline: How did you take to the corsets and huge gowns?
Kane: I was never that uncomfortable. It took a minute to adjust to the corsets, but I always saw them as tools for the work. I got really analytical about it and looked at how the clothes affected my breathing and my speech and how it changed the quality of my voice and my ability to cry and used those feelings to inform my performance every single day. All of that helped build the layers of the character on top of what is on the page.
ETonline: What are you excited for audiences to experience with Reign?
Kane: I'm excited for the audience to experience this world. My main goal as an actor, with my craft ... or whatever poncy way you want to say it, is to always take the audience with me. To make them feel for me, or to make them hate me, I want a reaction. I want their emotions. The worst reaction someone can have is, "eh."
Reign premieres tonight at 9 p.m. on The CW.