Jace Lacob (Jace): Season 1 of “Victoria” was hours of fun, and this podcast continues the trend… Unless, of course, you haven’t yet seen all 7 episodes of the show in which case this will be 30 minutes of sadness and spoilers.
Jace: MASTERPIECE Studio is brought to you by Viking Cruises, exploring the world in comfort. Learn more at vrc.com.
I’m Jace Lacob and you’re listening to MASTERPIECE Studio.
At the beginning of the season, we saw a teenage Victoria ascend to the throne right after her uncle’s death. But in the finale, it’s Victoria’s own life that’s on the line.
Cumberland: These daily drives of yours London seems so volatile to me and it would be unfortunate if violence were to be replaced with something harder.
Jace: Victoria has to live through an attempted assassination, and survive childbirth, which itself is a dangerous thing.
But while everyone around her still seems to doubt her strength and ability, it’s clear that Victoria has transformed into an even more capable wife, mother, and queen.
Jenna Coleman: You know, going from teenager into woman, and having faith in herself.
Jace: It feels fitting that after a tumultuous first season, the shot we’re left with is one of the now peaceful royal family — Victoria, Albert, and the Princess Royal.
Tom Hughes: I think that’s what the end shot captures, really. It’s two young people who’ve got the greatest gift they’ll ever get.
Jace: In this episode, actors Jenna Coleman and Tom Hughes relive the behind-the-scenes magic of the past seven episodes.
We are joined this week by Jenna Coleman and Tom Hughes, Welcome.
Tom: Hi, how are you?
Jace: You each play half of history’s greatest love story and you knew each other for a few years prior to Victoria. What did your partner bring to their respective role and to the production itself?
Jenna: Albert, in particular, I remember us talking about… We filmed three episodes before Albert arrives, so I was on set working with Rufus at the time, and Albert hadn’t been cast. And I remember Tom came to my head because I remember seeing a picture of him with this mustache, and he looked exactly like a portrait that Queen Victoria drew of Albert.
And Tom had actually done a German accent before, and somehow it all just came together.
I mean, it’s extraordinary. When I work with Tom on set, Tom completely disappears and it’s just Albert. I don’t think anybody else could have played that part.
Oh, now he’s all shy. (Laughs)
Tom: I just don’t know how to follow that. What did Jenna bring to it? Not a lot really.
Tom: No, she… (Laughs) It’s very difficult, I think. I think Jenna has got an unbelievably difficult part because the one character that we all know within this show, and that we all feel that we know, is Victoria. To find the fluidity of that transition and paint the picture of the woman that we all think we know as a volatile, but very vibrant, and enthusiastic, and intelligent…
Jenna: Stubborn. (Laughs)
Tom: Well, yeah, but she’s just very alive at the age of 18, 19. And to take that and play that youthfulness and then subtly change that character, without the audience really being aware of it, so by the end of the series you’ve got a much more confident, strong, independent of mind woman… And to follow that story through and do it with the grace and the lightness that, I think, is achieved, that’s…
It’s humor, you know? That’s difficult to play that story and still have humor.
Jenna: I think what’s really interesting about the two of them is Albert is mathematically- his brain is mathematical, and logical, and rational. And Victoria is completely emotionally led and impulsive. So, the two of them together as characters… It’s really fascinating what their dynamic brings, and the shared love between them, yet the differences. They’re very famous for having a very tumultuous and argumentative time.
Jace: One of my favorite moments between the two is the duet that they play at the piano.
Albert: Which part do you prefer? I believe the Primo part is more difficult.
Victoria: I have never had a problem with it.
Albert: No? But it has so many chords and you have such small hands.
Victoria: Ready? 1…2…3…
Jace: How crucial was that moment in terms of establishing this slowly emerging passion between them?
Jenna: So crucial, because this… Again, talking about the opposites, this is something we all discussed for a long time. It’s what connects them and what they do have shared is music. So, it was really important that their first exchange, their first connections, as it were, is through a duet and is through music because throughout their lives it remained a shared passion, and something that really connects them both, and was very prevalent throughout their courtship. Albert wrote a lot of music for Victoria.
And it’s really interesting that it almost connects them through challenging one another. And I think that’s what Victoria has never has before. She has a lot of people around her who perhaps say “yes” to her, and Albert arrives and isn’t particularly impressed, and strives for more, and challenges her, and questions her, and thus, passion and spark is born.
The story of what happened throughout the duet on the piano is something that we discussed a lot.
Victoria: Am I going too fast for you, Albert?
Albert: No, I believe you are going too fast for Schubert but if that is the pace you wish to play it at…
Jace: Their proposal scene manages to be both awkward and romantic…
Jace: …flipping the gender stereotype given that Victoria had to propose.
Victoria: Albert, will you marry me?
Jace: What was it like filming that pivotal scene?
Tom: Every proposal moment that someone has described to me in my life has always been, I think, awkward and romantic in equal measure.
Tom: I think, it was important to capture… They’re two young people. They’re, they’re-
Tom: Teenagers. All of us, as teenagers, we probably think we’ve read the book on love, but we’re all stumbling around and trying to make the best of these instincts that are flying around us. And you don’t always get it right. And I think there’s a real…
When I read the scene, I thought it was very charming the way that it played out.
Albert: For me this is not a marriage of convenience.
Victoria: No. I think it will be a marriage of inconvenience. (Laughs)
Albert: I think there’s a different way of telling that story, where it could’ve been very intense and very…
Jenna: “You will marry me.” (Laughs)
Tom: Yeah, and also… The intensity of the love, and the lightness and the humor within it I found very charming and I hope people do too.
Jenna: I think it’s such an inversion of the classic proposal scene, the classic romantic scene, and again, something that a lot of people never knew about Victoria as queen, that she had to be the one to propose.
And I think, the struggle and the balance between etiquette and duty, and yet, “I’m a teenager and I have to ask this boy, ‘Will you please, if possible, will you please marry me?'”
And the fight between that innocence and yet trying to fulfill a role at the same time is… I like the struggle between those two things. And you get to see the two teenagers at the end.
Jace: And I read something about a bird on the day?
Jenna: Oh, yes. The damn birds. Our…
Tom: I still think you brought that bird in.
Jenna: I haven’t. Our…
Jenna: …studio is… Is it an owl?
Tom: It’s like a zoo, really.
Jenna: Yeah, it is. It’s like a rainforest in there.
Tom: There are like 30 different species living in the roof.
Jenna: Yes, there are. So sometimes during takes… Because this scene was very, very tense, and Albert has got the long walk up along the candlelit hallway, and the moment’s coming, it’s coming, and she’s just about to say, “Will you marry me,” but before that happens, it’s…
Jenna: And yet, we’re both staring at each other and there’s this moment of-
Jenna: (Laughs) And literally, “Should we laugh? Should we break this?”
Tom: It was in the moment… It’s before the line of, “I’ll have to kiss you first,” and in that moment, for about 11 takes, he was silent…
Tom: …for the entire scene, but he knew his cue…
Tom: …and every time he’d pop up… (Squawks)
Jenna: He knew how to… There’s somebody else in that proposal scene.
Tom: It was unbelievable. It’s really good of him to turn up today just to do his sound for us.
Jenna: I know.
Jace: (Laughs) It ended up taking 50 takes, is that right?
Tom: 50? No, come on. Maybe 47.
Jenna: Who said that? Who said that?
Jenna: Yeah, there was a lot of takes. There was a lot of material there to play the tension.
I have to say though, Tom and Rufus are very good at not corpsing.
Tom: Never corpse.
Jenna: This is what I’ve noticed. This is the connection between you. You both do not corpse, it’s awful. I’m always the guilty party.
Jace: What gets you, Jenna?
Jenna: Rufus’s horse, who likes to imitate Rufus we’ve decided.
Tom: It’s called Rupert, isn’t it?
Jenna: Rupert is Rufus’s horse, and when Rufus walks, throughout his entire take, he does this noise: he goes, (imitates noise), which we’ve decided is the horse making fun of Rufus…
Jenna: (Laughs) …which just gets me every time, and he usually follows that with a lot of flatulence, which I won’t go into.
Jenna: But I’m usually bent double on the horse at this point, and Rufus hasn’t even broken character at all. It’s terrible. It’s too easy for me. I wish I could blame a corset or something, but once I go, I’m gone.
Jace: I love their stolen kiss in the pavilion, which shows a real magnetism between these two. For all that we know of the Victorian period, what was their physical dynamic like?
Jenna: Well, that’s really… Actually, I don’t know what it was like during their engagement, that’s really, really interesting, but Victoria again is very candid in her diary on their wedding night about how, “He held her face and covered her in kisses, and what an angel Albert is to behold this…” And how alive she was with that.
So, she doesn’t really shy away from their physicality at all. In the morning, he put on her stockings, and she watched him shave, and there’s all sorts of…
(Laughs) Sorry, Tom’s doing some mime.
But I think they were very physical by all accounts, and very — what’s the word? — endearing with one another.
Tom: Yeah. I think that in many ways… We went on a bit of a school trip to Osborne House recently, as a research thing, with the whole kind of creative team: producers, writer, everyone, and it was quite fascinating to really be in their world. And I think…
Jenna: It’s so domestic. It’s so familial.
Tom: So familial, but there was also an utter immersion in the other from both of them. But it’s not just physical, it’s emotional and it’s heartfelt and it’s intellectual, and I think, there was true, deep, life-changing feeling there.
Jace: The ink on Victoria and Albert’s wedding license is barely dry when she becomes pregnant.
Albert: You are with child? That’s magnificent. You’re magnificent.
Victoria: I’m afraid.
Jace: How does her pregnancy ultimately change their marriage?
Jenna: Well, in lots of ways. Victoria hasn’t really considered children at that point. She doesn’t want children. She is in throes of honeymoon. She has waited so long for independence and finally she has her husband, her man by her side, and it’s the two of them against the world, and she has never been happier. So when the pregnancy comes along, all she sees is that it’s something to take her further away from her independence, further away from Albert, and further away from her role as queen.
She is incredibly unhappy about it, so obviously, it creates fractions between them and resentment, I think, for Victoria. So there becomes a real power battle and a power struggle between the two of them.
Victoria: It is such an insult.
Albert: It’s not an insult Victoria. It’s merely me embracing England’s destiny on your behalf.
Victoria: It is not your place to do things on my behalf. If I wish to bring railways or anything to the attention of the English people, then, Albert, I should do it myself.
Jace: For Tom, Albert struggles to really find his role in this marriage and his new position in court. How important was it to his sense of self or even to his sense of masculinity for him to find an identity of his own within this royal marriage?
Tom: I think the answer to question is more broad than perhaps this particular relationship and this particular position. I think, all of us as human beings, we all just want to be acknowledged for being alive, I think. And I think the freedom of expression is the most valuable thing. And the confinement that he feels is something that flies in the face of, perhaps, or particularly in our interpretation of this man, it very much flies in the face of, of the strident and forward-thinking young man that he seems to be and…
Jenna: He’s a workaholic.
Tom: He just doesn’t want his wings to be clipped, yeah. And I think his love for Victoria is worth risking that, but once that’s consolidated I think he needs to find his own space to be able to express himself, to fulfill the man that he wants to be and feels that he is inside.
Jenna: He’s also in a different country, culture, away from everything that he has ever known, so I think to try and adjust into that world is never going to be an easy transition when you’ve left everything that you know and have grown up with behind.
Tom: And I think that… You reference the difficulty within the marriage, and I don’t really necessarily think there is difficulty within the marriage. I mean, the love between them, once it kind of takes hold, it feels very pure to me. And it’s almost like any difficulty– Well, I’ve just contradicted myself by using the word “difficulty,” but any…
Tom: …bump in the road that they may face, it seems to come from the depth of feeling and the depth of positive feeling. And sometimes you can love something or someone so much that it hurts, and I don’t think there’s necessarily issues within them. The trials and tribulations they’re going to face are from a position of immense closeness.
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Jace: Jenna, Victoria has viewed her mother as an antagonist, but with the pregnancy there seems to be some softness between them, and it’s for her mama that Victoria calls out when she’s in labor. How have relations shifted with the Duchess?
Jenna: Oh, there’s a whole way to go yet. Victoria and her mother’s relationship is an incredibly complicated dynamic. But I think ultimately it’s… Victoria’s mother has never really… She doesn’t speak English very well. She hasn’t equipped her to be Queen, but as a mother to a mother that’s where she finally has a role and where Victoria finally does need her.
Albert: Everybody please out.
Victoria: Mama! Mama!
Jenna: And Catherine did the best run. I don’t know how much they’ve used in the edit, but it literally went from back of the set… And you could just hear, like in my head, the dramatic music, and you wanted to see it in slow motion of Catherine running.
Jace: We get a little bit of it.
Jenna: Do you?
Jace: A little bit of it.
Jenna: I had a full view from the bed, like right to the back of the palace. Catherine did the full…
Jace: That’s amazing.
Jenna : …like 100 meters.
Victoria: Do you really think Uncle Cumberland would try and shoot me in broad daylight?
Duchess: Not him but one of his creatures.
Leopold: I’m afraid, Victoria, that the world is more dangerous than you think.
Jace: This final episode not only features the birth of the Princess Royal, but also the assassination attempt by Edward Oxford. How does that incident, the first of eight attempts against the Queen’s life, change her perception of England? And what does it do to reinforce her and Albert’s belief in English justice?
Jenna: I think, for me, what was really interesting about that part of the story in particular was… Actually, having spent the first part of her reign with everyone expecting her to fail, and everyone expecting her to make mistakes, which she did: the mistakes with the Bedchamber, perhaps becoming too close to Lord Melbourne… There was many mistakes. But I think what she was saying was, “I will make mistakes, but my heart, and my will, and my want to do good is really valid.”
And looking at Cumberland, it was a case of saying, “I may be this, I may be young, I may be ignorant, but I am not you and I have a will to do good.”
Victoria: You know, Uncle, there have been times when I have doubted my own judgement, but there is one thing of which I am quite certain: that however many mistakes I have made or perhaps am yet to make I know I am a better monarch than you could ever be.
Jenna: And I think that’s what, mainly, the smile was at the end is a freedom that she might get things wrong, but she can and will go forward and learn and be better than he could ever be because his morals and his moral compass is skewed and hers isn’t. So, it’s very much a “being set free moment,” and I think going from teenager into woman, and owning her role and having faith in herself.
Jace: The final scene of the season finds Victoria and Albert in bed with the newborn Princess Royal.
Albert: We should call her Victoria, after a great queen.
Jace: Are they finally happy here, together in this moment?
Jenna: Oh, I think completely. Victoria is perhaps not famous for being the world’s most maternal mother, but in that moment it’s real happiness and real domestic bliss.
Jace: And for Tom, does Albert now finally accept his role in their marriage?
Tom: What do you mean by that exactly?
Jace: I mean, they have their ups and downs. There’s the trip to Staffordshire which creates a rift between the two of them.
Jace: But the birth of the princess seems to finally… He seems happy. He seems more content, I think, than we’ve seen him over the last few episodes.
Tom: I don’t know if I necessarily agree with that, if I’m honest. I think there’s immense happiness and joy at the birth of his first child, 100%, but I think, if the love of your life, if the person that is the most important person in your life is shot at I think that your levels of tension are going to rise pretty sky-high. So, I think, the circumstances are demanding that Albert is perhaps off-center, but I think the joy in this moment is less about position or identity and more about the very human joy of the birth of your first child, which I haven’t experienced yet but by all accounts is pretty remarkably wonderful and life-changing, so…
Jace: I have a child and I would say it is exactly that transformative. It’s life-changing.
Tom: Well, that’s nice to hear.
Jace: (Laughs) The final shot in this season is this new little family in bed together before the camera pulls back to reveal the palace staff bustling around them, even in this most private of moments.
Jace: Is there a sense that they’re living in a fishbowl of sorts, never entirely alone?
Jenna: That’s really interesting. So that’s something more to play with next year as well. Some of my favorite scenes are when Victoria and Albert are in bed, just chatting. They’ve got morning coffee, the papers, the boxes, working in bed, or they’ll have an argument or… It’s amazing because it seems like that’s their own fishbowl and so much happens within that room.
We once had a scene where they were in bed talking about planning the expedition up north and in came the footman, and there was five of them setting up breakfast as we were there, and it became so comical that it took away from the lovely intimacy of the banter, of the morning chat, of their scene and that relationship.
It was almost tempting in some points, but it became a bit farcical. I think life within the palace is an extraordinary place, so it’s trying to really capture the aliveness and the bustle always of how many occupants that household has, yet not let it detract from the drama. It’s using it cleverly.
Tom: Also, it’s important to have it in our story that element that they’re always or very frequently at work because I think… I think one of the interesting things to bring to life as an actor, but also from a broad-looking and series point of view, is that shift between public and private life. And I think that there’s a pressure that that brings on these two young people and…
Jenna: Victoria’s best friends by all accounts were her servants. She was very, very loyal to her servants, and especially in older age, it was her servants who were actually closest to her than anyone.
Jace: Looking back, do you have a favorite scene from this season?
Jenna: Oh. I mean, I love all the horse riding scenes, and like I say, just the domestic familiarity in the bedroom scenes when it’s just- the doors are closed and it’s Victoria and Albert’s world, and it’s them as them with no eyes on them, in a way. I love how accessible that is.
Tom: For me? I, I don’t know, really. There’s a dinner table scene when Albert and Ernest have gone to look at some of the paintings and Victoria’s showing a lack of interest and feeding Dash with her hand.
Jenna: Don’t you be mean about Dash (laughs).
Tom: Well, it’s not Dash’s fault, but I enjoy that a lot because you have the whole gang there.
Tom: It was quite early on in filming. For me, coming in late to the production and trying to hit the ground running and keep a pace with everyone that had been shooting on it for however many weeks before, I think that was good for me to have that very on. So, on a personal level I enjoyed that.
I think, also filming the… I concur with Jenna about the private scenes between Albert and Victoria because that was when you could really show depths within their relationship.
And also, I loved shooting the scenes on the train with Nigel Lindsay…
Jenna: Oh, yeah. That was a good day.
Tom: …who plays Peel, because Nigel’s a great guy, he’s a lot of fun, and the relationship between Albert and Peel was a really enjoyable one to bring to life because, similarly to him and Victoria, they perhaps start at a distance and end up very close, so that was a lot of fun.
Jenna: Tom also had to run alongside the train on the most uneven ground. It was literally like (laughs) wobbly rocks. So dangerous.
Jace: Where was that? Was that actually a working train, just randomly in a field?
Jenna: It was really old…
Tom: It’s in… I think it…
Jenna: Is it a museum for…?
Tom: It’s just south of Leicester, yeah. I think it’s in Loughborough.
Tom: I’ve actually filmed that before. I did a job very early on…
Jenna: Oh, yeah.
Tom: …in my career. I did a film, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant movie, and it was called “Cemetery Junction,” and that was our junction.
I never knew where this place was, and then we went there to film and we turned the corner and I was like, “Oh my word. I’ve spent my life trying to get back here.” So it had multiple reasons that it resonated with me. That was probably my favorite two days of the shoot.
Jace: I’ve seen this now, I think, eight times through.
Jenna: Really? Oh my goodness. You probably know it better than we do.
Jace: (Laughs) I know it intimately.
Jace: One of my favorite scenes, which we haven’t touched on, is actually the marron glacé scene…
Jenna: Everyone loves this scene.
Leopold: Charlotte used to like sweets too, but her doctors would not let her eat them. It made her so unhappy. I wish so much now that I had given her all of the marrons glaces that she wanted.
Jenna: Yes. Yeah.
Jace: It’s such a fantastic scene, and I’m just wondering, “Alex Jennings?”
Jenna: Oh, I love Alex Jennings, Uncle Leopold.
Jace: Uncle Leopold.
Jenna: It’s lovely. Again, because they’re two characters who have… They have a relationship that’s so interesting. Uncle Leopold was giving Victoria all the advice, really. He was the closest to a father figure, I suppose, that she had growing up, so it’s lovely to see them coming together. I ate so many marrons glacés.
Jenna: That’s not represented on screen but there were a lot of those eaten.
I loved that shared moment. I love the simplicity of it, actually, and it is kind of without words. It’s lovely, but I think the marrons glacés are going to make a return, so do not fear.
Jace: Yes, excellent. How would you describe the other in a single word?
Jenna: Hmm. (Laughs)
Tom: Should I go first?
Jenna: Yeah because I’ve not got one.
Tom: Jesus. That’s hard…
Jenna: That’s really good. (Laughs) And so true.
I want to say you’re like the caffeine provider.
Jenna: You’re more (laughs)…
Tom: ‘Cause I buy the coffee.
Jenna: I’m a coffee, you’re more an English tea, so perhaps you’re a traditionalist?
No. He’s more- I want to say the rock, but is that too…? Is that deep?
Tom: What, as in the wrestler? Am I Dwayne Johnson?
Jenna: No. (Laughs)
Jenna: Yeah. You’re Dwayne Johnson.
Tom: I’d rather be Dwayne Johnson to a traditionalist so I’m going to go with Dwayne Johnson.
Jenna: (Laughs) Okay. I only mean when it comes to drink choices.
Jenna: English tea drinker.
Tom: Okay. Dwayne Johnson and caffeinated, so…
Jenna: Yeah, there we go. We got it.
Jace: Victoria will be back for a second season, but if you can’t wait until then to see 19th century women ruling TV, stay tuned for To Walk Invisible The Brontë Sisters, a MASTERPIECE feature which dramatizes the lives of the uber talented Brontë family.
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