Cast Interview: Ferdinand Kingsley

Ferdinand Kingsley provides a balm for our broken hearts as he shares insights about Francatelli, describes filming that scene, and—though, tragically, #Skerrettelli is no more—assures us that the cast of Victoria lives on as the closest of friends. Plus, find out his favorite scene to film, his advice for Victoria and Albert, and much more!  Note: This interview contains significant Episode 4 spoilers! 

MASTERPIECE: When Season 3 begins, Francatelli can’t wait to move forward in his future. He’s really different from Skerrett, in that he’s dying to get out of the palace. Is his urgency about getting married, or his ambition, or both?
KINGSLEY: Francatelli’s never one to settle for less than he thinks he’s worth, and he feels the same way about Skerrett. He does have a tendency to believe he knows what she should be thinking and feeling and needing—that’s something I might have a word with him about if he and I were friends… So I’d say his urgency comes from the fact that he has a crystal clear image in his head of the life he could make with Skerrett, and he knows that if he wants to get there, they can’t afford to sit around—they need to get on with getting married, starting their business and creating the future that he thinks they deserve.

MASTERPIECE: Does Francatelli understand Skerrett’s ambivalence about leaving Victoria?
KINGSLEY: Of course he does—he just understands his own lack of ambivalence more! Charles appreciates the risk that Nancy will be taking by leaving behind everything she’s worked so very hard for, but he really, truly believes that it’s a risk worth taking. It’s a gamble, but Charles knows the stakes and knows the potential winnings. To him, servitude is servitude, even if you are serving the queen. He craves independence (though it’s a pretty Victorian version of independence, where a man is independent on *behalf* of his wife!)—the freedom for him and his wife to make their own mistakes and their own triumphs.

You care about us, hopefully. You want us to be happy, hopefully. And then what happens, happens. And if we’ve done our job half-sharp, it’ll be horrible.–Ferdinand Kingsley on the tragic events of Episode 4

MASTERPIECE: The Chartists’ demand for change and voting rights (for men) reaches from the streets into the palace. How does Francatelli see himself fitting into that social and political moment?
KINGSLEY: Yes, one MAN, one vote! Full suffrage was still a considerable way off, sadly. Francatelli sees the country changing and he doesn’t want to be on the fringes of that; he wants to be in the thick of it. He probably wouldn’t be directly involved in the political movement, but certainly the social one—and that social movement will of course drive enormous political change over time. Francatelli and Skerrett are emblematic of a new rising middle class which won’t be called the “middle class” for a few more decades at least. They’re not great land-owners, not servants, not peasants and not politicians. They’re small business owners, essentially—a husband-and-wife team who have some control over their destiny, and who are able to have a say in how their community grows.

MASTERPIECE: It’s a lovely moment when Francatelli finds out that Skerrett is pregnant. What do you think of a series that makes viewers fall in love with characters who seem as if their dreams are finally coming true and then crushes them into death and despair? (No, I’m not the least bit resentful!)
KINGSLEY: NO OF COURSE YOU’RE NOT RESENTFUL I’M NOT RESENTFUL EITHER. Sorry, yes, you actually wanted me to answer your question. We’ve been blessed with some beautiful scenes to play in together on this show, and I’ve been blessed with a mate like Nell to work with. Ugh gross, did I just say that? I hate Nell. You can only play the moment that you’re in, so it was no use us loading any portent into our scenes—the happiness and the hope has to be as pure as it can be. The result of that, naturally, is that it hurts more when it’s taken away from you so brutally. I wouldn’t be surprised if some viewers are angry. You care about us, hopefully. You want us to be happy, hopefully. And then what happens, happens. And if we’ve done our job half-sharp, it’ll be horrible. But life can do that—it’s not necessarily full of warning signs and people saying oddly prophetic things. Life was brutal back then for a lot of people—it is now—and we were interested in telling stories that feel truthful.

MASTERPIECE: What was it like filming their gutting, heartbreaking last scene together?
KINGSLEY: It was hard, of course, because of the nature of the scene, and because it’s taxing to have to keep re-finding those feelings over and over, for different takes and in different camera setups. But Chloë Thomas (who directed that episode) along with the whole crew created a really safe, calm, quiet atmosphere, with as few distractions as possible, which meant that our energy could be focused and private, and I’m incredibly thankful for that. Also, I was acting with Nell, which always feels as effortless as acting can feel: we just tried to let ourselves really see each other and take the time to connect.

MASTERPIECE: The Skerrett/Francatelli romance serves as a wonderful contrast to the more tempestuous and strained relationship between Victoria and Albert this season. Is there anything you think Victoria and Albert could learn from Skerrett and Francatelli?
KINGSLEY: Make dirtier jokes, eat more strawberry tarts, sing badly in corridors.

MASTERPIECE: What do you hope for Penge, Brodie, and Francatelli himself in their futures?
KINGSLEY: Penge: I hope he finds somebody who loves his curmudgeonliness and can drink steadily all day, and runs away with them.
Brodie: Brodie should have his filthy limericks published, and also start up the Buckingham Palace Amateur Dramatics Society.
And of course, Francatelli: I like to think that Charles finds a way through his pain and grief to become the man we know him to have been in history: a brilliant and widely published author, a philanthropist and fighter against food poverty, and eventually an old man with a kind face. He married and had children, so I hope that post-Victoria, he finds peace, and that his optimism isn’t extinguished forever. It will take time.

MASTERPIECE: What’s your favorite scene you did with Nell?
KINGSLEY: Hard to say—most of my scenes were with Nell! Our wedding was fun. It was the very first scene that was shot for Season Three, and it was like being back at school (in a good way)! We forgot how to act, I called Tommy by his own name instead of his character’s, and I swore in the middle of a take because I didn’t realize it was a take. Business as usual. Too late to fire me now.

MASTERPIECE: What’s your favorite off-screen moment with your Victoria castmates?
KINGSLEY: Even harder to say—I’m probably still drunk from one of our nights out. We try to watch each episode at one of the cast’s homes, and that’s one of my favorite traditions to have been part of on any job (even if it does mean watching it on David Oakes’ phone because his TV won’t turn on). I’ve just moved house and decided to put a projector and a screen up instead of a TV, so I’m looking forward to getting the gang round to watch our already massive faces in an even more massive format.

MASTERPIECE: Who do you predict will be sobbing the hardest when Episode 4 draws to a close?
KINGSLEY: Possibly me, if someone spills red wine on my carpet again.

MASTERPIECE: Do we dare to hope that we’ll see more of Francatelli in seasons to come? How about a spinoff—a sitcom, called Nancy’s?
KINGSLEY: WHERE EVERYBODY DIES?? No, don’t be absurd. It’ll be a chat show. Francatelli’s Frank-On-Telly.

Watch The Real Francatelli to learn surprising real-life details about the actual chef from Ferdinand Kingsley, and find out how he connects to a very special gift given to the actor by Jenna Coleman and Tom Hughes!


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