Nell Hudson, the actress behind fan-favorite Nancy Skerrett, takes us behind the scenes and into the heart of her character as she shares her insights about her costars, her favorite moments on and off set, and the harrowing events of Victoria Season 3, Episode 4. Note: This interview contains significant Episode 4 spoilers!
MASTERPIECE: Throughout Season 4, Skerrett is having trouble embracing her new life. Does that change for her once she realizes she’s pregnant?
HUDSON: I think to begin with, the pregnancy is a really huge, scary piece of news for Skerrett. At this point, she’s left the palace, she’s married Francatelli and they’re just about to start up a new business together and it’s going to be a huge amount of work to add a baby into that mix, when everything is so new and so much is hanging on it. Her whole new livelihood hangs on it. I think she’s quite terrified, to be honest.
MASTERPIECE: When did you find out that Skerrett was going to perish?
HUDSON: I found out a good while before we started shooting, actually, because over the course of making this, I’ve grown quite close to Daisy Goodwin, the writer, and also her daughter, Ottilie Wilford, who wrote the episode in which Skerrett dies. I was actually having dinner with Ottilie not long before we started shooting, but before I’d seen any of the scripts, and she said, “I have to tell you something. We’re thinking that the right ending for Skerrett will be that she does actually die.”
I never really saw Skerrett as a running-off-into the-sunset kind of woman. I think that sort of typical happy ending wouldn’t have done justice to her story.–Nell Hudson on Nancy Skerrett
I was quite excited, before I read it and got all emotional about it. I was excited because I knew that Skerrett and Francatelli’s relationship was climaxing, and there were only so many places it could go. For some reason, I never really saw Skerrett as a running-off-into the-sunset kind of woman. I think that sort of typical happy ending almost wouldn’t have done justice to her story. As an actor, I have to say, it’s quite exciting to be told that you have a dramatic exit! It’s more fun really than, “Off she goes, she gets married, the end. Happily ever after.” Part of me was quite pleased that she gets to have a big dramatic send-off. But then, reading it—my goodness, I was in floods of tears! I thought it was really beautifully done and really moving. It was an emotional shoot as well.
MASTERPIECE: What was it like to film those last scenes?
HUDSON: Oh my goodness! On Skerrett’s death bed, Victoria comes and says goodbye to her. Skerrett, at this point, is sort of hallucinating and she’s neither here nor there, because she’s so dehydrated, so close to death. As far as she knows, she’s still going to have her baby. She doesn’t realize that, sadly, that won’t be the case. So when Victoria comes to see her, it really broke my heart that she takes Skerrett’s hand and Skerrett tells her that is the baby is a girl, she’ll call it Victoria.
It was really emotional scene, for Victoria to come in, rushing to Skerrett’s death bed, hoping that she’ll be there in time to say goodbye to her. And she does make it! Jenna was sublime. She just came in and was so subtle, and just let the scene be about their relationship. She was just very, very generous, and it was hard. We had a lovely director who made sure that the atmosphere on set was very respectful and appropriate, and let us do it again and again until we felt that we got it right.
MASTERPIECE: Was it around that time that you filmed the goodbye scene with Ferdinand?
HUDSON: Yes, it was for the same couple of days that I was in my Victorian nightgown. They did this full cholera, about-to-die makeup, which was not a great look. I actually took a selfie and sent it to my mum, of me with my death make-up, and she wasn’t best pleased.
MASTERPIECE: Cruel child!
HUDSON: I know, I’m so cruel. It was an emotional few days, and we filmed all of that quite close together, which is actually quite useful for an actor, to do it in a concentrated, focused period of time, because it’s so hard when you’re shooting it out of chronology. One day you’re shooting a really happy scene and then two weeks later, you’re shooting your death scene and then three weeks after that you’re shooting another scene and then it’s all very confusing. So it was quite nice actually, to do it in a concentrated chunk of time, and very rare for t.v. I think we actually shot it all in order.
MASTERPIECE: And was that your last work on Victoria?
HUDSON: Yeah. I did have to come back and film a couple of little pickups, as is always the case, but pretty much. That felt like the end.
MASTERPIECE: What was it like when they wrapped Nell Hudson then?
HUDSON: Funny enough, I had that on the day of one of my pickups. I went on holiday to Italy with my family and then I came back and had one more day of Victoria to shoot. It was bizarre. They did the whole “Wrap for Nell Hudson!” I had some lovely flowers and champagne waiting for me in my trailer when I got back.
MASTERPIECE: What are you going to miss the most about working on Victoria? If it was me, I would miss Francatelli’s desserts…
HUDSON: Definitely the camaraderie of the cast and the crew that I’ve come to know so well. We really were such a gang, such a tight, close knit bunch of friends. We had the wrap party on Friday night, and then Saturday night, two nights ago, I was at Ferdie’s house (who plays Francatelli). He’s just moved, and he had a house-warming party and all the cast were there. We see each other all the time and we’ve made such good friends, hopefully friends for life. I’ll miss being with that bunch of people for work every day. It was such a privilege to work with a bunch of friends, really.
MASTERPIECE: What will you miss the most about working with Jenna Coleman?
HUDSON: Her generosity, which I really found in every scene that I did with her. She’s playing the queen, and it’s such a huge job, and she’s got so much to think about, constantly—she’s in almost every scene of the show—and yet, she gives you such attention and focus in the scenes that she’s sharing with you! You feel completely like you are her priority, and she puts just much thought into every beat and the dynamic of that relationship, as with any other in the whole show. So yeah, she’s a very, very generous actress to work with.
MASTERPIECE: Wow, that’s so lovely! What will you miss the most about working with Ferdinand Kingsley?
HUDSON: Nothing, I hate him! [laughs] What will I miss most? He’s just a really close mate now and he’s stuck with me. He’s going to have to be my friend forever, so do you know what? I won’t have to miss him because I’m going to see him all the time.
MASTERPIECE: That’s great. Do you have a favorite memory from working on Victoria?
HUDSON: I do. I think actually, there was a Christmas dance sequence that we shot over about a week and it was the one time that all the upstairs characters and all the downstairs characters were together. It was so lovely for us all to be together and dance together! Queen Victoria was dancing with Francatelli, I was dancing with Prince Albert, Penge has a dance with Victoria. All the lines were crossed and it was a really jolly, festive scene to shoot. We’re all such good friends, and we had such a good time filming it and dancing all day! Although, it did get very hot and sweaty in the corsets with all the candles lit—it was the middle of summer, pretending to be Christmas. But that stands out as a really fun part of the shoot: us all just dancing together for a few days.
MASTERPIECE: So what do you hope for the characters who Nancy loves? What would you hope would happen for Francatelli? For Victoria?
HUDSON: Well, as we know from history, we’ve got the death of Albert coming up, so it’s really difficult. I sort of wish I could protect Victoria from the things that I know are about to happen to her. You sort of see history pushing forward, knowing that she’s about to go off a cliff. That would be really hard to watch, I’m sure.
It’s funny with Francatelli, because we’re none the wiser as to what’s going to happen to him after Skerrett’s death. But I would love him to be invited to the palace, for him to still have a relationship with them, for the business that he and Nancy started together to thrive, and for him to prosper, and maybe even meet someone else, dare I say it. Be happy.
MASTERPIECE: Awww! One last question: knowing Skerrett so well, how do you think she would fit into Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s household?
HUDSON: She would fit in like a glove. Is that an expression? I think she would fit in anywhere. She’s so hardworking and kind and industrious and loyal. I think that she would be an asset to any royal household, whether it’s in the Victorian times or now. I think they would love her.