The British actor is set to take on Louis XIV in the new multimillion-pound BBC drama: Versailles, high heels and wig included
If you’re in need of an extravagant new period drama to sink your teeth into, get ready for a real treat. Lavish new series Versailles explores life at the extravagant court of French ‘Sun King’ Louis XIV and has already made waves across the channel, drawing record audiences to its racy sex scenes and mile-a-minute plot. There has also been a bit of pearl-clutching over the sex scenes here already, with some British MPs labelling it ‘porn dressed up in a cravat and tights’ (presumably they’ve never watched Game of Thrones).
Ahead of the series premiere here, we talked to Vikings actor George Blagden, who takes the lead as Louis XIV.
Your new show Versailles had £30 million budget [larger than Downton Abbey]. What was it like being part of such a massive production?
‘Without sounding too spoilt, it’s amazing how easily you get used to it! You find yourself stepping into your high heels and on to these luxurious sets like you own them, which is good for the character, I guess.’
How much of that £30 million budget went on your wigs?
‘I can tell you exactly how much. Over the course of the season, I had four wigs, each costing around £3,500, because they’re made from real human hair. When we were filming sword-fight scenes, I was like, “Don’t touch the hair!”’
Did the elaborate costumes help you get into character?
‘Honestly, it’s amazing. I’d go through hair and make-up in the morning and by the time I got on to set, the crew would think I’d already done this really detailed character prep. Also, I know all the women reading this article will be like, “Oh yeah, duh!” but I have to say, I’m amazed at how quickly your feet get tired in heels.’
You’ve had a bit of stick for being a Brit playing a French royal…
‘Someone said it would be like the BBC casting a French actor to play Winston Churchill. It is quite bizarre if you look at it from that perspective. The French public were sceptical about how that would possibly work, but I think we managed to convince them that you can make a drama in English about French history work.’
We hear you’re a self-confessed musical-theatre geek…
‘I love Into The Woods. I auditioned for a couple of productions since being in it at school, but haven’t been successful.’
You were in Les Misérables, though…
‘I was straight out of drama school and got to sit in rehearsals and watch Tom Hooper direct Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman.’
You’ve already got a big social-media following…
‘I’ve been quite lucky, though I’ve had to learn not to take everything to heart when people are overly honest about [my] work. I read pretty much every tweet that’s sent to me and often reply.’
If you really were king for the day, what law would you pass?
‘I would make it compulsory that during everyone’s lunch hour they had to smile at one another in the office. Just constantly smile. No telephones, no tweets, no texts, no surfing the web, nothing but human interaction for an hour of the day.’
Versailles will be coming soon to BBC 2