With Season 2 of Ovation’s Versailles approaching, the TCA panel saw the introduction of two new characters, Princess Palentine and Madame Agathe. We also heard about the deliciously dark turn the tale of the French court will take, and learned that the show was originally developed in French.
In Season 2, King Louis XIV has asked his wife Queen Marie-Therese (Elisa Lasowski) and mistress Montespan (Anna Brewster) to pick out a new wife for his now-single brother Prince Philippe (Alexander Vlahos) and they’ve selected Princess Palatine, played by British newcomer Jessica Clark.
“It was a lot of fun because she was a lot of fun,” Clark said of the role. “In her letters you can see this ferocious, incredible, brilliant woman who didn’t want to hold back. Being able to take on a character who really existed and really was that wild and brilliant was a complete joy as an actress.”
Then we saw a clip of Suzanne Clement as new character Madame Agathe, a poisoner and sorcerer. “She’s not a real character,” Clement said. “I think she was based on two real poisoners who existed. One of them was called a serial killer on wikipedia. She might be a feminist in a way. She’s a woman who lives her life completely outside of society’s rules. I think she’s prepared to try just about anything to see how far she can go.”
Producer Aude Albano described Agathe as a “very opportunistic businesswoman, but behind that also as she is a defender of the weak and the oppressed. She has no limits and she’s afraid of no one and nothing and that’s what makes her so dangerous.”
Of the direction of Season 2, Albano said, “I guess now the danger comes from within, so really Season 2 is about discovering the darker side of Versailles, and what happens when you lock a bunch of ambitious, selfish, and self-obsessed people under one roof. They start to kill each other. And that’s basically what happens. The poisons are spreading, they’re used to get rid of a rival or an unwanted husband. It’s about the dive into this world and obviously how the light will move back to the palace.”
In dealing with a historical drama, the concern so often lies with factual accuracy. As Albano put it, “From the start it was clear for us we were not trying to do a documentary about Versailles, we were making a drama — and drama means fiction. We have to feed towards this conflict with interesting characters. We also have to be as historically accurate as possible.” But then what’s reassuring about attempting this kind of drama is, Albano said, “who knows what happened behind closed doors? No one knows actually, and that’s where we see the space for fiction.”
Originally, the show was going to be more in line with history. Specifically, it was going to be a French language project–that is until money got in the way. “The show was at first developed in French for a bit more than a year,” Albano said. “Soon we realized with Canal+ that when you do a show with Versailles you need to have Versailles on screen, and to have Versailles on screen you need to have a lot of money. You have to have the show in English–that’s the only way we can have enough money to produce the show.”
Versailles Season 2 premieres on Ovation September 30.