Ovation on October 1 will debut Versailles, covering the first years in power of the young Louis XIV, that already has aired in France on Canal Plus and BBC Two in UK. TV critics at TCA wondered how they got so much access to shoot at and in the palace. Showrunner David Wolstencroft, noting it’s an English-language series about the French monarch, and “The moment [the government] accepted that with enthusiasm was the moment I knew we wouldn’t have trouble.”
“They’re closed every Monday so we were able to shoot there every Monday,” he said of the palace. “They were incredibly supportive.”
The story begins around the time of the expiration Louis XIV’s mother, Anne of Austria, who has been calling the shots since he became king at age 5. The series, Wolstencroft said, is about Louis taking control of his own destiny, shaking off the trappings of his parents. That said, the king built Versailles at the site of Dad’s hunting lodge and would not let the designers touch a single brick. So there’s that.
Among the ways in which the Sun King attempted to wrangle the unruly country he inherited was to move the seat of government out to the “swamps” outside of corruption of Paris, and to send a portrait of himself to every city in France with the instructions that is him and they should worship accordingly, which Wolstencroft said, was propaganda on an impressive scale, even by today’s standards.
Lots of questions about the costumes, and men wearing outfits that were five layers thick. Especially enthusiastic about his costumes was Alexander Vlahos, who plays Louis’ brother Philippe, a brilliant military commander who, Vlahos explained to those not so well versed in the history, was gay and sometimes dressed in women’s clothing.
Unsettlingly, Vlahos, who is 27, said he had to learn that he should not worry “about the continuity” of the character who could return from battle, make love to his boyfriend, kiss his wife, and then dress in women’s clothing. Vlahos said he learned to “embrace his extravagance and peacock qualities.”
Starting in 1667, 28-year-old King Louis XIV, portrayed by George Blagden (Vikings), will stop at nothing to achieve his vision of creating the most beautiful palace in Europe and seizing absolute control of France and his enemies. Executive producers are Simon Mirren (Without a Trace, Criminal Minds), David Wolstencroft (Spooks, The Escape Artist), Claude Chelli (Braquo), Anne Thomopoulos (Rome, The Tudors) and director is Jalil Lespert (Yves Saint Laurent).