TV & Satellite Week


Julianne Moore plays an ambitious aristocrat in a real-life royal saga


Mary & George

HOLLYWOOD STAR JULIANNE MOORE adopts her best English accent this week when she plays Mary Villiers, a mother-of-four determined to secure her family’s future, in Sky’s seven-part drama Mary & George.

When she learns that King James (Tony Curran) is in a sexual relationsh­ip with his adviser, the Earl of Somerset (Laurie Davidson), Mary realises she could gain considerab­le power and influence if her son George (Nicholas Galitzine) becomes the King’s new favourite.

‘Mary is from a kind of middling aristocrat­ic family,’ explains Moore, 63. ‘She’s living in less-than-ideal circumstan­ces, looking for a way to educate her children and keep herself alive. The only way she’s really able to do that is through her relationsh­ips with powerful men.’

After sending

George to

France to learn refinement, Mary endeavours to get him noticed – and King James is soon enamoured with the handsome young man.

‘At the beginning, the relationsh­ip is very transactio­nal for George,’ explains Galitzine, 29. ‘I don’t think he develops feelings for James until a few months, perhaps years, into the relationsh­ip. George definitely has something to gain, but the love is very much real between them.’ Although the King is aware of the power games being played around him, he finds it refreshing that George comes from outside the usual circles of the royal court.

‘James is comfortabl­e when he’s in the company of his lovers – he wants to forget about being a king,’ says Curran, 54. ‘He wants that distractio­n of feeling safe with another person, as opposed to lords and politician­s constantly grabbing at him, wanting him to make decisions about affairs of state.’


The series is based on the nonfiction book The King’s Assassin by Benjamin Woolley, and Moore was drawn to the project by the way Mary seemed ahead of her time. Tuesday, 9pm, Sky Atlantic & Sky Showcase (box set, Sky Box SETS/NOW)

‘There was something outrageous and direct about her,’ says Moore, who won a Best Actress Oscar in 2015 for her role as an early-onset Alzheimer’s patient in Still Alice. ‘She seemed to have her own desire for power and agency in a situation where she might possibly have none.

It’s interestin­g what she achieved at a time when women couldn’t even own property.’

The cast also includes Trine Dyrholm as Queen Anne of Denmark, Niamh Algar as Mary’s confidante, prostitute Sandie, and Nicola Walker as the Queen’s lady-in-waiting Lady Hatton.

Mary & George’s salty language and revealing sex scenes may surprise some viewers, but the stars believe it reflects the earthy instincts of its characters as they grapple for power.

‘The sensuality in the show isn’t crass in any way,’ says Curran. ‘It was certainly interestin­g for me. I’d ask the producers, “What am I wearing today?” and they’d reply, “Your birthday suit, pal!”’

‘It’s not a typical period drama because of the licence it takes with behaviours and sexuality,’ agrees Moore. ‘It’s beautiful and opulent and a wildly entertaini­ng romp through history.’

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