Jenna Coleman on playing Queen Victoria: 'I love her lack of filter, her frankness and honesty'

Cape Town - Victoria, the much-acclaimed and award-winning historical drama series, returns for a third season on Monday, 3 June at 20:00 on ITV Choice (DStv 123).

Once again starring Jenna Coleman in the titular role, alongside Tom Hughes who plays her husband Prince Albert, the new series will also feature Kate Fleetwood as Princess Feodora of Leiningen, Victoria's half-sister as well as Laurence Fox as Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston, John Sessions as Prime Minister John Russell and Lily Travers as the Duchess of Monmouth.

The series begins in 1848 - a time of political turmoil in Europe. Monarchs are losing their thrones, and Victoria has to wonder if she will be next. She also has to grapple with what it means to be a Queen, and she clashes with Albert over the role of the monarchy. Victoria wants to give her people what they want, while Albert thinks the role of a monarch is to give the subjects what they need. She is also pregnant with her sixth child.

In this Q&A, Jenna tells us more about the new characters, what it is like working with so many little children and why she loves playing the role of Victoria.

Returning to the role of Queen Victoria for a third season, Jenna Coleman explains where we find the Queen of England and what challenges lay ahead for her.

"Season three opens with a heavily pregnant Victoria expecting child number six on the eve of the French Revolution. There is a definite sense that time has passed as the children are older, Victoria is wiser, and her and Albert's relationship is in a very different place. Victoria is faced with the question of whether or not her role is disposable because the King of France turns up on her doorstep in rags, having been overthrown and she questions whether this could happen to her. This is all she has known and all she expects to know, so that forces her to look in the mirror in many ways and examine her relationship with her people and what that truly means to her.

"The core difference between Victoria and Albert is that Albert is very methodical, whereas Victoria is emotionally led. Ultimately, she just wants to be supported and adored by her subjects. She always wrote about it. On the day of her coronation, she wrote about the crowds and how loudly they were cheering, and at The Great Exhibition it was the same – she wrote about the joy on people's faces and the tears in their eyes. Being loved, more than she would like to admit, is incredibly important to her."

Tom Hughes and Jenna Coleman in a scene from Victo

This season sees the arrival of agent provocateur, Lord Palmerston, played by Laurence Fox. Jenna reveals that it is not only Palmerston's popularity with the people that irks Victoria.

"She hates him. Palmerston was a law unto himself, managed things in a very different way to the queen and perhaps didn't give her the deference she felt she deserved. There is a battle between them but also one for the people's affections, and Victoria isn't used to competition in that area. However, Victoria slowly realises they are more similar than she thought, and she begins to become rather fond of him. He is always somewhere between being invited over for tea and being thrown out – you never know which side of the fence she is sat on with him."

Another new character this season is Feodora (Kate Fleetwood), Queen Victoria's half-sister and a masterful schemer. Jenna explains their tricky relationship.

"There is a lot of unspoken resentment and history between these two – Victoria resents Feodora for leaving her when she went off and got married, Feodora resents Victoria for having the attention and focus because she was the heir. It is a really difficult relationship. They also have a shared experience at Kensington, which bonds them, so there is a constant push and pull of love and resentment between them.

"They haven't seen each other for years, and instinctively Victoria doesn't trust Feodora. She knows something is going on, but the extent to which Feodora is being an Iago figure comes to light later on. Feodora cleverly weaves her way through the family, putting a wedge between Victoria and Albert, who are at their most disparate this season. They are a few years into their marriage now and have many children, so there are new pressures and strains. They operate completely differently and have always been yin and yang, but they seem to have fallen out of balance with each other."

Jenna reveals what it's like to work with so many children.

"It is a form of utterly amazing and completely chaotic mayhem. You just have to call action and see what happens. Kids really do say the funniest things, and it is the unpredictability on set which is hilarious, especially when you throw in a few dogs, horses and a couple of politicians. I can't imagine the palace now not inhabited by hordes of children."

Surprisingly though this was not Jenna's biggest challenge filming the new season. She recalls the day she had to swim in her pyjamas…

"In a scene this season, Queen Victoria takes a dip in the water while wearing her bathing suit, which is a lot like pyjamas that are made from hemp. It was absolutely freezing, and unfortunately, we had to film this twice because the weather was so awful. The queen is meant to be taking a leisurely dip, but the waves were making it seem treacherous."

Jenna Coleman filming for the series, Victoria.

One of Jenna's favourite memories from shooting Victoria is visiting Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. Jenna talks about the effect seeing Victoria's home had on her.

"Exploring Osborne House in between filming was a highlight for me. More than anywhere else, Osborne House was their familial home, and no one has lived there since, so all the decorations you see were designed by Albert, and their double desks are still sat together with the pictures on them. Victoria's bedroom where she kept Albert's picture and pocket watch next to her bed is there to see, along with their piano stools which are still sat next to each other today. More than anything, I felt like I got such a strong sense of their life."

Jenna describes why Queen Victoria is such an exciting and enjoyable role to return to.

"I love her lack of filter, her frankness and honesty. I love the fact that if she likes someone, she is incredibly loyal, and if she doesn't, she will let that person know. In terms of playing her, when she is in a bad mood or is tired, she is very reactionary and temperate, so she has always been known and written about as having tempers. They used to write about her having a 'combustible', which I love. Victoria didn't have to answer to anybody and so could really get angry within her own house. She would feel mortified after having one of these 'combustibles' and would cry and apologise to Albert, but she ping pongs through emotions rapidly. As she gets older, she becomes even less controlled, so it is fun to age with her."

Jenna Coleman in the series, Victoria.

Catch Victoria, Mondays at 20:00 on ITV Choice (DStv 123)

(Photos supplied: ITV Choice)

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