Q&A: Julianne Moore and Nicholas Galitzine set out to seduce a king in ‘Mary & George’

Julianne Moore, left, and Nicholas Galitzine pose for photographers upon arrival at the UK premiere of the television series 'Mary and George' in London, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024. (Photo by Millie Turner/Invision/AP)

Julianne Moore, left, and Nicholas Galitzine pose for photographers upon arrival at the UK premiere of the television series ‘Mary and George’ in London, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024. (Photo by Millie Turner/Invision/AP)

LONDON (AP) — One of the original momagers, Mary Villiers knew how to use her son to get wealth, power and prestige.

In “Mary & George,” Julianne Moore plays the white ruff-wearing, pushy mom who took advantage of her son George’s charms to win favor in the court of King James I in 17th century England.

“People who do that are using their kids as proxies, right? They’re living through them,” says Moore. “She sees in George what she would like, a kind of access to the world. You know, he’s male, he’s good looking, he’s charming. And she really believes that, that’s how you succeed. She sees a way forward. She has a way to the top.”

Billed as a psychosexual drama, the seven-part period piece launched on Sky in the U.K. on March 5, arriving in the U.S. and Canada on Friday on Starz.

Based on the book by Benjamin Woolley, the show follows Villiers, a real person who had her son trained in conversation, music and seduction to win over the monarch. Amid the wood paneling and lute-playing, life at court is made up of bodices and bodies, where real poison and poisonous rumors can ruin lives, reputations or both.

Moore and Nicholas Galitzine, who portrays George, sat down with The Associated Press to discuss how this family duo set out to captivate the crown in “Mary & George” — while admitting that they probably wouldn’t have succeeded in the Jacobean era as well as their real-life counterparts.

Answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

AP: How do you think you would have done in that time period, in that society?

MOORE: I don’t know that I am as inventive as Mary Villiers was, you know? She’s someone who kind of grabbed at every opportunity and lived in a place that was, as a female person, relatively low status. So she only had agency through her marriages and children. What she did was really crazy, I might have just rolled over and died.

GALITZINE: I think most of us would feel the same way. That’s what’s so unique about the story is, we are not all those people who have that nous and that want to ascend in that way. So yeah, (I’d) probably die of some horrible disease myself.

AP: Your character George is an LGBTQ icon.

GALITZINE: He does exist, yes, as an icon. And I hope will continue to be so after the show comes out. That was actually a really interesting thing to discover. Him being from the 1600s, you know, you might doubt his relevancy today. But he’s actually mentioned in the book of a movie I did, “Red, White & Royal Blue,” which is a really interesting sort of tether between the two. So that was personally very gratifying.

AP: I need to talk to Julianne about the accent, which is perfection.

MOORE: Thank you. I just had one wonderful coach named Majella Hurley, who was there with me every day. I got very, very attached to her. We’d see each other in the weekends, go through the week’s work, and then she was there and would listen to me. And I listen to people on the street, and I listen to my coworkers and I, you know, and I lived in a state of abject terror, thinking that I would get it wrong and hoping that someone would tell me if it was wrong.

AP: Also, swearing in an English accent.

GALITZINE: I think it’s a little bit better than swearing in an American accent, maybe. I think we do it a bit better, if I’m honest, sorry.

AP: A lot of the reviews mention “sexy” and “swearing.” So how do you approach something when there are a lot of sex scenes?

GALITZINE: Well, it’s funny, our director Oliver Hermanus, we went out for dinner before we started and he said to me, “There’s a lot of sex scenes in this. Are you definitely OK with this?” Luckily, it’s something that I’ve done, over the years, and I think that, you put aside your own anxieties the moment they call action.

If you’ve done the research on your character, if you fully have invested in who they are and who they need to be on screen — someone like George, who carries this poise with him — you’re able to become someone else in those moments. And you don’t feel the trepidation of all these strange people watching you. So I don’t want to say it was easy or I felt at ease, necessarily. But, we had an incredible cast and crew and the scenes were handled so well by intimacy coordinator Robbie Taylor Hunt. And, I think they are shot in a particularly beautiful way, both Julie’s and my own, I’m very proud of.

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