Welcome to Jenna Coleman Online, your best source for everything on the Blackpool born actress Jenna Coleman. She's best known for her role as Clara Oswald in Doctor Who, but she's now our fierce Queen Victoria in the ITV hit.
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2017 — Season 2
Jenna as Queen Victoria
FORBES – Speaking recently on the eve of the start of filming of season two of Masterpiece’s Victoria, Jenna Coleman, who portrays the British queen, called her a “really relatable” character.
“You meet her as a teenager, go through stages in her life, falling in love, beginning a family at the same time she had responsibilities on her shoulders,” she explained.
Coleman said season two would take place in the late 1840’s, just before the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London, the first international exhibition of manufactured products. She said it would deal with the “turbulent” relationship between Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert, the queen “trying to balance being a wife and being the queen at the same time, marital power battles.”
Season one portrayed Victoria from the time she became queen in 1837, at the age of 18, through her courtship and marriage to Prince Albert. Victoria was England’s longest-serving monarch until she was overtaken by Elizabeth II in September 2015.
Coleman said the series is filmed in an airport hangar in Leeds, Yorkshire, where the set for Buckingham Palace was built, the hangar being “the only place they could find that was big enough to hold the set. I get my hair and makeup done and then travel across the tarmac.”
The actress, who appeared as Clara, the companion of the title character in the sci-fi series, Doctor Who, called Victoria “a revelation in lots of ways. I read her diaries from when she was 18 years old. There was a kind of life in her, how frank, how candid she was—it was surprising, given her role. I found her really charming. She writes her thoughts, everything is there, she’s not hiding, not hiding from her own flaws.”
Coleman described Victoria—whom one of her ladies-in-waiting said had “veins of iron”—as “incredibly inconsistent, unbelievably stubborn. Being so obstinate is one of the greatest things about her. Stubbornness carried her through life. She survived nine births in the Victorian era, eight assassination attempts. If anything she is enduring.”
To prepare for the role, Coleman said she studied Victoria’s voluminous journals, diaries and artwork, as well biographies, comments by her contemporaries and films set in the Victorian era. She said that in addition to being “quite an accomplished artist,” Victoria also rode horses and did weaving.
And she said she agreed with the assessment of Oscar Wilde of the queen, whom he desebied as “a ruby mounted in jet” and called one of the three great personalities of the 19th century, in addition to Napoleon and the French author, Victor Hugo. (source)
COLLIDER – What’s it been like to take on Queen Victoria?
I’ve never played anybody real before. It’s always been fiction that you can research through a book or whatever has been adapted, but nothing that’s really happened. There’s so much to access. It’s history and it’s interesting reading from biography to biography because the voices are very different and it can be so subjective. I just read a range. (Show Creator) Daisy [Goodwin ] gave me a bit list of stuff to read, to try to get an idea of her character.
Can you imagine what it must have been like to be in a position like this while being so young? That must have been so crazy!
Daisy was having a conversation with her daughter and turned around and looked at her and thought, “Wow, could you imagine if you became the most powerful woman in the room tomorrow? You’re a teenager!” The thing about Victoria is that she was extremely obstinate and stubborn, by all accounts. Lord Melbourne said, “The Queen only tends to think forwards. Once she’s made up her mind, there is no unearthly power that will make her go ‘round.” It’s that stubbornness and that will that made her who she was. Otherwise, being an 18-year-old in that position, I can’t begin to imagine. She’d never really spent any time by herself or spent a night in a room by herself or had been in a room alone with a man before, and she was becoming the most powerful woman in the world and had to navigate Parliament. When you put it into context, it is an extraordinary story.
Do you think the fact that she didn’t seem to know or care about how she was supposed to behave is what helped people like her?
Yeah, and it’s one of the things I love most about her. None of the way she’s supposed to behave and the uniform of her life has squashed her lust for life, regardless of growing up in the Kensington system. I find that really amazing about her. Also, she’s so unapologetically herself. She’s flawed, in that way, but I think it’s what makes her really human. It’s really interesting to play because she’s so inconsistent. She’s so many things. She can be quite childish and frivolous, at times, and emotional, but other times, she’s like the wisest person in the world, way above her years. She was tempestuous and she was known for violent outbursts when she was younger, but she was incredibly romantic and with a big heart. She was very loyal to her servants. She was such a multitude of things, so trying to play that inconsistency of her character and also be unapologetically flawed yet likeable has been interesting to navigate. It’s all really, really fun to play. I keep watching Judi Dench’s Mrs. Brown. That’s what Daisy said she thinks is the most accurate performance of the Victoria she has studied and read. It’s interesting to think, “Okay, that’s the Victoria in 40 years time. That’s where we’re headed.” That way, you can get the essence, but she’s a lot younger and she’s very vibrant. She’s been through a lot, but you can see where she’s headed to, in a way.
Did it ever get totally overwhelming playing someone like this, especially with all of the emotional ups and downs?
Yeah. I always want more time. You want more time to shoot, but you have to just roll with the punches. You do as much prep as you can, and then you throw it all away, get on set, and see what happens and what the other actors bring ‘cause that changes everything. You get as prepared as you can be, but then you have to be willing to fuck it all up. Peter Capaldi probably taught me that the most. You just want to keep it alive, and hopefully, if you’ve prepped well enough, that’s there. It’s interesting because there’s such growth in this series. We really start at a place where she’s really, really young and really vulnerable and uncertain, and then we really see her grow into Queen and that role of command. You’ll see her fall in love and go through the coronation, and get pregnant and become a mother. The arc of the series is one of huge growth, and of becoming more and more Victoria, as we go on.
What was it like for you to go from fighting aliens to ruling a kingdom? Did it feel equally daunting?
It’s just different ways of working. It’s interesting, working on the voice was something I felt a lot of pressure on, in particular. It’s trying to get the sense of someone who’s younger yet regal, and that doesn’t distance, but is really accessible. I thought Emily Blunt did an amazing job in Young Victoria. There wasn’t really a day on set that wasn’t huge. You’ve got these journals that she’s written in, that tell you how she felt on the day. It just felt like you could shoot it as a feature film, but we were shooting in for TV, and we just wanted to get the detail. There is so much detail and you move through it all so fast. There’s so much wealth in all of the moment and you want to capture that.
What was it like to put on the clothes and the contacts, be on these sets, and have people call you, “Your Majesty”?
Alastair Bruce, who worked on Downton Abbey a lot, comes in and talks about protocol, and he was like, “Look, when you’re in a position like this, you never play the power. It’s just inherent that it’s there. It’s about the way people respond to you, rather than you trying to project a certain status.” I think that, if you have that status, you don’t need to. He was really useful. He said, “It’s the people around you that make you Queen by their reaction to you, but you’ve got nothing to prove.” She’s an inexperienced 18-year-old girl, going through everything that an 18-year-old girl goes through, at the same time that you’re navigating ruling and being the most powerful woman in the world. She was 4’11” and 18 years old, and so openly passionate. It’s fascinating.
Did you ever put yourself in her shoes and wonder if you could have stepped into a role like that, at 18 years old?
Yeah, and the answer is resolutely no. Her mother told her that she had to sign a regency to give up her power until she turned 21, and she just said no. She was about to become the Queen of England and her mother was telling her to do this, and she said no. She was a force of nature, and she remained that way. People just see these images of her, but by all accounts, she loved to laugh. Her humor was so apparent. She was very sociable, she had a love of opera and music, and she used to paint all of the dramatic scenes of the opera. It really captured her imagination.
You were one of the longest running Companions on Doctor Who. What was that experience like for you? Do you feel like it really made you grow, as an actor?
Yeah, it really did. It’s such a different way of working. It’s such a unique show and a unique beast, in itself. Every two weeks, it’s so different, and you’re playing an over-arching character. It’s the relationships with Matt [Smith] and Peter [Capaldi] that made that job everything that it is, and what they taught me, as actors. They’re so uniquely wonderful and really amazing friends. I think I was very lucky to have fallen into the hands of both of them, and we’re really good friends today. (source)
MARIE CLAIRE – There’s a Reason the Chemistry Between Victoria and Albert Is So…
“We’re friends in real life and had been for years. We already had a good working relationship. We both really researched our characters, and both had similar ideas. It’s just easy.”
Victoria and Albert Really Were Bodice-Ripping Levels of In Love
“The love between them was so strong. Things like the scene in the ballroom when he rips his shirt so he can put the flower in. All of that’s real, it actually happened. There are diaries–it’s all there. It was very important to get their passion.”
Yes, There’s a Season Two, and Yes, It’ll Be Even More Passionate
“Going into Season Two next year, they have huge arguments. They were an incredibly tumultuous couple, yet they loved each other fiercely. That’s going to be incredibly fun to play in 2017. But Victoria was incredibly romantic—she loved romance.”
Victoria and Albert’s Wedding Night Is Passionate—and Based on #Facts
“There is an account of their wedding night where Victoria writes how Albert beheld her in kisses, and how it was the most heavenly night she’s ever spent, and how she’s the luckiest woman in the world—that this angel of a man could possibly adore her. She’s really candid. They stay in the same bed together, and in the morning he puts her stockings on. It’s first love and she’s brimming with it.”
All the Costumes Are Genius, But Jenna Coleman Has a Feminist Favorite
“The riding outfit—when she and Albert go running in the forest. It’s navy with a red collar. There’s something quite masculine about it: it’s the same as the men’s uniform, but she has a big skirt. There are so many military jackets out this season, so it’s amazing to see fashion harkening back.”
Behind-the-Scenes of the Show = Wayyyyyy Less Glamorous
“Maneuvering in and out of cars is hilarious, and I’ve often got a backpack on. It’s really cold so you arrive in this beautiful gown, but you have a rucksack on, and a crown, and a coat, and you’re trying to navigate your way. It’s quite hilarious. Definitely less elegant off screen. Often, you’ve got wellies hidden underneath the costume!”
And Finally, Here Are Two Truths and a Lie About Next Season….
“There may be a return of a very popular character. There will be numerous births. And there may also be numerous deaths. Very opaque. Very opaque. Oh, and perhaps the invention of the Christmas tree….”
SEATTLE TIMES – British actress Jenna Coleman tried to attend drama school. She really did. But her intentions were constantly thwarted when people kept hiring her as an actress.
There are worse things, she sighs during an interview in a hotel conference room. “I learned on the job really. I feel I missed something – it’s one of those things: what if I’d taken that road, or what if I’d taken THAT road, what would I know? I’ve never been trained in Shakespeare. Does that mean I can’t do it?
I think the one thing I would’ve liked would be to have that rehearsal space, whereas I’ve done my training, but on camera, which is wonderful and I’ve learned a lot, but in a different way,” says the 30-year-old Blackpool native.
What she learned on camera catapulted her to “Doctor Who,” where she performed 39 episodes of the sci-fi favorite and became friends with two of the Doctors, Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi.
And while it doesn’t seem probable, that part led to the lead role in “Victoria,” premiering on PBS’ “Masterpiece” on Sunday, Jan. 15 (today). In “Victoria” Coleman interprets England’s long-reigning queen from age 18 to 21 — the defining years as Coleman sees them.
“I did lot of research on Victoria, how creative she was, which I never knew. She had such passion for music and opera and ballet and visuals. She created her own wedding dress, and wrote in her diary, and did watercolor and sketch, and she tried to learn how to sing opera. She had people come around to the house and teach her. She’s so vibrant and unapologetically full of life and never tried to hide it or pull back from it, which I really love about her.
She’s really inconsistent and very flawed, but I love that. I think that’s what’s been quite tricky to play her, being unashamedly flawed. I’m trying to make that likable. It’s really tricky, but it’s who she was, and it’s what makes her so marvelous,” she says.
HARPER’S BAZAAR UK – Can you tell us a little bit about Shop Small and the role you play in helping small businesses?
I’m supporting Amex’s Shop Small campaign to encourage people to ‘shop small’ in the lead-up to Christmas in particular. And helping to shine a light on some my favourite independent shops.
Why do you think Small Business Saturday is such an important cause to support?
I think it’s important to encourage the creativity and individualism that small shops offer. I love to spend my Saturdays stumbling across a new independent store and finding an upcoming designer to offer something new for the home or for an individual gift. Also, the personal customer service, in your local coffee shop for example. I think variety and individualism is the key and one of things I adore so much about living in London.
How would you encourage people to support small businesses in their everyday lives?
It’s all about discovery, and finding those smaller, one-of-a-kind shops and taking enjoyment from it. It’s simple. I’ve really enjoyed sharing my tips and ‘finds’.
What was the first record you ever bought?
Cher, ‘The Shoop Shoop Song’ or Johnny Nash, ‘I Can See Clearly Now’.
What is your favourite film?
Hardest question ever, but I love classics like Bringing Up Baby, Betty Blue and Little White Lies. I am a big fan of Damien Chazelle too.
What do you have an irrational fear of?
Rollercoasters. Ironic after growing up in Blackpool.
What is your favourite childhood book?
Black Beauty strikes a chord. Alongside Enid Blyton’s The Wishing-Chair.
What is your signature dance move?
All about the hands. And a slight hip bob.
What surprises people about you?
That I am indeed of Scottish/English descent
Who was the first actress you were inspired by?
Maxine Peake at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, where I used to go on school trips.
What was a book that changed your life?
East of Eden, I remember reading the section about ‘Thou Mayest’ and finding it pretty profound wherever I was in my life at that point. Recently, I adored Donna Tartt’s Goldfinch, it felt very ‘big’.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
I was in Bali with a taxi driver and he was trying to explain his life philosophy through a language barrier and it came out as “making easy”. I love the simplicity of this. I also read a Ricky Gervais quote on Instagram today which was: “No one else knows that they’re doing either”, which gives me immense comfort.
What are you most proud of?
I am proud that all my girlfriends from school have maintained such close friendships for 16 years now, through school, university, moving to London, working in totally different fields, life moving in different directions and now entering our 30s together.
What are the skincare products you can’t live without?
Bioderma, Su-Man toner, Linda Meredith Q3, Sisley Black Rose mask, [which is] especially good for a flight.
What is your signature scent?
Acqua di Parma Ginepro Di Sardegna.
What is the best beauty tip you’ve ever been given?
Ice your face for two minutes after cleansing – the cheapest and most powerful trick. It also wakes you up.
How do you keep in shape?
I really believe in functional medicine and try to put a lot of vitamins into my body. I switch between yoga and jogging, As of recent, a bit of horse-riding too.
Who is your beauty icon?
Keira Knightley. I think she has such a Romantic grace about her. (source)