With ITV’s spectacular period drama back for a second series we chat to actress Jenna Coleman and go behind the scenes to discover some of the show’s secrets.
Victoria series two secrets
We almost curtsey as actress Jenna Coleman sweeps into the room. Exquisitely dressed in pale green silk ta eta, she’s in costume as the young Queen Victoria and couldn’t look more regal. Episode one of the second series of Victoria aired over the Bank Holiday weekend and has whetted our appetite for more.
“We cover six years in this series, which is a lot to fit in,” says Jenna. “We really delve into Victoria and Albert’s marriage. Although theirs is a very passionate match, there are many clashes because they’re so different. Albert is logical, shy and methodical while Victoria is selfish, emotionally led, reactive and impulsive."
"There’s also a power struggle – he takes over her working role when she’s pregnant, giving birth and recovering from childbirth and she resents it. Similarly, Albert is resentful when Victoria takes up her duties again. There’s great tension as well as great love.”
Jenna confides that in order to keep the tension going during Victoria and Albert’s arguments, she and actor Tom Hughes, who plays Albert and is also thought to be her real-life partner, don’t always rehearse these scenes before filming them.
“Sometimes when you rehearse too much, you take the edge off the fire that should be there,” Jenna continues. “The dialogue is wonderful, so it’s best to ‘go bold’. When you know someone well, there is a kind of shorthand you can tap in to and you work off and challenge each other.
It’s fun filming the arguments. In one scene, I had to throw a hairbrush at Tom and it broke as it hit him. There’s a feeling of elation when you do a scene like that because the level of adrenalin is so high. I’m not at all confrontational so it’s fascinating to play someone like Victoria who is.”
Motherhood takes centre stage in this series, too.“By the time we get to the eighth and final episode, Victoria has three children,” Jenna explains. “It was a challenge for her but for us, too. Working with three small children is very interesting. The set turns into a bit of a crèche and their mums and grannies are often dressed up as nursemaids to keep the children happy. One little girl wanted her mum with her all the time so she crouched down out of shot, hiding behind a pillar, so they could play a game! Then the twins, who play Victoria’s third child, Alice, didn’t like to be separated so sometimes there would be two baby Alice’s on set but we’d keep one out of shot!”
It’s widely thought that Victoria disliked being a mother and found her children a nuisance but Jenna (31) says this is yet another misconception.
“She was resentful because she felt they had spoiled the early years of her marriage and she and Albert hardly had any time to themselves as newlyweds. She wishes she hadn’t been ‘caught’, as she called it, so early. But reading her diaries, you can see that she was a doting mother and family was very important. We went to Osborne House on the Isle of Wight during the making of this series. Victoria, Albert and their family are the only people ever to have lived there and, although it’s palatial, it’s also homely and cosy. Victoria represents a cosy home and domesticity in addition to everything else. There are so many aspects to her; this is what makes her so fascinating to play. I don’t know if I’d say she’s a role model for women today and we’re not projecting her as a heroine because she was flawed and very human. But her position and the way she was brought up would have caused many people to lose their spirit and fire yet she never did. That makes me love her all the more.”
Behind the scenes: costumes and locations
The sumptuous private apartments and state rooms in ‘Victoria’ look straight out of a real palace but apart from the kitchens, which are filmed in the perfectly preserved period kitchens of Harewood House in Yorkshire, the sets have been built from scratch in a former aircraft hanger.
“Our genius production designer, Michael Howells, transformed it into Buckingham Palace,” says producer Paul Frith. “This series, we’ve added a nursery, music room and Amber sitting room which, when redressed, doubles as Albert’s study.
“The chandeliers were found in the Czech Republic, the carpets have been specially printed, the period furniture is plain wooden furniture gilded by art students, the decoration on the mirrors are sprayed scallop shells, the ornate breastplates are from a party shop and sprayed gold, the ornaments, pottery and glassware have been sourced from auctions, and the pillars are wooden but painted to look like marble.”
Fashions have moved on
Award-winning costume designer Rosalind Ebutt, aided by various costumiers, is responsible for the exquisite costumes.
“For this series, fashion has moved on. Waists are lower and more pointed, skirts more bell-shaped and bonnetsare duifferent, too,” explains Rosalind. “Victoria has some stunning new evening gowns and striking day dresses – one violet-coloured dress in particular will catch the eye. I study images of Queen Victoria to research her wardrobe but don’t copy them; I aim to make them look interesting and different all the time. Many of the corsets are custom made. The several petticoats required to make the ‘bell’ shape are very heavy so we use duvet petticoats instead. Made from a duvet, they are far lighter to wear! Our soldiers’ uniforms are made by specialists and rented – it’s very important to get that right.”