Jul, 19 Posted by Admin

Gold DerbyElle Fanning stars as the legendary Empress of Russia Catherine the Great on the Hulu comedy series “The Great.” The role has already scored her a TCA Award nomination.

Fanning recently spoke with Gold Derby senior editor Rob Licuria about what drew her to “The Great,” working with Nicholas Hoult and her time as a jury member at the Cannes Film Festival.

Gold Derby: Elle, “The Great” is irreverent, it’s often very explicit. It’s very funny. It’s not a tone we often see in period films and series. So what attracted you to the role? 

Elle Fanning: That’s a big question. I got the script from Tony McNamara. This originally was a play that he had put on in Australia years ago and then had turned that play into a film script with possibly maybe being a movie. And that’s actually what I read and just the young Catherine was a sliver of that story. So the script that I had spanned her whole life and then Tony was like, “You know what? There’s so much information on her and so much there. So read this with a TV show in mind, possibly that we get to expand it and maybe the first season will be about the young Catherine and her rise to power.” And I hadn’t even seen “The Favourite,” which Tony wrote at that point. So reading the script for me was a true whoa surprise and a real wild ride. Just the language and the wittiness but also the heart, I think it’s a truly emotional story to me of Catherine and her rise and such a unique character. And I knew it would be a great challenge to play, even just with the tone alone, to get that specifically right is a challenge, but also to just show this woman grow. And I wasn’t really that familiar with Catherine the Great. I wasn’t taught about her in school. I knew she was the Empress of Russia and I knew about the horse incident propaganda fake news (laughs). And that’s all I knew. Sadly, that’s all I knew. And just learning about her, of course, we’re not historically accurate all the time but there are amazing facts and things she did in her life that are completely represented in our show. We just get to do it in a fun way, not a dull period piece way (laughs).

GD: Absolutely. I didn’t really know much about her either. And when you look into what she did, her influence and reign was so transformational for Russia and for the world. Were you keen to portray her authentically despite the show, as you say, being a comedy and not necessarily being historically accurate but you still had to kind of play her as a person? What were you looking for to get into her mindset? 

EF: Gosh, I wanted to humanize her. I feel like, she is this historical figure that we know what she did. She did incredible things. But I wanted to make her human. I wanted to figure out what makes her tick. I didn’t want to make her the strongest person in the room. I’m kind of allergic to the term “strong female character.” I don’t really know what that means. I feel like I want to play a human who has many layers, who always doesn’t have the right answer. Catherine makes mistakes. She has to learn from others. She sometimes feels very weak. She doubts herself. She’s grappling with all of this, and she makes a lot of big decisions and sacrifices. What’s so beautiful about her is in the beginning, she’s extremely romantic and very optimistic and it’s this gorgeous quality that she has. And when she arrives in Russia, reality slaps her in the face, and she’s faced with this upside-down world, and she’s like, “I’m going to change it.” I think there’s two people in the world. Either they are like, “All right, you know what? I’ll just live with it,” or, “I’m actually going to try to do something.” And she really tries to do something and it’s the journey to that. So she’s feisty. I would say she has an ego. She has a good arrogance to her, which I always love to play, just mapping out the different qualities. So I was more interested in just creating our version of her instead of really researching tons of facts about the real Catherine the Great. Although, Catherine the Great in real life, she invented the roller coaster. So that tells you a lot about a person. Like, “OK, that person’s fun.” That’s someone I want to know.

To read the full interview transcript, click the Gold Derby link above.