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Alicia von Rittberg: The idea is to see it through her eyes

Updated on: 30 August,2022 07:28 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Letty Mariam Abraham |

Playing the monarch in Becoming Elizabeth, Alicia von Rittberg on how the series focuses on the abusive relationship between Queen Elizabeth I and the baron Thomas Seymour

Alicia von Rittberg: The idea is to see  it through her eyes

Alicia von Rittberg as Elizabeth Tudor

There’s an air of intrigue to royalty, and for long, filmmakers have been obsessed with the early monarchs. One ruler that has often fascinated storytellers is Queen Elizabeth I. From Shekhar Kapur’s 'Elizabeth' (1998) featuring Cate Blanchett, to the 2007 television series, 'The Tudors', and Anne Boleyn featuring Jodie Turner-Smith, the queen’s life has been captured through different lenses. The latest to join the list is 'Becoming Elizabeth'. The Lionsgate Play series focuses on the early years of Elizabeth Tudor, an orphaned teenager who becomes embroiled in the politics of the English court on her journey to secure the crown.

Alicia von Rittberg starts the conversation by admitting that being a German, she was surprised to receive a call to play the British queen. “In the beginning, I was tapping into the traditional way of portraying the queen or a princess — well-behaved, smart, and outspoken. Once I spoke to Anya [Reiss, creator], I realised how much I only looked at the person and forgot about the cold world she grew up in,” says Rittberg, adding that constant conversations with director Justin Chadwick helped her delve deep into the character. “She grew up in the countryside. Despite her free-spirited nature, she was an orphan brought up with [a sense of] duty and rigid instructions. That was something I didn’t see [earlier].”

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Among other things, the series focuses on Elizabeth’s equation with baron Thomas Seymour. There is a debate on how the makers romanticised her abusive relationship with Thomas, played by Tom Cullen. Rittberg reasons that considering the series is told from Elizabeth’s point of view, it was necessary to adopt that route. “It is easy to [misunderstand] if you only see a few episodes. She is falling in love with Thomas. [At first], it seems like a beautiful relationship with a charming and nice guy. The idea is to see it through her eyes. [Had she seen his flaws], she would never fall for him. So, the only way to do this was by making the audience fall in love with the predator, and then wake them up from this nightmare as soon as she understands what happened to her. That is the only way to tell that story, to make people feel how things like that can happen. I absolutely stand behind [the story].”

Embracing intense characters for months on end can take a toll on artistes. The actor remembers diving so deep into her character that at one point, she believed Thomas had honest intentions despite the obvious toxicity. “We were discussing whether Thomas loves her or not. While Anya said he is taking advantage of her and [others opined] that he was disgusting, I was so in her headspace that I manipulated myself into saying, ‘But I do think he loves her, and it is real.’ Everyone [stared] at me and asked if I was crazy. I was shocked by my own impulse. [When] you spend seven months filming and half-a-year in prep, sometimes you become the person.”

The actor hopes that the series lends itself to another season. Elizabeth’s journey to the crown, after all, is dotted with several fascinating stories. How does she see the character evolve ahead? “She will come into her own. At the moment, she is observing and learning. She has realised that no matter what she does, the world will be against her. She will become fiercer and stronger.”

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