Rebecca Ferguson is ready to step out of the shadows – for a while, anyway. “When I auditioned I was totally the newcomer in the room,” she confides with no hint of an accent (she’s a mix of a Swedish beauty and an English rose, fair skin with piercing blue eyes). The role we are discussing is Elizabeth Woodville, leading lady in the BBC’s summer blockbuster, The White Queen, a 10-part medieval drama airing across the UK in June before hitting the US in August. Based on the bestselling Cousin’s War novels by Philippa Gregory, the series tells the story of the women at the centre of the War of the Roses. “History is usually told from a male point of view, but this is about strong female characters who had an input in the ruling of England,” she enthuses. “We’re still fighting the same battles that we fought then – it’s about power, love and family.”
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In a whirlwind casting process that involved a ‘chemistry test’ with co-star Max Irons and a dreaded change of hair colour (“I’m going back to dark as soon as we’re done filming,”), Rebecca found herself on set in Bruges. “A month [after my first audition], I was on my throne with Max. I just looked at him and said, “darling, we are King and Queen of England.””
Ferguson, 29, lives a life of heavy contrasts. After courting Hollywood on The White Queen’s press tour, she will return to her tiny fishing village in the south of Sweden to work on her house - a windmill in the middle of an apple orchard. Since quitting a soap role 8 years ago, she’s lived a lifestyle that’s semi-reclusive, yet extremely colourful - teaching the tango with her partner Ludwig, a “jack of all trades,” at a local dance studio and raising their six-year-old son, Isac.
Cast in prime-time Swedish soap opera Nya Tider at 15, she faced a storm from the show’s addicts when her good-girl character had a fling with a mechanic. “It was weird. I was in a lot of living rooms every day. People would actually come up to me on the train and ask what I was doing, why was I running away [from my on-screen family]. I was so young, it was a bit much.”
Tired of the melodrama both on and off screen, she spent a few months in America, before moving permanently to her small town and focusing on occasional indie films.
So why take on The White Queen? The attraction was part dynasty, part destiny, as Rebecca is rumoured to have her own link to British royalty. “About 15 years ago a journalist in Sweden saw a family connection between me and Sarah Ferguson - I don’t know if they did the research or just grabbed it from thin air! It’s so funny because Elizabeth was a rebel for her time and marries the Prince of York.”
Her character’s feisty streak plays out in several charged showdowns with Max in the first episode alone. “We have powerful scenes, sexual scenes, tense scenes - we go through an emotional rollercoaster. Max is such a close friend right now.”
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And what about when this all takes off? Will she be leaving village life behind? “I’m not interested in ‘cracking America’. My dream is to work with amazing people, then come home, take off these heels, put on my fishing boots… and start working on my windmill.”
Episode 2 of The White Queen airs on BBC1 this Sunday at 9pm. The Complete Series boxset is out on 19th August and is now available to pre-order at Amazon.co.uk
For all your The White Queen news and behind the scenes gossip be sure to 'like' www.facebook.com/whitequeenbbc
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