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‘The White Princess’: Tempestuous Love In The First Tudor Court

Where to Stream

The White Princess

Love is a battlefield in Starz’s new drama, The White Princess. The historical romance picks up right where Starz’s dreamy and dramatic The White Queen left off. The War of the Roses has come to an end and Henry VII (Jacob Collins-Levy), the first Tudor king, has taken the throne. The divided country’s only hope? If Princess Elizabeth (Jodie Comer) weds Henry and unites the rival houses. The York family’s only hope? If Richard, the younger prince who escaped from the Tower of London, manages to rally troops to retake the throne.

Even though The White Princess opens in the immediate aftermath of The White Queen, most of the cast will be completely different. Showrunner Emma Frost explained why the show needed to be recast. “The White Queen that covered twenty four years, so we had to age the actresses up quite a lot by the end of the show…it was simply straightforward to say we recast the whole thing and cast everyone in an age appropriate way but also the balance of roles change so people that we cast in The White Queen play a very tiny role are now suddenly front and center so you have to think just laterally how are we going to approach this.”

Essie Davis replaces Rebecca Ferguson as Elizabeth Woodville, Princess Elizabeth’s mother, and Game of Thrones matriarch Michelle Fairley is stepping into the role of Margaret Beaufort, Henry’s ambitious mom. But how did they find their new Henry and Elizabeth? Frost told me that one of them was easy to cast. “Jodie Comer was already becoming known in the UK. She’s was becoming a breakout, much-talked about actress,” Frost told me over breakfast. “We saw her I think on the first day, [or] second day of casting and Jamie Payne, the director, and myself collaborated very closely on the show, we knew we wanted Jodie right in the very beginning. So we said, ‘Please don’t go anywhere. Hold on. We’re coming back for you, so please don’t take anything else.’”

Jacob [Collins-Levy] was an entirely different story,” she said. “We struggled so hard to cast Henry. Months and months, we were so close to production, it was really difficult. The brief I gave the the casting directors was for Henry we have to have an actor that the female audience will want to love better. He’s such a complex character that at the beginning. He’s not very likeable. He’s under his mother’s thumb and he does some pretty shitty things to Lizzy.”

“The show is a love story, it’s a story of marriage. Historically as we do know, Lizzy and Henry did really love each other. So, we had to find an actor who had that sensitivity, likeability, who we could believe was damaged but there was a good person in that. Plus he had to be handsome, he had to work as a romantic hero and he had to look a bit like Henry VII.” Frost said, “In the  middle of all that was Jacob, doing a self tape with birds singing in the background in Melbourne, it’s really sunny. All that had been sent was scenes. They didn’t have the whole context of the script. He understood instinctively the emotion of the scene, he’s brilliant. Soulful, David Bowie look about him…I think within thirty six hours we had him on a plane. He was still up against some other talent, a quite well known actor was still in the mix at that point as well and he didn’t know if he was staying for five days or five months. He knew he was down to the last handful and he was completely baffled because it was like ‘I just did this self-tape and now they put me on a plane, what’s going on?’ The extraordinary thing about that casting he was in a strange country that he didn’t know and he was suddenly being told you’re the king. It was exactly what happened to Henry Tudor.”

The White Princess pins the fate of a nation on the success of an unwanted marriage. Needless to say, drama ensues. The two characters start at odds, but can they learn to actually love each other? This is the central conflict of The White Princess and it hinges on the complex chemistry between  Jodie Comer and Jacob Collins-Levy. The two plot, fight, and even hit one another during their tempestuous courtship. In fact, one really juicy slap shows up in the show’s trailer. We asked Comer about what it’s like to give a great on-screen slap — and Collins-Levy spilled on what it’s like to be on the receiving end.

Game of Thrones

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“We did two takes because the first take I did literally the worst acting thing I think I’ve ever done and I hope I ever will do – which is the bad ’70s kung fu move,” Collins-Levy joked.

“Well, I’ve never slapped anyone in real life, believe it or not. I haven’t so I was kind of terrified,” Comer told us. “Plus you needed your face for filming. If I damaged it, it would be on my head!”

The White Princess debuts on Starz this Sunday, April 16th. 

Stream The White Princess on Starz on April 16th

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