If you thought Lucrezia Borgia suffered in the first season of Showtime’s “The Borgias,” Holliday Grainger suggests you watch Season 2.
“I think she goes through a really kind of difficult first few episodes where she really has to build her strength from the horrible things that happen,” Grainger told me during a recent phone interview. “Lucrezia completely fills out this season. She’s growing up big time.”
In Season 1, Pope Alexander VI (Jeremy Irons) married off Lucrezia for his own political gain. Her husband beat her, pushing her into the arms of stable boy Paolo (Luke Pasqualino), who got her pregnant. By the end of the season, she was happily back home at the Vatican with his love child in her arms.
Grainger says Lucrezia’s happiness doesn’t last long, though, partly due to her brother, Juan (David Oakes), who does something so terrible it changes Lucrezia forever.
Grainger and I talked about those changes, and what we can expect in Season 2 of the series, which returns at 9 p.m. April 8.
Lucrezia goes from innocent in Season 1 to more sort of world wise in the new season, I guess, after the first marriage.
You’ve seen her learn all those lessons in the first season and so I think Season 2 is about her putting those lessons into practice and realizing that she can't just hit back if she’s unhappy with something, so she puts her foot down with her father and with her brothers. So, yeah, I think we now see the emotional effect that the journey she’s gone through in Season 1 has on her.
Season 1 ended pretty happily. How long is that going to last?
Yeah, yeah. [Laughs.] Oh, not long. I think this is part of the interesting thing about Season 2 is that Season 1 was all about the family’s rise to power and was all about them working together as a family to get more power. Whereas Season 2 is they’ve got the power now and it’s about watching the family kind of take power and turning against each other. So there’s a lot. Of course there's all the kind of wider international politics but there's also a lot more kind of family politics and arguments and kind of levels of hierarchy that's shifting in Season 2.
Now, there was also a little clip I saw where it looks like you put a candle under a rope that holds a chandelier.
[Laughs.] Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. [Laughs.]
And it looks like Juan might be under that chandelier.
Oh, yeah. [Laughs.] I mean, that's definitely her intention anyway. Yeah, I don't know how much I’m allowed to say. I mean, well, because we all know that Juan doesn't last as long as the others. This is a great season for David [Oakes]. Because, I mean, Season 2 is a lot about Juan’s downfall because he starts to become a complete ass. [Laughs.] And so, yeah, I think Lucrezia’s anger and maternal instinct comes out as well a lot in Season 2 against her brother.
David is fun to talk to and so sort of happy and everything. But he really plays mean really well, doesn't he?
I know, a bit too well, right? [Laughs.] It’s scary.
Do we see Paolo? Does he return this season?
Oh, yeah, we do. We see him briefly. [Laughs.] I think Paolo is completely is Lucrezia’s first proper love and I think his story is what kind of massively affects her and will affect her kind of future choices. I think that's where a lot of her anger comes from, what happens to Paolo. [Laughs.]
All right, that's a good tease. Is she ever going to actually find love and keep it?
A lot of Lucrezia’s storyline toward the end of Season 2 is about the fact that her experience of love is pain, if she falls in love. You know, marriage has been physical pain and emotional pain and just being used. Then, when she actually falls in love, she’s not allowed and she loses it. So I think she’s become cynical when it comes to love and so she’s no longer the young romantic that a lot of teenage girls are. And she’s also learning the difference between love and lust and if you can't have one, you may as well just satisfy the other.
It sounds like rich emotional territory to mine. Have you found that it’s even more so than you thought it would be when you signed up?
No, no. I kind of was prepared for hefty emotional stuff and that's kind of, I suppose, what attracted me to the role. Because I think that's one part of why I love acting is being able to explore other people's emotions and increase your empathy.
Is it fun play dress up in this show?
Oh, yeah. Oh, it’s amazing. It’s fantastic. I mean, Gabriella [Pescucci] designed some amazing costumes, and I have the most amazing costume cutter [Gergely Borbas]. He’s fantastic. The costumes are actually quite comfortable as well.
And Stefano, the hair designer this year, was amazing. It’s weird, I just did a bunch of ADR for Season 2 and there are some hairstyles that I never actually saw from the back because we’d so busy in the morning that he’d do my hair and I’d run straight on set without having a chance to look at the back of it. I’d just watch during ADR and go, “Oh my gosh, is that what my hair looked like from the back? It’s amazing.” So I’m only just realizing now watching it how good my game of dress-up was. [Laughs.]
Does it really help you to get in character?
I don't think it’s particularly helped to get in character because I feel like it’s about reading the scripts that gets you in the mindset of the scene. But it certainly helps the physicality of the period once you’ve got the costumes on. There are certain ways that you move when you put these dresses on and so it makes it a lot easier to feel like you’re not a contemporary girl playing Lucrezia. Whist you’ve got the dress on, you don't feel contemporary anymore. You feel like you’re a woman of that period and so kind of you're forced to have that extra level of grace a contemporary young woman would not.
Does it take a long time to get all suited up?
It does. I mean, gosh, sometimes the costume calls in the morning make you want to cry. [Laughs.]
How long does it take to get ready?
I think my makeup doesn't take too long at all. I mean, there's hardly any makeup. But it usually takes about an hour to do the hair, maybe a little bit longer, and then it takes a good 15 minutes to get dressed—not too long.
So what originally drew you to the role, or how did you come about the role?
Well, I wasn't aware of the Borgias before I auditioned. So I just got called in for the audition and quickly started researching Lucrezia Borgia and was fascinated by just the vast amount of information that there was on the family and just that she’s such a strong character and that kind of ambiguity to her character as well. But I was just really interested in where it could go with the scripts because she started off, in the first season, so young and so innocent. And I think it’s always really interesting when you have a full series and not just a film because we have so much time to explore Lucrezia’s development. So I think that's really exciting, too. People know about Lucrezia as a kind of adultress, this villainous, this poisoner--as a kind of horrific, monstrous character. And to show how she becomes that, I think, is a really exciting journey.
I was researching and Lucrezia seems to be the one who lasts beyond her dad’s rule, if you want to call it that, and she seems like the survivor of the family. Is that good news for you, several seasons?
[Laughs.] Well, yeah, I guess so.
Are you looking forward to several more seasons as Lucrezia?
Sure. Well, you know, I’ve enjoyed the first two seasons so much and I still feel like, even at the end of Season 2, I still feel like Lucrezia is growing and so bring on another season. [Laughs.]
Is this a fun show to work on, with the rest of the cast?
Well, you know what? Yeah. Well, we have such good time, actually. It’s a proper laugh, obviously we’re all on the location in Budapest, so it feels like we’ve become a bit of a family, yeah, and I’ve made some really good, lasting friends out of “The Borgias.” So I’d love it to go to another season, so that we can all hangout again.
Do you find that you miss it a little bit like a month after you're done filming and everything?
No. [Laughs.] I love it. I love it, but six months… [Laughs.]
[Laughs.] Yeah, six months of the year, that's fine.
All right, why don't you give me your pitch for the season and that'll be the last thing we do.
If you enjoyed Season 1, you’re going to love Season 2 even more. And, yeah, now that you’ve seen the rise to power, just stay and tune in to watch what the power actually does to them. I think it’s really interesting. Everyone has their own different storyline of how it has affected them, and not in the best way. So it’s just so interesting to see that kind of family break up.