Megan Follows: Preparing for an end to her Reign
Best known for playing Anne of Green Gables over the course of three mini-series and 15 years, Canadian actress Megan Follows has won a new generation of admirers for her role as the scheming Catherine de Médici on the Mary Queen of Scots drama Reign.
As the fourth and final season of begins, the now 47-year-old Follows talked to Fairfax about the delights and end of her Reign.
You're now in the fourth season of Reign. How has Catherine changed since the series began and how have you been changed by playing her?
When the show started, Catherine was married to the king, but after his death, she becomes the mother of the king(s), so her literal position in court shifts, and she has to take a direct hand in maintaining and protecting the Valois line. Catherine has always been a fierce and loyal parent, but she is also a smart politician and as she sees how brutal the world can be to her and her children she has to learn to be smart about which of her children to align herself with, who has the most potential, and who can survive in that world. The arrival of a new family member at court this season poses an even greater threat to the power structure in France, and Catherine has to navigate the struggles between her children and her court. I have loved playing a woman like Catherine, who is unapologetic for her temper and her ambition. She has also taught me to always look for the humour in things, the light and the dark, and I have such fun playing the comedic notes in this show, as well as the dramatic.
How easy is it to pick the character back up after a hiatus and how difficult is she to put down?
Sometimes the hardest thing to pick back up after a hiatus is the English accent, which is not my natural speaking voice. But Catherine herself is someone I love playing so much that I was always grateful to slip back into her robes. It's never easy to say goodbye to a character you've been living with for a while, and because Catherine was so multi-faceted, I will definitely miss playing her.
Ah yes, how did you find out about the show's cancellation? And what will you miss most about the show?
We found out about the cancellation on-set while filming one of the last episodes. One of the producers came down and let us know that this would be our final season. We had an alternate ending ready for this scenario, and then that's what we shot. I'll miss working with a really wonderful group of performers, an incredible crew, and the most exquisite costumes and beautiful sets I've ever had the good fortune of playing in.
What sort of research if any did you do to play Catherine?
I didn't know a lot about her personal history before I was introduced to Catherine through Reign, although I did know something about the history of Mary Stuart and Elizabeth Tudor. I read some books about Catherine de Medici's history and one of the most interesting things to learn about was how precarious her situation really was at court, especially before she had born children (heirs for the King). What she was subjected to in her early years in Italy was also remarkable. She was a true survivor and she was also an incredible patron of the arts.
What can viewers expect from this season?
I think this is one of our strongest seasons yet, as we are introduced to a number of really strong interesting characters in the Scottish court. Mary's (Adelaide Kane) perils and challenges escalate over there, while Catherine's court becomes more and more deliciously dysfunctional back in France. All the while, Elizabeth (Rachel Skarsten) is working to extend her power as a global empire and secure her own position in history.
Is this a show your kids watch at all? Have they followed your career closely? Do they know about your roles past?
My kids have definitely watched some of the episodes with me, though they tend to turn away when things get hot and heavy between Catherine and the King or Narcisse. My daughter, Lyla, is an actor now and she actually worked with me in two episodes of Reign, playing Greer's sister. I have always included my children in my world, and they often came to set or the theatre with me when I'd be rehearsing or performing. Even when they were little, I wanted them to be able to see what I was doing when I wasn't home, and they watched pretty much anything I did if they wanted to. I haven't had a chance to show them everything I did when I was younger, but as that material becomes more available to find online etc. I'm happy to share it with them.
There was a new version of Anne of Green Gables out this past year – have you seen it at all?
No, I haven't seen the new Anne yet, but it's such a great story I'm not surprised they've done another new version. Anne will always have a very dear place in my heart. I feel incredibly fortunate to have played her and I am always touched by how much my portrayal of this strong, iconic, young female character has meant to people.
Finally, you've directed a few episodes of Reign – how do you juggle acting and directing?
I loved directing Reign. I definitely look forward to continuing to develop my skills and my craft as a director and I'm excited for more opportunities to work in that capacity. At first, it was intimidating, because you have to think about so many things as a director, while when acting you really get to focus and hone in on your specific character and their journey. You're always having to keep the constraints of time in mind when you're directing on a television set, so you can't just stay in the character for too long. But ultimately I was pretty comfortable acting and directing on Reign because it was a world I knew and I knew the cast and crew so well by the time I started directing.
Season 4 of Reign begins streaming on Sky TV's Neon service from February 15.