Starz has rounded out its cast for Becoming Elizabeth, its eight-episode drama series chronicling the early years of Queen Elizabeth I. Romola Garai (The Hour), Jessica Raine (The Informer), Tom Cullen (Weekend) and Bella Ramsey (Game of Thrones) are among 14 cast members joining Alicia Von Rittberg in the Lionsgate-owned Starz series from UK producer The Forge. The series is a co-production of Lionsgate Television and The Forge.
Created by playwright Anya Reiss, Becoming Elizabeth centers on young Elizabeth Tudor (Rittberg), an orphaned teenager who becomes embroiled in the political and sexual politics of the English court on her journey to secure the crown. The death of King Henry VIII sets into motion a dangerous scramble for power. His surviving children find themselves pawns in a game between the great families of England and the powers of Europe who vie for control of the country.
New cast and character descriptions follow below, along with a cast-led behind-the-scenes sneak peek video clip.
Garai is Mary, Henry’s eldest child, daughter of his first wife, the Spanish princess herself, Catherine of Aragon. Mary is equally devoted to her God and her little brother the King and it cleaves her in two that her twin devotions are entirely incompatible. For if she honours one, she dishonours the other.
Oliver Zetterström (The Midnight Gang) plays Edward, Henry’s youngest, but as a boy, the only one that matters in the brutal wars of Tudor succession. Determined to not be seen as a child, despite the overbearing Lord Protector and to bring his country into a new Protestant age, by force if necessary.
Raine portrays Catherine Parras, Henry’s widow. A clever, educated woman, who played the part of Regent once during Henry’s illness and bitterly resents that she is not able to play it again. As the young King ascends to the throne, Catherine is left on the sidelines, but is at last free to pursue her former lover, the King’s uncle Thomas Seymour.
Cullen plays Thomas Seymour. Simultaneously charming, playful and funny whilst being hotheaded, ambitious and possibly dangerous, Thomas Seymour expects the spoils that ought naturally to fall to the King’s uncle. His ambitions are ruined by the machinations of his older brother Edward Seymour, the Duke of Somerset who quickly seizes the position of Lord protector to the new boy king. He marries his former lover the dowager Queen Catherine for both power and love but then his eye falls on the teenage Elizabeth and a whole new pathway to power opens up in front of him.
John Heffernan (The Pursuit of Love) plays Duke of Somerset. Quick off the block when the old King dies, Somerset loses no time in claiming the position of Lord Protector for himself. He is to all intents and purposes the de facto monarch during Edward’s childhood and teenage years. Humorless and ruthless he is the opposite of his younger brother Thomas.
Jamie Parker (1917) is John Dudley, Somerset’s right-hand man on the Privy Council, his fixer and enforcer and oldest friend. A family man, seemingly the friendlier face of the pair but then a darker side begins to emerge.
Jamie Blackley (Greed) portrays Robert Dudley, John Dudley’s eldest and favourite son, and Elizabeth’s friend from childhood. Working as the king’s groom, from being enamoured with court life he slowly starts to realize quite how dangerous a world he has been born into.
Jacob Avery (Adult Material) plays Guildford Dudley, John Dudley’s son and Robert’s little brother, also working for the King but still very much his father’s forgotten son.
Alexandra Gilbreath (Tulip Fever) is Kat Ashley. The nearest thing Elizabeth has to a mother since Anne Boleyn’s execution when she was only two. A fountain of both sage and reckless advice, sometimes a scandalous gossip, Kat remains by Elizabeth’s side until Elizabeth falls from grace and her service is no longer required.
Leo Bill (Rare Beasts) plays Henry Grey. A senior member of England’s council, Henry is related by marriage to the Tudor line and never misses an opportunity to remind everyone. His daughter Jane is next in line after Elizabeth and Mary, and Henry has a plan to bring her closer still.
Ramsey is Jane Grey. Lady Jane is brought under Catherine and Thomas’s wing, as part of their and her father’s plan to marry her to the king. Young, serious, clever and staunchly Protestant, she has a clear sense of her own place in the world: as near to the throne as she can get without sitting in the king’s lap. (Although then again…)
Ekow Quartey (This Way Up) plays Pedro. A black Spanish mercenary who sells his sword to the man (or woman) he thinks most worthy of it. He respects and values his friendship with Somerset and Dudley, men he has met on the battlefield many a time before.
Alex Macqueen (Sally4Ever) portrays Steven Gardiner. A Catholic bishop who begins the series having been confined to the Tower for his reluctance to accept England’s shift to Protestantism. A wily politician devoted to three things: the princess Mary, the restoration of the Catholic faith and to keeping himself alive during the process.
Olivier Huband (I Hate Suzie) is Ambassador Guzman. The arrogant and cunning Spanish ambassador, one of the pillars of Mary’s alternative court, the face of Mary’s overseas allies.
Reiss executive produces Becoming Elizabeth with The Forge’s George Ormond and George Faber, with Lisa Osborne producing. Reiss serves as lead writer, joined by an all-female writing team including Emily Ballou, Anna Jordan and Suhayla El- Bushra.