Julianne Moore defends Mary & George’s depiction of James I’s gay romance

The Sky drama premieres on Tuesday, 5 March

Watch: Julianne Moore and Nicholas Galitzine discuss Mary & George's take on history

Mary & George examines the lengths that the titular mother and son went to in order to climb the ranks of the English court by finding favour with King James I through George Villiers' relationship with him.

Among historians there is much debate over the king's relationships with his favourites —of which George Villiers was one— and whether they were intimate in nature. The Sky drama depicts them as being intimate, and actors Julianne Moore and Nicholas Galitzine shared their thoughts on how there is precedent for the show's dramatisation of events with Yahoo UK.

Moore, who plays George's scheming mother Mary, reflects: "There is documentation. I mean there are the letters from King James to George where he keeps saying 'to my dear child and wife'.

"They clearly had an intimate relationship, so I think that's an interesting thing to explore."Julianne Moore

Mary & George (Sky)
Mary & George examines King James I (Tony Curran, right) and George Villiers' (Nicholas Galitzine, right) relationship, and Julianne Moore said 'there is documentation' that suggests they were intimate. (Sky)

Galitzine also reflects: "I'm sure that the debate does exist. I mean, we had a great source material with Benjamin Wooley's The King's Assassin.

"I think we all, especially Tony [Curran, who plays James I] and I with each other, talked a lot about that and I think it's important to note that it's historical fiction, and and we want to tell a very specific story as well. I think the series succeeds in doing that."

As well as explore the relationship between George and James I the historical drama examines the nature of the former's bond with his mother, and the nature of their familial relationship with all its flaws. For Moore it was an interesting thing to depict onscreen, particularly because of how much Mary and her second son truly saw each other.

"I think Mary sees George as kind of a proxy for herself," Moore says. "She sees what's possible for him, she wants it for him and she wants it for her.

Mary & George (Sky)
Nicholas Galtizine said that while he felt it was important to note the show is historical fiction, he and the cast "talked a lot about" its historical context. (Sky)

"Eventually, of course, he becomes her partner, she sees him that way so it becomes less of a mother, son dynamic and more of like, 'oh, we're in this together and we're going to go as a set through this'. Obviously it is flawed, but I do think that they are characters who do see each other in a sense."

The actor adds that she was keen to explore how women like Mary struggled to maintain control of their own lives in a society where women were seen as lesser than men: "I think I wanted to highlight her anger at her lack of agency.

"I think that was most profound to me, that this is someone who was acutely aware that she had nothing."Julianne Moore

"She had no property, she had no value, she had responsibility with these children but she there's no way she's going to be able to provide for them, unless she married somebody else.

Mary & George (Sky)
Mary & George also explores the mother-son bond between its titular characters, with Julianne Moore saying Mary 'sees what's possible for him, she wants it for him and she wants it for her.' (Sky)

"So she always finds a way to do it. She has to access these relationships in order to survive so, for me, I think it was a really important story to tell, because it's easy to forget. It's easy to forget how few rights women had, and sometimes still have."

Moore was so invested in the project that she even became an executive producer, saying the show felt "refreshing and entertaining" for her: "I thought it was a vivid exploration of people and their ambition, and their desires and their relationships.

"The fact that it was historical fiction was fun, I think that's why we like history because it tells stories about ourselves. About what we're capable of and how wonderful it could be and how destructive it can be, and I think this was something that was emblematic of all of that."

All seven episodes of Mary & George will launch on Sky Atlantic and streaming service NOW on Tuesday, 5 March.

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