Castles, corsets and sword fights —oh my! The CW's new drama Reign is worlds — not to mention centuries — away from the network's many vampires and superheroes. But just because the period drama, based on the life of Mary, Queen of Scots, takes place way back in 1557 doesn't mean it won't be filled with The CW's signature ingredients of romance, drama and yes, even horror.
"It's not the History Channel," star Adelaide Kane, who plays Mary, said at the Television Critics Association fall previews on Tuesday. "We trying to make a show that people will really enjoy and connect with."
Premiering on Thursday, Oct. 17 at 9/8c on The CW, Reign centers on the young monarch just as she is preparing to marry Prince Francis of France (Toby Regbo) in hopes to creating a strategic alliance for Scotland. Although history buffs already know that — spoiler alert! — Mary and Francis do wed, in the series, their courtship is threatened by the Prince's controlling mother Queen Catherine de' Medici (Megan Follows).
"She's got a deep and incredible sense of loyalty and love for her son," Follows said. "I think her motivation is always coming from a really sincere place, and it's a dark world and heads do roll in this world. I love that she has this power but she has to live through other people's powers and I think that's what makes it complex for her."
Also complicating their impending marriage is the seer Nostradamus (Rossif Sutherland) —a close ally of Queen Catherine's, who gets a premonition upon first meeting Mary that her marriage to the Prince will cost him his life. "He gives us a little bit of a genre element to the show," executive producer Laurie McCarthy said. "The show has many facets: it's a love story, there's some horror to it."
True to the DNA of The CW, the series will also set up a love triangle by adding Francis' handsome bastard half-brother, a completely new character named Bash (Torrance Coombs). "I for one am thankful for a little bit of creative license because historically I don't exist," Coombs joked.
Although McCarthy called the show more of a "fictionalized recounting," she maintains that Reign will stay faithful to its true-life roots. "I think in each episode we'll educate people on what element of history helps our story. There is a certain amount of latitude in terms of dramatizing events," she said. "There are many things that happened that never made it on to the pages of history."
One historical event that the series won't be able to ignore is Prince Francis' death in 1560 — three years after the start of the series and just one year into his and Mary's marriage. "We won't shy away from that," McCarthy said. "We'll actually embrace that at a certain point in the series."
It just might take longer to get to his death in the fictional retelling than it did in real life. "Our show is like 24," Regbo quipped. "Every show is an hour."
Thankfully, there is much more to Mary's story beyond her marriage to the Prince. "She was an incredibly energetic, vivacious young woman," Kane said. "She was married three times and widowed twice by the time she was 26."
"I actually feel liberated by the actual facts of her life, by the fact that she was engaged so many times, that she found love in essentially what was an arranged marriage," McCarthy added. ""Mary lived to her forties, and Catherine de' Medici — she continued to really have great influence over much of Europe for a long time so I feel like there are plenty of avenues to explore."
Reign premieres on Thursday, Oct. 17 at 9/8c on The CW.