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by Alison Willmore
August 9, 2013 6:04 PM
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'The White Queen' Writer Emma Frost on Sex, Historical Accuracy and Making 'The Real 'Game of Thrones''

Rebecca Ferguson and Janet McTeer in 'The White Queen' Starz

Tell me about portraying this war through the tools that are available for these female characters, which are very different from the literal weapons that are available to the men.

Clearly the women have a different arsenal of weapons, and the men go out on a field and whack at each other with a sword, very testosterone-fueled and immediate. I think the women, as now, have to find a more subtle way of pulling the strings and getting what they want. There's some quite interesting stuff that happens in later episodes where Jacquetta [played by Janet McTeer] and Elizabeth find out that George [the brother of the king, played by David Oakes] has betrayed Edward, and Elizabeth tries to tell him but he say, "Oh, he's my brother" -- he's got his blinkers on.

They go and talk to the boy's mother, and very cleverly say, "Well, if someone were to tell him that Edward would forgive him if he came home then I'm sure Edward would forgive him. And if he doesn't, he's probably going to get killed with a red rose on his collar, and you're York and you'd never want that to happen." They do it all in the background, and it goes full-circle and George comes home and Edward says, "See, I told you George'd come back." So it's quite fun -- it's through wit and a better psychological understanding the women have, that they think several steps ahead. There's a network of language and gossip and rumor that they manipulate, and when appropriate, they manipulate the men sexually.

The first episode showcases this great romance, but the stakes are so high for Elizabeth and her family, and it's so tied up with her future and the possibility that it's a ruse on the part of Edward.

I mean, she fancies him. She's not sure she trusts him, but thinks, let's try and play this situation to get what I want. Of course, he thinks she's just going to have sex with him -- and all she knows in that moment is that she really wants to, as a red-blooded woman. But it would be a disaster, she knows, if she gives into her own desires there, so it's not about letting him have what he wants, it's about letting her have what she wants. But I think their love was real, and historically they had 12 children that lived and 15 pregnancies, so they weren't slack in the bedroom department. 

It's an interesting combination of the tropes of romance and some genuine urgency.

And it escalates really quickly, doesn't it? By the end of the first episode you've crossed the threshold into the world of the court. We start in this accessible place for an audience where boy meets girl, "Romeo & Juliet," different clans and wrong sides of the tracks, one's in power and one has got nothing. But from that, you step into her shoes and look out through her eyes, and you enter this complex world with Elizabeth, so that we really root for her and we really care about her. If we just went in episode one, "Politics, this and that and this person and that person," you would go, "Oh, I don't really know what's going on."

Related to the romance, I saw that tabloid report that the U.S. version is racier than the U.K. cut. Is that true?

A tiny bit. BBC is a public service broadcaster, and "The White Queen" goes out on BBC One, which is the mainstream primetime channel. If we were on BBC Two, they'd probably be the same cut. But it's BBC One, and its primetime, and so there is a taste threshold that stops a fraction before the Starz taste threshold. It fascinates and amuses me. There's a shot of Max's bum in episode one, in the Starz version. Quite frankly, I think it should be in the English version, because it's a very nice bum and a very nice shot. And hilariously, the audience in England was tweeting "Where is Max Irons' bum? Give us Max Irons' bum! How dare the BBC not give us Max Irons' bum!" So it's actually quite funny.

They're fractionally different -- I think it's something like 15 seconds or 20 seconds per episode. If someone gets stabbed, in the BBC version they'll cut something else and in the Starz version you might see a squirt of blood. You'll see Max's bum. And this is a love story about a couple that had 12 children, and presumably they got them by having sex with each other, and I don't know really know why we would shy away from that. And the power thing, it's hugely important that the bedroom talk changes the outcome of some of the events. I'm for the grownup version, to be honest.

Anything that even touches this territory and look now gets compared to "Game of Thrones," despite the fact that it's a fantasy series and in this case, "The White Queen" is historical. Are there good and bad aspects to that?

I don't know that it's good or bad. I have watched very little of "Game of Thrones," because I knew that the books are based on the Wars of the Roses. I didn't want to watch something that might influence me without me knowing it. So you just kind of go  "Alright, blinkers. I'll just respond to Philippa's books and to what we're doing with our own show." Someone did say to me that our show truthfully is "the real 'Game of Thrones,'" because it is the real history, and it's told though the women, and it hasn't got the dragons and those supernatural elements. I see no reason why they can't coexist -- it's been great in England, there have been a lot of people tweeting, "Thank God for 'The White Queen' because that 'Game of Thrones' shaped-hole in my life now has something to fill it!" I'm looking forward to "Game of Thrones" when we're at the end of this, and I can safely watch it.

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13 Comments

  • Glenda Black | January 13, 2014 5:58 PMReply

    Hello ! ,
    I would like too know when the next season #2 of The White Queen will return ?. to Starz. Thank You

  • Alex | October 22, 2013 12:36 PMReply

    Hahaha Emma Frost writing the White Queen... Marvel readers everywhere must be laughing their ass off XD

  • kimbell | September 1, 2013 7:37 PMReply

    wow everyone gets to hurt by silly words.... this is tv.....made to keep us watching...I sooooo love history,watched every movie and show that's like this one...I do love love the shows that say they are based on true events. we have to understand writers have a way to make everything bigger and brighter. Lets not take this to heart.Great actors ,great writing ..That's all....ps.the Tudors is still one of my favs. lol yay..wish I had a time machine, Id soooooooooooooo give the real stories of these times. yet ill still watch every show that comes out about this time period,as will many other fans...pss...Pillars of the earth was amazing also....dated way before all of this and the books take the cake....love and light..xoxoxoxo to our beautiful and never knowing history . oneday ill meet my maker and find out the real truth. :)

  • Helen Murphy | August 14, 2013 4:17 AMReply

    The problem with you saying that this is a drama, rather than a history lesson is that the average person watching these period dramas does think that the basic facts are accurate, with a bit of filling for effect. Everyone knows that the old Hollywood films were total fiction, however this is a recent BBC historical drama and a lot has been discovered over the last fifty years. I have only recently become interested in history, but had previously watched a few of these more recent dramas and assumed them to be at least basically correct. I was amazed to find that this was not so, but not everyone will look deeper, they will quote things from this series as fact. There is no reason why supposedly researched information should not be correct, otherwise why bother researching? I have taken an interest in this period for approximately 2 months ( hated history at school) and yet I know a lot more than Philippa Gregory does ( and she's the researcher).

  • Louise | August 14, 2013 2:51 AMReply

    Upper class people certainly would not have been filthy, they bathed quite frequently. The common people would probably have bathed less, without indoor plumbing, until the 20th century, a weekly bath was the norm for most people. And linen, which was worn next to the skin, was cleaned and changed frequently, having clean linen was the mark of a good housewife. Nor would their teeth have been bad, in 'Medieval Lives' Terry Jones remarks on the absence of tooth decay in medieval skeletons, they ate less soft, processed foods, and had very little sugar.

  • K Glynn | August 13, 2013 6:08 PMReply

    So someone working on a historical series does not believe that historical accuracy is important, well she chose the right series, because Ms Gregory doesn't believe in it either. The fiction part should belong to the interaction between characters that we have no way of knowing, it should not play fast and loose with known historical facts, then it becomes stupid, useless and irrelevant. This series has been neither good fiction or good history.

  • A. Towne | August 12, 2013 3:01 AMReply

    Typical Phillipa Gregory-inspired attitude of "historical accuracy doesn't matter" for the usual lame "reasons". These were real people and while creative liberties are one thing, Gregory is notorious for blithely playing fast and loose with inarguable facts simply in order to advance her own, rather odd, ideas of what "historical fiction" is. Happy to miss this.

  • JaySmack | August 10, 2013 10:55 AMReply

    I found the tagline "Men go to battle, women wage war," to be ridiculous and insulting. You reduce the individuals who wage the wars to merely "going to battle" and take the very ones who historically run from war as fast as their manicured feet can carry them to some post of heroism.
    Appealing to women is one thing but you don't have to lie or denigrate the ones who actually fight wars to do it.
    Or do you.
    I think women's auto vaginals-worship has reached a nauseating apogee. I'll be skipping this series.

  • JaySmack | August 15, 2013 12:42 PM

    "Insecurities and mother issues?" Someone clearly should have skipped that lobotomy before they decided to question me. Pointing out the fallacy of an ad campaign's tagline is more indicative of "insecurities" than you questioning my integrity is indicative of "intelligence."
    Your caterwauling amounts to an emotional whine because I pointed out something you wish I hadn't.
    "There is nothing that says what men do is bad or less important"
    Uhm, "battle" is a LOT less important than "war." If they had wanted to be honest the tagline would have been, "Women have catfights, men wage war."
    And a shame you didn't bother to actually read the piece. EmmaFrost is totally disrespectful and dismissive of the fact men die and are maimed in war, while the women --who apparently "wage war"-- sit to see who wins. What's wrong with pointing this out? Or did I disturb your gyno-centric mental masturbation?
    "And to ask why I "add so much meaning to it," shows how little thought you put into what I said. The real question is "How anyone can take perfumed ladies sitting around gossiping about nonsense and add importance to that during a war?" I put a lot of thought into my criticism, you put none at all. And why doesn't that surprise me?
    Nice attempt at deflection though. I know you had to try.

  • Jamie | August 11, 2013 9:14 AM

    Wow someone clearly has some insecurities and possibly some mother issues. How can you take a simple tagline and add so much more meaning to it? Maybe they were saying "although the men bravely go out there and physically fight the battles, women also do their part in the fight but with different methods". There is nothing that says what men do is bad or less important. Not unless that's what you want to see.

  • ScottSummers | August 9, 2013 7:44 PMReply

    Is her name seriously Emma f***ing Frost? And she's writing a show called "the white queen"....that's unbelieveably weird. I think she's messing with all of our minds....

  • dnwilliams | August 9, 2013 6:23 PMReply

    X-Men cooOOoOincidence!

  • Ninoy | August 9, 2013 6:27 PM

    I thought the same. Lol