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Mary and George star Nicholas Galitzine praises 'good mum' Julianne Moore - exclusive

Julianne Moore and Nicholas Galitzine chatted to HELLO! about their new royal show Mary and George


Julianne Moore and Nicholas Galitzine in Mary and George
Emmy Griffiths
TV & Film Editor
10 March 2024
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Although Julianne Moore became a British citizen in 2011, the star of Sky Atlantic’s new period drama Mary and George still isn’t used to the country’s bleak weather. “Maybe one of the days where the sun shined?” she laughs when asked about her favourite moment during filming in England. “It was really gloomy! Very gloomy!”

In the new historical - and certainly somewhat raunchy - drama, Julianne, 63, plays Mary Villiers, a woman of few means who schemes to have her handsome son George (Nicholas Galitzine) become King James I’s new lover to save them from their dire circumstances and elevate their social status in the Jacobean court. 

“I wouldn’t say she has agency. and I think that’s why she strives,” the Oscar-winning actress explained to HELLO!. “She doesn’t have autonomy, she only has purchase in life through marriages. She has nothing. She has no property, no money, no position, so immediately on her husband’s death she has to find someone else to marry to send her kid to France.” 

“She’s always thinking, ‘How do I get from here to here,’ so it’s either through marriage or through a male child. Her daughter actually historically is well married eventually and Mary arranged that, but that was only because of George’s position so I think the lesson of Mary is how much she managed to achieve when, in fact, she did have no autonomy.”

Listen to HELLO!'s A Right Royal Podcast Mary and George special here... 

LISTEN: A Right Royal Mary and George special

The relationship between Julianne’s Mary and Nicholas’ George is at the core of the show, as Mary pushes George to his full potential, but how did they work to create this authentic, humourous (albeit dysfunctional) mother-and-son relationship?

“It was beautifully written,” Julianne said. “It really was, these are two very interesting characters that existed in history so I feel like ultimately this is a show about relationships, about how attached people are to each other, how much they can take advantage of one another, how dysfunctional it can be. I think what’s compelling about history are the people and their relationships.” 

Mary & George is inspired by the unbelievable true story of Mary Villiers, who moulded her beautiful and charismatic son, George, to seduce King James VI of Scotland and I of England and become his all powerful lover © Rory Mulvey/ SKY UK
The story follows George as he becomes the King's lover

Nicholas added: “She’s a good mum! [Laughs] Maybe not in the script as much but she’s a great acting partner for sure!” 

While Nicholas, who is also known for his roles in Bottoms and Red, White and Royal Blue, had plenty of historical information to work with to build the character of George, there was very little to go on about Mary, whom history supposedly remembers as a witch. 

Things you probably didn’t know about King James I

Tony Curran as King James in Mary & George© Rory Mulvey/ SKY UK
Tony Curran as King James in Mary & George
  • He called George Villiers his ‘wife’ 
  • He led the first public campaign against smoking 
  • He translated the Bible - and it exists to this day 
  • He made George and Mary Villiers a Duke and a Duchess - unprecedented titles for non-royals 
  • His parents - Mary Queen of Scots and Lord Darnley - were both murdered when he was a baby 
  • He was really into witches - and inspired Macbeth

“I think it’s untrue,” Julianne claimed. “We don’t know much about her. What we do know is that she was buried in Westminster Abbey which is a pretty major achievement in your culture!

Julianne Moore as Mary Villiers in Mary & George© SKY UK
Julianne Moore as Mary Villiers in Mary & George

“It was a wonderful piece of material. I think what Dave [creator D. C. Moore] wrote was so interesting and exciting and vital, the characters were very vital. It was a fun thing to work on.” 

Nicholas also emphasised how important the script was to them both, explaining: “I think that there’s a wealth of information about George and we had a great text in The King’s Assassin [by Benjamin Woolley] but what me and Julianne kept coming back to was the script.

“The script is the bible and there was so much there to play around with build upon and so it’s great knowing the history of it all but really, there was a wealth of opportunity within the script.” 

Julianne Moore as Mary Villiers & Nicholas Galitzine as George Villiers in Mary & George© SKY UK
The pair play mother and son in the show

Despite their characters doing very well in the Jacobean court, how do they think they’d fare if they suddenly found themselves in Renaissance times? 

“Dead, really dead,” Nicholas says cheerfully. 

Nicholas stars as George© SKY UK
Nicholas stars as George

“I would have died in childbirth, I’m convinced,” Julianne agrees. “We’re not made for it. We’re made for modern life and antibiotics!” 

He continues: “She’s childbirth, I’m some sort of deadly disease. In the Jacobean era we’re here for a good time not a long time!” 

Mary and George is available on Sky and NOW 

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