Lotte Verbeek plays Giulia Farnese in Showtime's new hit series The Borgias.
She landed the role of Giulia before she even knew about the Borgias family. In an exclusive interview, she talks to TV Fanatic about her doubts, the show's ornate costumes, being the mistress of Oscar-winning Jeremy Irons' character and more.
Tell me about your role and the plot of The Borgias.
There are a lot of guys out there wearing dresses and tights and it’s all about power. My part is about female power. There aren’t a lot of female characters in the show, and it was great to get this part.
We spent six months in Budapest filming. It’s based on historical facts, but it is still fiction. It is very much open to interpretation. If it had been a feature length film, everything would have had to been told in two hours. Since we have time now, you can only imagine that each episode has a theme or more time for one character or aspect to develop, and it’s about the family. The boys are growing. One is more into religion and the other the army.
Were you approached for this or did you audition?
I was approached by my English agent about the project, which didn’t ring a bell. He said I actually look a lot like Giulia Farnese, but I had no idea who she was. So I taped myself, and I didn’t expect to get a part. They wanted the English accent, so I figured they would go with a Brit. Apparently Neil [Jordan] liked my audition, so he invited me to lunch in Budapest and two days later they offered me the part. I’ve been lucky.
Men in tights are just something that comes with the period of time. We as women got to wear these outrageous, beautiful costumes. As a little girl, I’d always dreamt of wearing costumes like this, and I got my dream. The experience of playing a part like that, it adds a bit more gravity. You feel so much more like a beautiful lady in a beautiful gown, instead of wearing jeans. The way that the costumes are designed and the set, there’s so much quality to it. I’m very proud to be a part of it.
Talk about the set.
I think there’s a lot of quality in all of the departments. They all have so much weight. The producers and Neil Jordan have done a great job. This series is cinematic television.
Who do you think this show targets?
I can only get a sense of how it’s being picked up now. Obviously it’s about religion, and also about power, which men would like. The costume drama the women would love, and it also deals with history so the more intellectual and older audience would like. There are beautiful young men and women in it. It would really appeal to a big, diverse audience. We’ll see!
How do you think this show differs from a soap opera?
It talks about daily life events. Forbidden love, loves that are over, growing up, but it’s also a far darker theme of power and the strive for power. The dark side of human nature, which was, back in the days a bit more apparent. Neil Jordan shines the light on the darker side of people, almost like animals, but then it looks beautiful. The way it shoots and the dialogue, sets and costumes, it’s all very sophisticated. The actual act, and encounters and behaviors is quite dark and dirty. It’s something. [laughs] I wouldn’t call it soap opera, that’s too light.
How was it working with Neil Jordan and Jeremy Irons?
Wow. They both have such big careers and I’m just getting started. It’s a dream for any young actor to have the privilege to work with such experienced people. They asked me to speak their language and know what I wanted with this part. We were on the same page as far as the character goes.
Most of my scenes were with Jeremy, so we spoke about the dialogue and preparation. I’m his mistress, so I got to work with him a lot. He really knows what he wants. He’s very much into language as well, which I love. I love to be precise with language. It was a great experience.