Minnie Driver Praises ‘Battle’ with Samantha Morton

  • The Serpent Queen season 2 premieres July 12 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Starz
  • To celebrate the new season, stars Samantha Morton and Minnie Driver sat down for a panel discussion hosted by PEOPLE and Entertainment Weekly
  • They each opened up about their approach to playing the historical characters, while crediting the show’s creator Justin Haythe for crafting powerful female characters

If The Serpent Queen’s second season will be remembered for anything, it’s for Samantha Morton and Minnie Driver’s scenes — a sparring of two fine actresses portraying two of Europe’s greatest monarchs of the 16th century.

Morton and Driver reflected on their experiences filming the show together during a panel discussion hosted by PEOPLE, Entertainment Weekly and Starz at The London West Hollywood on Tuesday, July 9. For the Starz period drama’s second season, Morton, 47, reprises her role as Catherine de Medici, who served as Queen of France during the 16th century, bringing her commanding presence and smoldering looks. Meanwhile, Driver, 54, portrays Queen Elizabeth I of England, infusing the revered ruler with verve and wit.

Both actresses credited the show’s creator Justin Haythe for writing rich, strong female characters they could bring to life in their own unique ways.

“Justin writes proper women,” Driver explained, adding, “That’s what I felt when I read his script, that he was just serving the most amazing women, and you feel that service and that interest he has. … Sam also needed someone she could sink her teeth into. I knew it was going to be a great battle.”

Samantha Morton and Minnie Driver at ‘The Serpent Queen’ screening with PEOPLE, Entertainment Weekly and Starz.

Todd Williamson/Shutterstock


Morton, for her part, admitted she had long been a “huge fan” of Driver’s since watching the actress in the 1995 miniseries The Politician’s Wife — a performance that “blew my mind,” she admitted. She recalled the experience of working with Driver on The Serpent Queen as being hugely collaborative.

“It was about ‘we,’ not ‘I,'” she said, adding, “I felt that the space was shared and the time was taken.”

The first trailer for season 2 of The Serpent Queen, which PEOPLE exclusively premiered in June, showed France falling into “political and religious turmoil” as Catherine “struggles to maintain her power.”

Haythe told PEOPLE in June that this season will see Catherine ultimately realizing “she can only succeed by sinking to the lows of some of the people around her.”

Samantha Morton and Minnie Driver.

Todd Williamson/Shutterstock


The decision to introduce Queen Elizabeth I meant Haythe took some creative license. While no “substantiated meeting” took place, he contended that “nobody can prove that Queen Elizabeth didn’t take a secret trip to Europe for a private peace conference with somebody like Catherine.”

“They corresponded a lot in letters, which is a lot less interesting than having these two powerhouse women in the same room,” Haythe continued, adding, “That’s a big feature of the new season. I’m fascinated by Queen Elizabeth I and Catherine of Medici because they, in a way, were two of the most powerful people in Europe at a time when women had no legal rights.”

Minnie Driver in ‘The Serpent Queen.’.

Starz


During the July 9 panel discussion, Driver acknowledged her portrayal of one of Britain’s greatest monarchs was largely left up to her to figure out.

“It’s all made up, isn’t it? We have like four paintings of her and a lot of books. I’m a bit of a Glenda Jackson fan and that really was … my first introduction to how she looked outside of my head as a kid,” she said, referring to Jackson’s Emmy-winning portrayal of Queen Elizabeth I in the 1971 BBC TV drama Elizabeth R. “It was terrifying and amazing.”

When Morton first auditioned for The Serpent Queen, she approached Catherine as if she was the 16th century equivalent of a mafia “gangster.”

“When I looked at it, I was like, she’s the mafia. She’s like, The Sopranos. She’s like Goodfellas … the original Italian mama,” the actress mused. “So that was my interpretation. I was like, I have totally [messed] this up, I’m not going to get this role. I really wanted it — and then it actually worked.”

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The Serpent Queen season 2 premieres July 12 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Starz.

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