While “The White Queen” was always planned as a limited series, “the reality is that most of the characters in ‘The White Queen’ are dead by the end of it, so we didn’t plan at that point to go any further,” screenwriter Emma Frost explains (watch the exclusive video above) in our recent webchat. However, Frost is back almost four years later with an eight-episode sequel titled “The White Princess” that currently airs weekly on Starz. A few characters are back too, but they have been recast.
Most notably, Essie Davis (“The Babadook”) now plays the White Queen Elizabeth Woodville herself, in a supporting role. Davis is 14 years older than original actress Rebecca Ferguson (“Mission: Impossible”), who received a Golden Globe nomination for her lead performance as the character over a 21-year period. Frost continues, “When we then did decide to do ‘The White Princess,’ there were only two or three characters that had survived and if we were to start that with characters already quite considerably aged up, we would then have to age them a further 14 years across the show ‘The White Princess’, so it made sense all around if we recast it from the beginning.”
The new project stars 2017 BAFTA nominee Jodie Comer (“Thirteen”) as the eponymous Elizabeth of York and Michelle Fairley (“Game of Thrones”) as her calculating mother-in-law Margaret Beaufort. “The White Princess” is subtitled as a feminist story in the press, to which Frost says, “When you do have female protagonists, suddenly people comment on it because it is still in the minority. The fact that it’s still in the minority is the problem. We’re in 2017; we shouldn’t still be having this conversation.”
Like “The White Queen” before it, “The White Princess” is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Philippa Gregory, who has made a career of writing historical fiction from female perspectives, which Frost notes has not been the norm in history. She adds, “What frustrates me is that the fact that as soon as you have a female protagonist, people make an assumption that you are making a statement rather than just telling a story and I really hope that as we continue to evolve, that whole thing will disappear and that eventually we will reach a point where 50 percent of protagonists are female and no one comments.”
“The White Princess” is airing just in time for 2017 Emmy eligibility, as Starz hopes to build on the success of “The White Queen.” It received a 2014 nomination for Best Miniseries, ultimately losing to the first season of “Fargo.” As showrunner this time in addition to head writer, Frost took a more active role in determining their submission strategy, although she admits, “I’m not really sure what the politics of it are. I take advice from Starz because they’re far better-versed in this side of things than I am. I think that the main question that gets raised is just: Do you want your show to compete with itself by submitting multiple episodes in each category or do you want to select one episode that you feel is the strongest episode?”
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