Watch: Janet McTeer and her ‘White Queen’ character don’t back down from challenges

“I’m not somebody who shies away from a challenge,” revealed Janet McTeer during our recent video chat when about the difficulties of playing historical figures like Clementine Churchill in “Into the Storm” and the title character in the play “Mary Stuart.”

She takes on another real-life role in the Starz miniseries “The White Queen“: Jacquetta Woodville, who maneuvered her family into power during England’s bloody Wars of the Roses. And Jacquetta, like McTeer, was up for any challenge.

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“There’s not a lot written about [Jacquetta] because people didn’t write about women very much,” explained McTeer, “and women who were very clever wielded their power behind the men, which is exactly what she did.” Jacquetta’s daughter, Elizabeth, married the embattled King Edward IV, and their descendants include King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I. McTeer added, “Her bloodline runs through to the royal family today.”

Among the challenges of the role was just keeping track of the sprawling web of family connections, rivalries, alliances, and offspring that incited so many battles: “It’s so complicated: who’s married to whom, who was married to whom, who was descended from whom, who then married somebody else, they’re all second cousins, and everyone’s called Henry or Edward.”

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To understand the complex relationships, she says there was a family tree in the makeup trailer, “so that you could go, ‘Wait a minute, who is he to me? Okay, he’s my seventh cousin twice removed once by my brother’s father’s sister.'” Eat your heart out, “Game of Thrones.”

McTeer earned a Golden Globe nomination for her role in “The White Queen,” the fourth of her career; she previously won Best Comedy/Musical Movie Actress in 1999 for “Tumbleweeds.” Her impressive career laurels also include an Emmy nomination for “Into the Storm,” both a Tony and Olivier Award for “A Doll’s House,” and Oscar nominations for “Tumbleweeds” and “Albert Nobbs.”

She goes back and forth between stage and screen, and that’s by design: “I’ve more or less always gone from theater, television, film – like that in a little cycle. I love it. I’ve always enjoyed the change. I would find it very difficult to do something for a very long time in the same place.”

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Will her latest TV turn bring her back to the Emmys? Watch our complete interview below, then make your Movie/Mini Supporting Actress predictions:

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