The White Queen Q&A: Max Irons Talks Taking On The War Of The Roses
As charismatic monarch Edward IV, Max Irons reigns on Starz’s Saturday night drama “The White Queen.” But, his kingly role didn’t net him an invitation when his one of his co-stars made a quiet trip to the Frietmuseum in Bruges, a museum for French fries, near where the series filmed.
“I do feel like I’ve missed out on something,” Max jokes when Access Hollywood asks the British actor if he made the trip alongside Rebecca Ferguson, who plays his “White Queen.” (She told Access she made a quick trip there while shooting.)
“I feel there’s a hole in the center of my being that would have been filled if I knew that little bit more about French fries,” he continued. “I might have to go all the way back to Belgium just to go to it!”
The rising star clearly has a good sense of humor. It’s something he’s brought — on occasion (they were tough times, afterall) — to playing the monarch who had a lengthy reign during England’s War of the Roses (like ordering James Frain’s the Earl of Warwick in Episode 3, to fulfill all his needs while he was a regal prisoner and briefly unseated).
Right now, Max is busy learning lines for his next project — the play “Farragut North” (it became the George Clooney film “The Ides of March”) — at London’s Southwark Playhouse, officially opening on September 13. But, the 27-year-old put down the pages to chat with Access about his “The White Queen” role.
AccessHollywood.com: This is your first period drama. As an English actor, is that a rite of passage – something you have to do at some point in your career — donning doublets and tights?
Max Irons: I’ve never sort of thought of it like that. I guess we in England make quite a lot of period dramas because our history spans many, many centuries and is sort of littered with events, and people are sort of realizing now, with the success of ‘The Tudors’ and ‘Game of Thrones’ being based on the War of the Roses, that those stories are fascinating and very dimensional and they’re good stories.
Access: So it’s not something that you think about when you’re a young actor, you don’t say, ‘I want to tick off that box’?
Max: I guess not, but bear in mind that drama school is very much a part of getting into acting in England, so when you’re at drama school, you’re doing Chekov, you’re doing Shakespeare, you’re doing all that sort of thing, so by the time you get out you’re sort of used to wearing silly clothes and speaking in period, so to speak.
Access: Speaking of something silly – silly hair, when you Googled Edward IV after you got the role, and you saw his chin-length bob, his bulbous chin, what did you think?
Max: I thought … there’s a police siren, hang on… I thought that I’d be spending a lot of time in hair and makeup and initially they did want to put me in a wig, so I came in one day and we tried a couple out and we found this particular one and we put it on and I looked at myself in the mirror. And you know when you get a radical haircut it gives you a bit of a shock? It gave me a bit of a shock, but within a couple of minutes, I convinced myself that it was OK. I signed off in my head that I had to accept this and it was part of the character and I’d grow to love it, but then I walked through sets to go and see the director and producers — the amount of weird looks I got, and then I met the producer and directors and thankfully they made an editorial choice and got rid of it.
Access: Your Elizabeth – Rebecca – (another loud sound crops up on the phone line). Oh my God, where are you!
Max: I’m in a very loud part of the city.
Access: Are you surrounded by crimes being committed?
Max: (Jokingly) I’m actually on the run from the police. That’s what’s going on.
Access: So basically I’m breaking news then speaking to you…
Max: Yeah. … You’re probably the last person I’m going to speak to in the free world.
Access: Scoop (laughs)! So anyway, back to Rebecca — one of the things I noticed when I met her is there is just a quiet confidence to her. Do you think that’s what got her this role out of the 20 women they were chemistry testing with you to be Elizabeth Woodville?
Max: I think it was a number of factors. I know exactly what you mean about that quiet confidence and it’s a quiet strength, but Elizabeth not only had to have that, but she also had to be incredibly politically savvy. Edward’s court was a male dominated world where women were only there by invitation and if they were to have any power whatsoever, they would have to earn it, but not by the same rules that men played by. So they’d have to be politically very savvy, socially very savvy, and Elizabeth was spectacularly smart at operating, so much so that at points in Edward’s reign, she was very much running things and Rebecca understood that and understood how to do that. I remember that particularly in the audition.
Access: Did you need to do research on this guy to feel comfortable inhabiting Edward’s shoes? Or, do you just go off a script?
Max: You do a lot of research. I knew a bit about the War of the Roses — most people in England do — but not much and certainly not much about Edward IV. And in fact, there isn’t that much information because the Tudors weren’t Plantagenets and got rid of a lot of the documentation about [them]. But there are bits and pieces out there, so I read a couple of books and took what I needed to and hopefully applied it to the character.
Access: How into your character did you get? Did you find yourself thinking about him a lot when you were off set?
Max: I did actually and the reason for that is, we’re used to seeing our Kings in these ridiculous paintings wearing these ridiculous costumes up on the wall of some building, but you look into them and Edward in particular, he wasn’t born king, he took that responsibility. And he was a young guy, in many respects very normal, sort of reckless… naive at times, but he was also incredibly bright and militarily very capable, but he just inherited a huge amount of responsibility and was just doing the best that he could, which turned out to be very, very good.
Access: Did you ever dream about this guy?
Max: I have very kooky dreams, I don’t even try to decipher them, but I do daydream a lot and I daydreamed a lot about him. Music would always make me daydream… if I listened to the right piece of music, it would get my head really going about a character.
Access: Old musical, or modern day pieces?
Max: All sorts. Some classical music, some dance music, a bit of everything really.
Access: You’re trancing out with trance to Edward.
Max: Listen, psychedelic trance is the one music I would never listen to in my life.
Max: I don’t understand it. … It’s just f***ing noise and it makes you stupid when you listen to it.
Access: Way to have an opinion (laughs). Max, you have taken a stance against that genre!
Max: Listen, I’m very open to dance music, hey, but trance — it shouldn’t exist. If I were king for a day, that’s one of the first things I’d do, get rid of trance.
Access: Hilarious. … So, before I let you go, Max, have you seen ‘Game of Thrones’? And, having done ‘The White Queen,’ does it make you think of it differently?
Max: I actually haven’t seen ‘Game of Thrones,’ but I hear it’s great. But I haven’t seen it. I’m like the only person on the planet who hasn’t.
Access: Do you have time to watch television? Or are you just so busy prepping for ‘Farragut North’?
Max: I mean, at this precise moment I have no time to do anything besides learn lines, but yeah, I do watch TV, like I only watched ‘The West Wing’ last year, and ‘The Wire’ last year, and ‘The Sopranos’ last year. I’m way behind on everything.
Max: I always get slightly off put when people are like, ‘It’s amazing! It’s amazing!’ I’m like, ‘Oh God! I’m gonna watch it later.’ And then you go and watch and you go. ‘Yeah, obviously it was amazing.’
“The White Queen” continues Saturdays at 9 PM on Starz.
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