Mary, Queen of Scots, isn’t the only one dealing with serious ruling dilemmas on “Reign.”
Although he’s only a prince, Toby Regbo’s character Francis has been forced to take on great responsibility to circumvent the actions of his mad father, King Henry (Alan van Sprang), on The CW’s Thursday night drama. Heroics at Calais saved the day for his country last week, but taking the army Francis promised his wife, Mary, put cracks in their still fresh-forged marital union.
It’s been an intriguing journey watching Francis’ path to his own reign, as he tries to balances love, country and his family. With just two episodes to go in Season 1, AccessHollywood.com spoke with Toby about Francis’ recent heroics, his development as the young Dauphin of France, and the romance he found quite surprising on the show.
AccessHollywood.com: Last week’s battle really tested Francis’ mettle. How did being part of that crucial conflict at Calais change him?
Toby Regbo: He killed some people. Killing people’s not easy, so that I think changed him, and also, assuming the role of his father — as daddy’s going mental, he’s having to assume more responsibility and fulfilling the roles of his father is something that he’s been trained to do for his whole life. He knew that he’d have to do it at some point, but… it’s testing his worth as a man. It was fun to do all that sword stuff. Have a proper fight.
Access: Was there any bit of you that felt a little bit odd because you are English and you are playing French, fighting your own kind?
Toby: Yeah it did, actually, killing my own. Although I’ve never really felt that English. I’m like half Norwegian and half Italian. … I’m a Londoner more than anything else.
Access: This season, Francis has been dealing with problems created by his mother and now, in the last half of the season, it’s problems his father has created. Who do you think has inadvertently shaped his moral compass more through their acts?
Toby: I think he’s got his mother’s wiliness and can manipulate, but, I think for a young man, a father figure is so important. I think Francis’ struggle is – he’s trying to overlook what his father is doing, and see the best in him and hope that he’s going to recover, and Mary and my mother don’t seem so positive. They’re threatening to kill him.
Access: Francis seems to have a really good moral center and neither one of his parents are particularly morally grounded. They’re willing to bend all rules to suit their own purposes or needs. I’m curious why you think Francis has a good head on his shoulders.
Toby: Yeah, don’t you think things usually go generationally, like things skip a generation? If you have messy parents, then you are quite tidy and if you have tidy parents, then you end up being quite messy. And if you’ve got moralless, manipulative and ruthless parents, you’d probably end up having quite a good moral compass because you don’t want to end up like them.
Access: As we head into the last couple of episodes, how bad is it going to get? How dangerous will things get with Henry?
Toby: Very. … We’re trying to hide his behavior and keep him locked up and pretend everything’s fine and he starts doing things so publically that action has to be taken.
Access: Obviously Francis has had to hurt Mary, for the good of his country. How far would he be willing to go in terms of hurting his father, for the good of the country, since he is being trained to be king?
Toby: I think you might have to wait and see. I wouldn’t want to spoil.
Access: What part of Francis fascinates you the most, about the way he’s written?
Toby: I guess the interesting thing to play is the duality of love for country and love for a person and that tears him up inside all the time. [It is a] pain in the arse, constantly having to juggle the both. I get stuff written to me on Twitter all the time, telling me that I’m a bad husband, but I don’t think I am. People say, ‘Oh, you’re so mean to Mary,’ but I’m not just her boyfriend. I’m trying to be the prince of a whole country. Trying to toe the line. He loves her very deeply, but he also has a deep sense of responsibility and yeah, that’s his internal struggle.
Access: Fun question for you — were you surprised by the amount of honeys Francis had dalliances with this season? He really got around. Let’s face it.
Toby: Was I surprised? No. Francis is so [witty] and handsome. Who wouldn’t want to kiss him on the mouth?
Access: Although, Torrance told me, in the original pilot, it wasn’t set up that way. Your character was kind of more shy and not as good with the ladies. Is that right?
Toby: Yeah, I think so. I remember being directed by [‘Reign’ Executive Producer] Brad Silberling in the first meeting of Mary and me and they just wanted me to be some awkward teenager, and I guess they put it to the audience and the audience went, ‘Make him more forthwith,’ which they did, which is more interesting. It’s nice to play a character [who is] charismatic.
Access: How does it feel to have finished an entire season of a big American show like this? That has to be a real sense of accomplishment that you’re feeling this summer, on your break.
Toby: Yeah. I mean it’s so crazy that we’re literally about to start it again. We’ve only got about a month and a half before we go back and do it again, but it was something like 2,200 hours on set and 10 months, 22 episodes, five days a week. It’s a lot of material to get through. You work at a greater pace than shooting on movies. It’s a great experience as an actor to just work loads all the time. Constantly getting through material.
Access: There was a lot shipping going on this season for different characters. Were there any characters you were shipping – that you wanted to see get together?
Toby: What the hell is this shipping nonsense that people are going on about? Mixing people’s names together?
Access: [Loosely defined,] it’s when you want a relation ‘ship’ between two characters.
Toby: Right. Nostradamus and Olivia was quite a wild card, don’t you think? I thought Nostradamus was asexual, but no, he’s a ladies man, just like everyone in the show. No one gets away. Everyone’s got to be kissing someone.
“Reign” continues Thursday night at 9/8c on The CW.
-- Jolie Lash