The CW's Reign may not have the vampires, beasts and other supernatural creatures that dominate the network's schedule, but the period drama fills that void with passion, sex, royalty and damn good fashion.
Reign stars Adelaide Kane as a teenage Mary Queen of Scots. The show begins as she has just left the convent where she's been hiding to return to the French court where she'll prepare to marry Prince Francis of France (Toby Regbo). Although history dictates that the two did wed, the series explores a love triangle between Mary, Francis and his (fictional) half-brother Sebastian (Torrance Coombs). The courtship is also threatened by the Prince's controlling mother, Queen Catherine de' Medici (Megan Follows) as well as Nostradamus (Rossif Sutherland), a close ally of Catherine's, who gets a premonition that Mary's marriage to the Prince will cost him his life.
The high-stakes pressure, the romance, the conflict and the back-stabbing are all things Mary is nowhere near prepared for when she arrives. "Mary has been quite sheltered," Kane tells TVGuide.com. "She comes into this alien and treacherous court life in France rather wide-eyed with a very strong set of ideals and morals. The world is very black and white when she comes in, and she expects everyone to keep their word and stand by what they say. [But] the world isn't like that."
From the start of the series, Mary's struggle between her romantic destiny and her true desires will be largely explored. "She's really built Francis up in her mind and she believes that they'll get married and live happily ever after," Kane shares. "He is certainly almost a perfect romantic character in that he's smart, he's courageous, he's definitely a loyalist for his country and family, and he takes his position very seriously. But romantically, he is extremely standoffish with her."
Naturally, Sebastian is a better fit. "Sebastian is the one who really understands her and gets her isolation and loneliness. They have a connection on an instinctive level," Kane says. "He's the sexy bad boy who will flirt and seduce women because he can. [He] can also get away with a lot more, including supporting Mary and helping her out as friend without having any political shadowing attached to it. His honesty and forthrightness really speaks to how she sees the world — they're cut from the same cloth."
With romance at the forefront, the series also pushes the sexual boundaries. Although a risque masturbation scene was cut down significantly from the initial pilot critics received, the premiere still includes plenty of steamy scenes.
"[Sex] will be a very prevalent theme and is a very pertinent one considering the time in which our show is set," Kane says. "There was a lot of sexual repression and the idea that women must be virgins before they're married. Sex and desire was very much a weapon and a tool for women at the time and one of the few they could use. ... But if a girl got caught kissing a boy in the courtyard, she would be ruined. A social outcast never got married or had children. I want to see how the younger viewers react to the sexist backlash some of our characters might receive on the show."
"There is a sense of sisterhood," Kane says. "Teenagers can be cruel, so I'm hoping as an audience, they'll take away that sense of female camaraderie. She is a loyal friend and willing to put herself on the line for those important to her, which I think is a very admirable quality. But I'm interested to see if later in the season she doesn't have to make a decision between one of her friends and [what's] best for her country."
Romance and relationships aside, Kane promises that the series will also provide great idealistic fashion in the way that Gossip Girl did for six seasons. "The CW has a longstanding reputation for amazing fashion and good teenage drama," Kane says. "We've got incredible ball gowns, hair pieces, a romantic stylistic aesthetic and amazing shoes. It's definitely going to be a show for shoe porn."
Reign premieres on Thursday at 9/8c on The CW.
(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS, one of the CW's parent companies.)
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