Exclusive: THE BORGIAS’ Lotte Verbeek Interview

THE BORGIAS Lotte Verbeek

THE BORGIAS wraps up its first season of scheming, politics, and mayhem on Sunday, May 22. Showtime has already renewed the historical drama for a second season, so there are many more scandalous adventures with Rodrigo, Lucrezia, and the rest of The Borgias to come.

In the midst of all the dark intrigue and very human drama is Giulia Farnese, mistress to Rodrigo (Jeremy Irons). Played by Dutch actress Lotte Verbeek, Giulia is much more than a typical TV mistress, making the most of her own strengths and position while befriending and protecting Lucrezia (Holliday Grainger).

Daemon’s TV talked to Lotte Verbeek about the challenges of playing Giulia, what it was like working with Jeremy Irons and show creator Neil Jordan, and how she enjoyed making film festival favorite Nothing Personal.

Congratulations on ‘The Borgias’ being renewed. Can you tease anything about Sunday’s season finale?

Lotte Verbeek: Well, I mean everything has been building up to this. All the different stories sort of culminate, and while I can’t really tell you anything, I can say that it’s very good. All the characters are very involved and I think everyone will be pleased. I’m very proud of it. It also leaves so much open for next season, which is very exciting.

What has been the most challenging about playing Giulia?

Lotte Verbeek: Oh, well, so much has been challenging. I’m still new at this and I’m with so many talented actors who have been doing this for so long. Jeremy Irons is just so talented and dedicated that I’ve tried to learn from him. And then working with Neil [Jordan], too, has taught me so much.

I’m Dutch, so I’ve had to work very hard on my English. I would just walk the set practicing my lines and my accent. It was very good for me and I feel very lucky to have this chance.

You mentioned Jeremy Irons. So many of your scenes are with him and the chemistry between you is obviously very important. Did it flow naturally between the two of you?

Lotte Verbeek: Oh, yes. Like I said before, it was an honor to work with such a talented, veteran actor and I think our chemistry was a natural process. I mean, obviously there is an age difference, but he valued my input just like Rodrigo valued Giulia and it is very easy to work with him. He loves language like I do, so we would prepare our dialogue together. He definitely knows what he wants, and I like that.

You and Holliday Grainger have also had some great scenes this season. How was it playing opposite her? Did you hit it off naturally?

Lotte Verbeek: Oh, yes. I mean, there’s a very big difference between us because obviously she’s much younger, but she’s been working as an actress since she was a child, so for quite a long time. She just feels very comfortable and it’s all very natural for her to be on a big set, whereas for me it was my first time on such a large set. I’d done European art films before this, so it was a big change for me.

With Holliday, though, it was a very nice way of working, to have such a different background and then to find each other in these scenes that are so beautifully written. These ladies have a very nice friendship in the series and the way that they bond is beautiful, especially because there are so few female characters in the series. It’s so much about the guys and their power. I think there’s a lot of humor and they’re pretty smart. I think that’s really interesting.

Guilia is not at all the clichéd mistress type of character. How important was that to you when you first the read script?

Lotte Verbeek: I’m so glad that you picked that up because I love anything that’s not expected, that’s not the most likely thing to see. I mean, yes, she’s a mistress and yes, she’s with this older guy, but the way that it’s written, she’s quite strong and quite intelligent.

Neil [Jordan] and I talked about the character and we agreed on how she would have to be, and I think that I understood instantly the way that he wrote it. I really liked the way that he wrote this character. I like playing strong female parts and independent women. At the same time she’s still a mistress and she’s still a woman and she uses her power. She uses her beauty, and that may sound contradictory, but I think it’s very natural. So, for me it felt very natural to play this part, actually.

You said everything is open for season two. What would you like to see happen to Guilia in the next season?

Lotte Verbeek: I would be pleased if she would get even a bit more power and if she would become a bit more influential. I would also like her to have some challenges. I think that Neil was thinking about that, too. We keep the dialogue open about that, and actually, in the first season he was asking me how I’d see the character develop in the future. So, yeah, I think that we can talk about that. That’s really cool, to have an influence on how your part is written.

How is it working with Neil Jordan? Is he very collaborative?

Lotte Verbeek: I love the combination in his work of really valuing the actor’s choices and the actors. He really cares about us and is comfortable with whatever we say and the way he stages scenes. But then he also really knows what he wants. It seems like a very rare and beautiful combination of working: being very open to the actors while also having a very strong opinion and a very strong eye. He really sees a lot. He sees both the humor and the very serious. I’m very intrigued by him, actually.

Before this you’d just picked up The Shooting Stars Award last year and got a lot of accolades for ‘Nothing Personal’. Can you talk about doing that film?

Lotte Verbeek: I loved it. I’d just graduated from drama school and then I got this part in ‘Nothing Personal,’ which had a beautiful script. I think it’s also in the Black List, in the American database of strong scripts. That’s already a treat as an up and coming actress–to get the chance to be in a beautiful script. But then it was only Stephen Rea and I, and it’s not about screen time, but about working so closely together.

To have the chance to actually show what you can do and to build this arc and to work so closely together with the director who’s open to any suggestion or any personal interest, that’s such a treat. That’s really half the pleasure of the work, and then the other half of course is the film being picked up and so successful To be seen and appreciated and to actually be able to touch people’s hearts is more than I would have dreamed. I’ve seen so many people at the screenings really being touched and really being in some way opened up. That’s just very special. I love that. It was a great experience.

Was the fact that ‘The Borgias’ was so different a reason for wanting to do it?

Lotte Verbeek: Oh, yes. I’m just getting started, and honestly, it’s been such a great couple of years already. I love to explore different, various kinds of work in any possible way: different periods of times and languages, directors, different material, different stories.

Obviously, ‘Nothing Personal’ was such an intimate movie about two people on a remote island and then ‘The Borgias’ is this big, massive cast of great, such beautiful actors and they’re completely opposite. I love to throw myself into things that surprise me and that demand a lot. I love that because that’s the way to really stay sharp and focused and also keep growing. I always want to keep growing and surprise myself.

What’s next for you?

Lotte Verbeek: There’s going to be a second season of ‘The Borgias’ and right now I’m reading a lot of scripts. I’ve got some beautiful material that I’m very excited about. I’m meeting directors and I’m reading these scripts and I hope to keep working on an international level and to broaden my horizons. I’m actually very thrilled. I would love to do something again where I could really dive into an arc of a character or something that would again surprise me or be new to me. I feel like something is coming. I feel very positive.

The first season finale of The Borgias airs on Showtime Sunday May 22 at 10pm eastern/9 central

You can real all our The Borgias coverage here.

THE BORGIAS Lotte Verbeek