Exclusive ‘Reign’ Season 2 Interview: Craig Parker Talks Playing Lord Narcisse, “A Man Without Fear”

Two episodes in and Reign is off to a dark start. The premiere ended with Mary killing a grain merchant who just so happened to be the son of the incredibly powerful Lord Narcisse (Craig Parker). As viewers saw this week, Narcisse is set to make waves in the kingdom, find vengeance for his son and possibly strike up an alliance with Catherine. Recently, TV Equals chatted with the charismatic Parker (best known for his roles on Spartacus and Xena: Warrior Princess) about the joys of playing the powerful and fearless Lord Narcisse. Find out what is ahead for Narcisse below, and tune into all new episodes of Reign, Thursdays at 9/8c on The CW.

TV Equals: What can you tell us about Lord Narcisse?

Craig Parker: Lord Narcisse is a fun-loving, gentle, quiet man, who wants everyone to live happy lives…actually that’s not him. He’s incredibly powerful and incredibly rich. He’s one of the great, powerful republicans who manipulate things from behind the scenes. At this stage, he is wealthier than the royal family. As much as they have the visible power, he has the power behind the throne, and they have to listen to him. He is very comfortable in the world of power and moving through it. He is also very savvy because he spent his entire life manipulating the world and with a new king and queen, he is going to continue to do that.

TV Equals: Is it safe to say Lord Narcisse is a threat to Mary?

Craig Parker: As we saw last week, she murdered my son and that’s not nice. For all of his political strength and manipulation, he is still a human being and his son and heir he loved. On finding that out there is an absolute hatred and rage directed toward Mary, and you don’t get over that quickly. That will run through future episodes and unfortunately for him, Mary is the Queen of Scotland and soon to be Queen of France, so he can’t directly retaliate, but he can hurt her very badly and he will do everything he can to wish her that.

TV Equals: What is it like working with Megan Follows?

Craig Parker: Megan Follows is a goddess. Having watched the first season, I was terrified of being near her. She was like a much younger Maggie Smith, and I had been here a few days before I met the rest of the cast and then I came in one day and this unwigged creature was sitting outside having a cup of coffee, and I was like, “Oh God, you’re Queen Catherine.”

She is just an absolute delight to work with. I love the theatrical and she has such a wonderful ability to balance the theatrical with subtlety and humanity. The scenes we have had so far are wonderful, I’m dancing with a very skilled partner—she’s in the lead, by the way. It’s just layers and layers of things to discover.

Definitely with Narcisse and Catherine, they are two very powerful creatures who are always looking out for themselves (except for obviously Catherine is protecting her son), so when they are together there is a wariness, but also an understanding of each other. There are a few moments with her so far where they sort of let their guard down with each other and it is quite lovely. If, when, what, how it happens—you know it is just going to be monstrous. Awful and wonderful.

TV Equals: What is the best part about playing Lord Narcisse?

Craig Parker: It’s wonderful to play someone without fear. Very little makes him afraid in this world. No one can hurt him really, so there is this wonderful sense of confidence and power. Acting is always a little bit of therapy for actors, I think. It’s exciting to feel that sense of omnipotence, really, but within the way the show works there is a kind of large, ramping up of dramatic arcs to finding out what the vulnerability of the character is.

As an actor getting a new script each week, it is so exciting because the writers are opening up so subtly. I am always fascinated by the conflict in a character—the screw-ups, the scars and the damage. For all of his power and showmanship, he has issues that make him the way he is.

TV Equals: Most memorable experience you have had on set so far?

Craig Parker: It’s such a fast paced show that we’re one of the casts that is very aware of direction. The writers are coming in and going we don’t need to tell you that. It’s one of those shows where every day, I just delight in going into work.

It is terrifying joining a new show, especially one that has been running for a full year and as much as you want to put on a brave face, there is this sort of five-year-old going to school for the first day. Immediately, I was part of the family. What’s wonderful with those people is that there is no sense of know your place; you are immediately part of the company. The first scenes I had with them all were incredibly confrontational and you need to trust each other to be able to go to that place.

TV Equals: Is there something that draws you to these elaborate, world-building series (like Spartacus, Xena, Reign)?

Craig Parker: It’s strange. There hasn’t been a huge amount of focus and direction I’ve put into it. They’re just so much fun to do. I love storytelling. For the first 10 years of my life, we didn’t have a television, so the idea of large, imaginary worlds have always fascinated and excited me. I love the theatricality of these worlds, but there is always a base humanity running underneath. The great thing is you get fantastic costumes, to ride horses and do heroic things, and they get to do things to other characters you probably could not get away with on a legal show.

TV Equals: If you could guest star on any television series which series would it be and why?

Craig Parker: The new Twin Peaks. It was one of those exceptional shows when it was on. It would infuriate me and I would scream at the television when it was on, but we would gather together on a Wednesday night and drink lots of wine and try to understand it.

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