Samantha Morton: “When men speak on set, it’s as if God had opened his mouth” – Noufelle FR

You can feel it, even on a wobbly video connection. Samantha Morton sits with her back straight, eye contact firmly maintained, listening to every word. You can feel it, a fire inside her, tight.

It’s a quality built into her new character, Queen Catherine de’ Medici of France, in Starzplay’s delightful new show, The Serpent Queen. “I felt like Catherine was almost like a very old-fashioned Don, like Don Corleone,” Morton says, speaking, I might add, before Elizabeth II died last week. “There was no problem with her. She had a stillness about her that was incredibly frightening.

There’s certainly no hint of a standard mean woman — all the high-pitched emotions and murderous hysteria (“Because they associate mean women with hormones,” Morton points out). But the child-trafficked bride who has become a formidable leader feels like a familiar skin for Morton to wear. Catherine joins a long list of unique women she has inhabited. Women who have killed. who have been exploited. Who had to fight. Who chose. They are, well, complicated.

“I just like a role that I can get my teeth into that’s different from something I’ve done before,” Morton says of the common thread that binds his characters together. “Myra Hindley is very different from Mary Queen of Scots. She played Moors Murderer Hindley, dubbed by the press ‘Britain’s most evil woman’, in the 2006 film Longfordand Mary Queen of Scots, Cate Blanchett’s ill-fated rival of Elizabeth I, a year later in Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

Samantha Morton in The Serpent Queen (Photographer: Shanna Besson)

“I’m a real old-school character actress,” she continues. “I grew up watching Tim Roth and Gary Oldman thinking, I like the roles they’re given, how can I have a career like that? »

She actually had a career like that, starting with ITV soldier soldier in 1991, before breaking into gold band four years later, when she was just 16. Over the next two and a half decades, she built a substantial career in quality television (Jane Eyre, The Walking Dead), independent films (Control, Morvern Callar) and the weird blockbuster (Minority Report, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them).

This isn’t the first period piece Morton has starred in – see 2017 prostitutes — but it’s perhaps surprising that she’s made another one when she feels what she feels for (most of them). “I find a lot of fake and distant TV,” she says. “As far as costume dramas go, I just see that I’m watching a costume drama. »

But Morton was drawn to Catherine, to the book the series is based on (Catherine de Medici: Queen of France during the Renaissance by Leonie Frieda), and by creator Justin Haythe’s sympathetic script, which charted how the mighty matriarch was built, bone by bone.

“Justin wants to debunk it, and just say, look how this human being was treated. I mean, I have a 14 year old, and I couldn’t imagine anything like this happening to them. [getting married]. I mean, it still happens to this day. It’s not owning your own life, not having autonomy in that way.

The reversal of the Roe case in America certainly highlighted the issues of bodily autonomy and state interference, and it’s something the filmmakers didn’t shy away from. “In the times that we live in — certainly in the United States of America, and unfortunately, potentially moving forward in this country — what I found really brave for the showrunners is that they didn’t have afraid to point out how she didn’t have control of her own body,” Morton says. “And that she had no say in any aspect of the things that happened to her; that she was just the vessel.

Samantha Morton and Lesley Manville in Harlots (Picture: BBC)

Television has become a more progressive medium and having worked in the industry for three decades, Morton has seen the seismic changes firsthand.

The Serpent Queen had two female directors (Ingrid Jungermann and Stacie Passon) and there was a “strong female presence on set”, which is certainly a step up from the days when women rarely extended beyond the band- hairstyle and makeup ad.

Morton has previously been called “difficult” to have opinions and express them on set. Are those days behind us? Behind her?

“It’s a completely different world we live in now,” she says. “But still…I’ve worked with some great male actors. And when they raise their hand and say, “Hey, I’ve got an idea here” or “Maybe we could look at it this way,” it’s like, “Oh, my God, they talked! It’s almost as if God opened his mouth.

“And then sometimes, when myself or a co-worker was like, ‘Maybe we can just…’ they’re like, ‘Wait, what? “. Not so sure The Serpent Queen, but I still have a lot. It doesn’t matter if you are a successful director, actor or writer, it doesn’t matter.

Morton has certainly earned her right to speak out on creative matters – her directorial debut the unloved won two Baftas and attracted two million viewers when it aired on Channel 4 in 2009 (a record for a single dramatic episode). It told the story of an 11-year-old girl growing up in a foster home, like Morton herself had. To her surprise, she only received one offer to make a follow-up film, then from Channel 4, which had commissioned a second film, tumbleweed.

“It was very sad,” she said. “I wrote it, then they didn’t want to read it and they didn’t want to know. They didn’t even read it, even though the first film did as well as it did. “There’s something weird about that. And that’s because the young guy who’s sitting there interviewing me and deciding whether or not he’s going to give me the money to make the movie doesn’t know as much as I do about movies and doesn’t remember not what the unloved was on point.

It’s not just British film that has a long way to go, Morton says. In Hollywood, “they think the business is superheroes and action movies and a token gesture of giving a young woman a chance to put on a catsuit and fight bad guys. But when it comes to drama, we’re a long way from the 1940s, when there were big roles for women. And I think they forget who pays for movie tickets and who pays the bills in those homes on streaming.

Morton’s passion and that controlled fire comes from her real-life experiences and the work you feel she sees not just as a job, but as a calling. One who can change worlds and lives. When Morton reads scripts, she says she wonders, “How can I give more to this?” Is it fully rounded? Or is there – without sounding pretentious – a message here? Is there a way to educate the public? I love telling stories.

“And I also love listening and reading and discovering people we might not know, bringing their stories to the fore and, you know, walking a mile in my shoes…”

She is currently the advocate for the World Health Organization in its campaign to end violence against children. “I think we have to look at society as a whole,” she says, citing the closure of Sure Start centers, zero-hour contracts, punishing those who can’t work (“My mother was dying of a lung cancer and she was still fighting for her disability award, because they said she was fit to work,” she says) and workers who have to work multiple jobs to support their families.

“I think there’s absolute arrogance from the powers that be thinking, ‘Oh, we just need to manage our money better or budget differently,’” she says.

” I’m lucky. I am privileged. I’m not remotely on the bread line. But I know a lot of people who are, and I know what’s going on. And this is a bigger problem than simple interventions with social workers in so-called problem families. With every article we read, there are many, many [more] young people and children who die, whether by suicide, murder or abuse in the street, who do not find themselves in the newspapers or in the regional press. So I think, yeah, telling the stories through film and TV, hopefully we can make a change.

It is the fire that she holds firmly. She controls it, channels it, makes us all feel it.

The Serpent Queen is now available on Starzplay

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Samantha Morton: “When men speak on set, it’s as if God had opened his mouth” – Noufelle FR