The television show Reign is the romanticized version of the early life of Mary, Queen of Scots while she lived in France. While not 100% historically correct, the entertaining show does take aim to account for the life events Mary went through in its own dramatic fashion. First released in 2013, Reign is now in it’s third season and has won awards such as Favorite New TV Drama at the People’s Choice Awards in 2014.
Royal Central had the chance to talk with Canadian actor Mark Ghanimé who portrays the Spanish Prince Don Carlos on the hit show. He took us inside of what it takes to play a prince, what is coming up next for Don Carlos and the love/hate relationship fans have with him.
Carlos, Prince of Asturias (1545-1568) or more commonly known as Don Carlos was the heir-apparent of King Philip II of Spain. Once betrothed to Elizabeth of Valois, marriages to Margaret of Valois, Anna of Austria and Mary, Queen of Scots were all proposed. The mentally unstable prince was imprisoned by his father and died shortly after.
Reign airs in North America on The CW, Fridays 8/7c and in the United Kingdom, Reign can be viewed on Netflix.
Warning– If you are not all caught up to the latest episode the following interview does contain spoilers!
Royal Central (RC): How would you describe Reign to those who haven’t seen it?
Mark Ghanimé (MG): Reign is a, and I mean this in a nice way, is a soap opera in the time of Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth and while it is not completely accurate for the history of it all it is a very entertaining show lots of melodrama, lots of love triangles, lots of love squares maybe. There is a lot of that going on, lots of shipping as they call it in the internet world. It’s got a lot of controversial stuff, just a lot of well I am not sure how to describe the dynamic between the characters but there is always something going on between the characters, there is always some sort of issue, everyone has a back story, everyone always seems to have a secret on the show.
RC: Did you know anything about Queen Mary before you started the show?
MG: Well, I actually auditioned for back when it was a pilot when it was first coming on to the network I auditioned for King Henry so Megan Follows husband on the show who dies or gets killed in season 1, I auditioned originally for him so when they cast Megan I think they wanted someone a bit older than me to play the king. You know when they are doing pilots they aren’t exactly sure what age they want to set the characters at so the set a wide net, they will audition people who are 25-years for the part to people who are 45-years depending on how they want to go with the show, so yeah I auditioned for him way back so I was pretty familiar with the story.
RC: So when you got the part of Don Carlos did you know anything about him or did you have to learn?
MG: I knew there was something a little off about him because the scenes the gave me for the audition, one of the scenes never occurred in the final filming, they never got written into the script but it gave the producers and the show runner a taste of what I could do with the material. So I knew there was something off about his sexual preferences for sure and then I did my own research after. I Wikipediaed Don Carlos of Spain and sort of figured out a lot more about him as I was offered the part.
RC: How does one prepare to play royalty?
MG: Knowing a little about Spain it was a very powerful country at that time it had most of the money in the world at that point so you know, you can already get an idea of what type of person this guy will be. He is going to be, he is a son of a king who is very, very wealthy, very powerful and well respected and feared. So, those are hard shoes to fill. I already had an idea how this guy was going to be. I didn’t want to , given the instructions I was given when I spoke to Laurie McCarthy, the show runner, when I spoke to her about how she wanted me to play the character in the first episode when he meets Queen Mary, we didn’t want to give any indication that I was at all weird or creepy or of my sexual fetishes so I played it very, very straight. So I had to keep a lot of prep at bay for that first episode, but once it started rolling, episode 7, you see my freak flag fly a bit higher and I could delve into a bit of character play which was fun to do for sure.
RC: So even though Don Carlos turned out to be bad, it seems the fans are still really rooting for him. Why do you think this is?
MG: Becuase I think, attributing to the writing, they wrote him as a very kind, genuine guy for episodes 4-7 before his accident happened so I think people say that and I think part of my work was to give the audience something to attach themselves to in a kind way, not oh he is straight villain or beware be worried about this guy straight away. It was be as genuine as you can, be as kind as you can, be as loving to Mary as I could and still show what I need from the relationship and I think the way I went about it, I didn’t force her into anything, I didn’t make her feel creepy about anything. Every step of the way when I was on that weird sex horse I was asking her if she was okay with it, I was getting her permission. So I think they saw that and the fans realized, due to the writing, that he was used he, he was lied to and he became angry because of that so I don’t think the fans totally blame him for wanting to kill Mary and take over her country. They realize it was part of his injuries that really angered him and felt supremely betrayed.
RC: Will we be seeing Don Carlos in the future?
MG: That is a bit of information I don’t have. You know, they are still filming the season and whether the writers decided to offer me a spot back on the show is yet to be seen. The nice thing about these kind of shows is that you are never really gone, I wasn’t killed, I was just banished. We don’t know if they are going to create some sort of story line where Spain is a bit angry or I am angry still so it is yet to be seen but I hope so, it was a great cast and crew. They are a really good group of people for sure.
RC: What about that time era intrigues you the most because it is very different than anything else you have done?
MG: The head of costumes, Meridith, designed some incredible gear. The wardrobe was all tailored to me, it was made for me. When someone asks you to send you their measurements you send them your average measurements. When I went in for a fitting, the measured here, this length, this length, this length [motioning from shoulder to elbow, elbow to wrist, circumference around arm] they did all the little measurements to get a perfectly tailored costume. So I show up and they have 4 or 5 things they have built for me and I put them on and automatically I just felt the character come alive. So I think for me the most fun I had was the costume. And the second thing I think was working with the British accent, I did what was called British RP which is received pronunciation, which is a very strict form of British accent and obviously, I am Spanish and I wouldn’t have been using a British accent but that is what they use for the show so I wanted to work on that and nail the accent which was a nice challenge because I have never really worked with a British accent, well non-project related, for real paying work it was my first time using it.
RC: Do you have any other projects your fans can look forward to?
MG: At the moment I am in the process, it is in pre-production, I am doing a sci-fi short film this spring and I’ve got a couple of other things that are happening hopefully this year and I am heading the west coast as well so right now there is the short film. there is also a series called Slasher that I shot in the fall that is coming out in March, it is a thriller anthology series, like a murder mystery so that will be a lot of fun. I play a very different character from Don Carlos.