Queen of Oz: Catherine Tate Interview



Queen of Oz

Queen of Oz: Catherine Tate Interview

In new BBC comedy Queen of Oz, Catherine Tate plays Princess Georgina, the second in line to the throne who ends up being sent to Australia as their newly crowned Queen. Here she tells us how the series came about and why she might end up being Queen of Canada too.

Hi Catherine, can you tell us about your many roles on Queen of Oz?

I play Princess Georgiana, later to become Queen Georgiana aka Georgie. I’m also one of the writers.

And Executive Producer and Co-creator!

No one really knows what an Executive Producer does!

Queen of Oz is such a brilliant idea, how did it come about?

Well, the genesis of this project had nothing to do with myself or Jeff , we wrote it but it wasn’t our idea. That credit goes to a Canadian producer called Borga Dorta who got in touch with me to say, ‘I really love your work and I’ve got this idea about a minor member of a fictitious royal family, who gets sent over to Canada to become their Queen.’ I really liked it, so we all worked up a treatment, went to Toronto and pitched it to Canadian TV studios.

It was called, wait for it, Queen Of Canada! While we were in a café between meetings I said, ‘You know what, I think this might be better situated to Australia. Plus, Queen of Oz is a much better title.’ So that’s how it came about. That’s a very long winded way of saying it wasn’t my idea. We’re still waiting on hearing back from the Canadians but to be fair, they did say they usually take a long time to say yes….

The Queen of Oz is much better than Queen of Canada…

Oh, Queen of Oz is great! I just love that title.

Where did you draw inspiration from (beyond the initial idea)?

Like most fiction our imagination I guess. We had the premise then had to build the world she is in, and map out each character. We knew where we wanted to end so we worked backwards from there.

So tell me about Georgie, Australia’s new Queen? What kind of person is she and does she actually evolve across the series?

She’s a reluctant Queen as she really thought she was going to live out her life going to parties, not do much of anything or have any responsibility. So she gets a very rude awakening getting shipped off to Australia as their newly-crowned Queen. She’s very difficult, very hard to work for and doesn’t make it easy for anyone. She’s spoilt, entitled and deeply unpleasant which of course makes her a great character to play. She does evolve somewhat over the series but at her core she’s fun and she’s anarchic. I think when you’re playing someone like that, you don’t need people to love her, you don’t really need anyone to like her even, you just need them to laugh at her.

Is there a moment or any scenes that you really love?

So many, because they carry the memories of when we were filming them and the ones that stay with you are inevitably the ones where everyone starts laughing! Especially memorable was Will (Mathew) in the last scene of the series but I can’t say what happened because, well, spoilers!

There’s one scene where I was laying into the character Zoe about bullying and every single take we just disintegrated, disintegrated! I just couldn’t get the words right because I’d decided at the last minute to make up a song and kept getting it wrong. I love the take we’ve used, but it’s the only one where I say the right words and we’ve still had to use Jenna Owen laughing in it! I recorded it off the screen in the edit and sent it to her (that’s a definite violation of my contract) and we both love it.

How does Georgie respond to Australia? And does her attitude towards Australia change at all?

Well, Georgie’s attitude to Australia was formed when she was sent to Canberra to go to boarding school when she was 13 and bullied relentlessly, so she doesn’t come here with a whole host of great memories. However as in all shows, of course she’s going to evolve and we wanted to make Australia itself a character. Her relationship to Australia really takes the place of the usual romcom, they start off hating each other and in the end, as it progresses, she has to come to love it because she’s its Queen.… She’s her Queen… Australia is a female.

Can you tell me about her relationship with her brother Freddie?

Oh, Georgie’s relationship with Freddie, it’s sibling rivalry and it’s never really got out of the nursery. They’re just jibing with each other all the time and one-upping each other. He’s always been the golden child and she’s felt very much in his shadow. But they’re just two eight-year-olds really. When they get together they bicker and snipe and it’s not unusual to end in a full on scuffle. There is deep down of course that bond that ties them together.

You have a great Australian ensemble cast. Tell me a little bit about how it was working with them? We lucked out so much! The cast and crew are brilliant, lovely, friendly, welcoming, magnificent people! And the cherry on the cake for me, I was able to work with my brilliant friend Niky Wardley, who plays the absolute scene-stealing Anabel – Georgie’s Lady-In-Waiting. Joyous.

Tell me more about your relationship with Niky?

We have a great friendship and met over 20 years ago in a play at the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company) that funnily enough we went to Australia with and we’ve become great friends ever since and I just love working with her. She’s just brilliant and I really trust her judgment. We’re on the same wavelength and there’s just a kind shorthand that we’ve always had.

How did you respond to seeing Swifts for the first time as your Australian Palace?

Yes, Macquarie House as we call it in the show, that was a coup! Walking into that location for the first time we were open mouthed because we did actually feel like we were filming The Crown! Absolutely sumptuous and I think this historic gem in the middle of Sydney works fantastically on screen.

And all of it was filmed Australia?

Yes we were in Australia for all of it, I always think it can look a bit odd when you are clearly not where you are supposed to be, so there was never a question that it wasn’t all going to be there.

Did you like spending time there? Is there anything you miss about it?

Yes I loved being there for sure. We meet such a lot of great people and it’s always good to have new friends in faraway places. I also miss the acai bowls!

You met her Majesty The Queen what was that like?

I did! It was after the Royal Variety show when everyone lines up to shake hands. She was very gracious and engaged, no mean feat when you think of how many of us she had to meet.

By the end of the series how do you think Georgie feels about the country which she now calls home?

I guess this country that she’s been dragged to kicking and screaming offers her a sort of comfort. A new start. I like the idea that she’s somewhere she feels displaced and doesn’t like but knows she’s going to have to stay. She’s imperfect and she does make blunders and she does break royal protocol, so the idea going forward would be that her and Australia come to terms and accept each other.

The Aussies could realise that she is not as stuffy as the others and she realises that Australia is more accepting of her than Britain would ever be so there could be more of a coming together of Queen and country. Or could there? With the rising tide of Republicanism Georgie would have her work cut out. She needs Australia now!

More about The Queen of Oz

The future of the British monarchy is in jeopardy due to Princess Georgiana’s (Georgie) wild partying and string of high-profile scandals.

Her parents send her and her new staff (Director of Communications Zoe, Private Secretary Bernard, Head of Security Officer Marc, Personal Assistant Matthew, Lady in Waiting Anabel, and Master of the Household Weiwei) to Australia so that she can get as far away from London as possible while also trying to keep Australia in the Commonwealth.

Georgie’s first public appearance in Australia is at a welcome reception, but things quickly go downhill after an offensive faux pas from the jet-lagged new Queen.

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