It Starts On The Page: Read ‘Mary & George’ Premiere Script “The Second Son” By D.C. Moore

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Editor’s note: Deadline’s It Starts on the Page features standout limited or anthology series scripts in 2024 Emmy contention.

D.C. Moore took a rare foray into television for his Starz limited series Mary & George, having last penned an entire series nearly a decade ago with the British drama-comedy, Not Safe For Work.

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Taking inspiration from one of the more lively periods in British history, Mary & George, based on Benjamin Woolley’s non-fiction book The King’s Assassin, stars Julianne Moore as a single mother who is determined to gain notoriety (read: money) for her family. Even if it means volunteering her son, played by Nicholas Galitzine, as a lover for King James.

Written by Moore and directed by Oliver Hermanus, the opening episode, titled “The Second Son,” sets the tone for the series and introduces Mary Villiers (Moore) as quite a mastermind in 15th century England. As a commoner, Mary understands that she must play by society’s rules, even if she sees through the thinly veiled nonsense of it all. But, that doesn’t mean she has to stay powerless. Enter her son, George Villiers (Galitzine) who, despite being a second son of a poor family, is positioned to become one of the most powerful men in England thanks to his sexual exploits with the king.

Here is “The Second Son” script with an introduction from Moore, in which he discusses capturing the spirit of the Jacobean era through the lives of Mary and George Villiers — two fascinating figures who hold quite a lot of significance to the British monarch — and explains why he was keen to shed light on this moment in history.

King James VI of Scotland and I of England loved men. With his mind and body. 
 
For a very long time this fact was ignored, denied, or danced around. Most historians turned their backs to it and James has rarely been depicted on screen. 
 
In my view, if you look at all the evidence from the time and deny this part of James it is somewhat akin to denying that the sun is hot. (Clue: it is!) 
 
James would fall so hard (pun intended, sorry) for his male lovers he would give them title after title, immensely powerful political positions, and staggering riches. By ruling James’ heart – and lower – you might get to, essentially, rule the country. It led to attractive young gentlemen being presented before James by powerful competing factions, all trying to lure him into falling for their man… 
 
That was the nature of power in Jacobean England. Not a sensible system of national governance, to put it mildly. It was mad. 
 
I had heard the odd thing about James liking men, but I had no idea as to the extent of his passions. So when Liza Marshall, our (absolutely bloody brilliant) Executive Producer, sent me Benjamin Wooley’s The King’s Assassin – which inspired our show – I was stunned. Not just by James’ story but also by a mother and son who shone out so brightly…
 
Mary Villiers was from the provinces, with question marks over her origins, and no money or significant social connections. She used George her second son (usually worthless things, given they were not heirs), and any and all means possible, to rise and rise. She is buried with George in Westminster Abbey alongside Kings, Queens and all kinds of English (good and bad) legends. Her tomb says she is a ‘direct descendent of five European Kings’, which is almost certainly a total lie. I find it hard not to love that. 
 
This first episode was my attempt to announce Mary. An uncompromising, deeply smart woman who sees through society’s bullshit but also accepts she has to play by its rules. Or at least pretend to. I wanted Mary to be like one of those sharks that cannot sleep. That has to keep moving in order to live. She is ceaseless. Because she has to be. A woman in a man’s world. A commoner in an age of Kings. She should not have achieved all she did.
 
And yet: her son became the most powerful man in England, first dominating James and then his son, Charles I. For a generation, he was England. His sexual exploits during this time are genuinely staggering. Men. Women. Kings. Queens. He made James seem like a quaint, untouched virgin. But this power – political and sexual – corrupted him. Deeply. By the time of his death, he was so unpopular they had to bury him at night so there would not be riots at his funeral.
 
Though in this very first episode, George is very far from all that. He is just a young, passionate, fairly innocent young man starting out in the provinces. This felt like a sensible place to begin given that, in the rest of the series, we see how exposure to power gradually begins to change and harden and undo him. The opening episode is the first step on that long, dark journey…
 
A journey which feels very much of our time, as autocrats, and rulers acting on their baser instincts, seem so on the rise. But it is also a timeless story, Absolute power corrupts absolutely. It always has. And it always will. As it did with George. 
 
Finally, in my writing I wanted to capture the spirit of this era. Jacobean drama mixed the high and low; it cursed, sang, jigged, and was generally not very well-behaved. It mixed the tragic with the comic, in a way that the lives of Mary and George (and James) really did. And most lives do, in truth. This show is not a dry history lesson. It is pretty wet. But so were the Jacobeans. A people in the troubled shadow of their priapic, constantly inconstant lover of a King.

Click below to read the script.

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