Yass, queen — Queen Mary!
For three years, the trials and tribulations, joys and heartbreaks of Reign‘s Mary, Queen of Scots have captivated fans. They’ve cheered on her romance and marriage to Francis, a prince and later king of France. They mourned his death with her. They followed her political maneuvers, including her eventual move to Scotland to claim her throne. And now, they’ll watch the final chapter of her story as she works to unite her country and cement her power.
To celebrate the final season of Reign, which premieres Friday on The CW, we asked creator Laurie McCarthy to participate in our Ask the Fans series, where TV producers pose questions they’ve always wanted to ask their audience. She submitted six questions; we collected fans’ answers and reported them back to her. Here’s how she responded.
Laurie McCarthy asks: What did you know about the real Mary Stuart/Mary Queen of Scots before you watched Reign? Were you prepared for what her efforts to hold onto power would cost her?
Analyzing the answers: Reign inspired fans to hit the books (and Wikipedia) to learn more about Mary (played by Adelaide Kane). Lindsay wrote, “I really didn’t know that much about Mary, only what I had seen in other Elizabeth movies, which usually portrayed Mary as a villain and murderess. Once the show aired, it was fascinating to learn about the real Mary through my own research. She truly was a tragic romantic heroine who was born into a no-win situation and did the best she could but ultimately lost it all.”
Cindy said, “All I knew was that she was beheaded. I did Google information about her once I started watching the show. I had no idea how much she had gone through in her life.”
Meredith agreed: “I never realized just how much she would have to sacrifice. Honestly, it’s a bit heartbreaking to see everything she lost and how hard she’s had to fight.”
McCarthy responds: “I’m glad that it led everyone to research. We, by no means, set out to be an educational show, and we definitely wanted to do a fictionalized version of this historical character. But I like the idea that people started to do a little research into history, not just on Mary but on all the different times. You can see the parallels between then and now. I think that’s really exciting. As writers, we used to joke about history buffs who might hate-watch the show, but we were just happy that they were watching.”
McCarthy asks: Did you love or hate Catherine de Medici? Did you love-to-hate her? If you hated her and then loved her, when did you start to love her?
Analyzing the answers: The majority of fans came to love the scheming, delightfully cutting Catherine (played by Megan Follows). Camellia said, “She is my reason for watching the series. I never hated her, but she became more interesting once her tortured soul was revealed beginning with her reveal to Mary of her unhappiness in her marriage.”
Rebecca hated Catherine in the beginning, but grew to love her: “I think I started to love her when she realized Mary loved her son as much as she did.”
And fans could not get enough of Follows’ performance. “Could you have cast that role any better than Megan Follows? I don’t think so!” said Shannon.
McCarthy responds: “Megan Follows was such a find. I love her personally, I love her professionally, I love her sense of humor. You don’t even have to give her a line and she’s funny. … Catherine was definitely introduced as a villain, but she was introduced with some comedy. I don’t want anybody to hate anybody on the show. Even John Knox, who we get to later in the season, is somebody I think you’ll have some compassion for.”
McCarthy asks: Did you know, when you started watching the show, that Francis would die? Did you learn that he would die at a young age and early in his marriage to Mary from the show itself (when his death was foretold or you read about it in the press) or from history? And once Francis died, was it hard to forgive the show for killing the character?
Analyzing the answers: Pretty much everyone knew ahead of time that Francis would die. That didn’t make it any easier to lose Toby Regbo. Emily said, “As a fan of Toby’s it was so hard not seeing him on the show anymore. I miss the character, as Toby was so perfect for that role! There was nothing to forgive really, as he had to die at some point. It’s not like there was a super shock factor he was going to die, it was more so a question of when and what season, but it’s still tough.”
Sarah wrote, “It wasn’t hard to forgive the show about Francis’ death because that’s what happened and they did it in an honorable way. And I always knew that the show was mainly about Mary anyway.”
McCarthy responds: “When you look back in the series, [Francis’ death] is foretold. And then we went on to make it clear that what Nostradamus predicted would come to pass. But there was a strong reaction to the news that he was going to die, and I think that was brief and in the moment. I’m relieved to hear that we prepared people for that adequately.”
As for saying goodbye to the actor, it was tough on her, too: “I love Toby, too. I missed him on the show from the minute he was gone. But it did launch all the stories forward … We worried about [losing him] because Adelaide and Toby had such incredible chemistry, and you do wonder whether you’re ever going to find that again.”
McCarthy asks: Would you want to live in the 16th Century? If so, would you want to be a royal (where you are a target but are also wildly privileged)? If not a royal, what strata of society would you want to live in?
Analyzing the answers: The fans ran the gamut, from some wanting to live the life of a 16th century royal to others who are just fine with 2017. As Andrea put it, “I love modern medicine and conveniences too much.”
Emily is a fan who would like to try out court life: “I would want to be a lady in waiting. It’s not any easier, as we have seen on the show, but at least there is no pressure of being the ‘face’ of the nation.”
Tisha said, “I think it would be fascinating to live in that time period, especially at Court, because alliances and enemies changed so quickly that you were always playing a game of sorts just to stay alive — but ultimately too dangerous for me! I’d most likely want to live in the merchant class.”
McCarthy responds: “I wonder in today’s climate if there’s a yearning for a simpler time. But it was also a world that I and the other writers lived in every day for four years. We did a lot of historical research, a lot of which didn’t necessarily make it on screen, though it informed what came on screen. There were a lot of things that you just wouldn’t necessarily portray about daily life in the 16th Century. Not to mention there were incredible comforts with the royal experience. We weren’t always able to portray that, either.”
What would she do? “The writers all came to the decision that none of us ever wanted to be royals in any century,” she said with a laugh. “At most, we wanted to be in the merchant class, and even then, not necessarily the boss.”
McCarthy asks: Would you ever want to be a queen or a king, a president or prime minister? If you had a nation’s power in your hand, would you rather rise to power on your own merits or be handed it unquestioningly?
Analyzing the answers: If fans achieved a position of power, all of them would want it on their own merits. Mia said, “I would make sure to work hard and earn my nation’s trust, earn my subjects’ trust. … I would engage with people like the King and Queen in my country (Norway) do. I would be aware of my privilege and use it to help less privileged people.”
Shannon would love to be a queen, but, as she noted, “I think I would be bored with the duties, scared of being in control of an entire country and having every single decision I made affect everyone around me.”
Others, like Rebecca, preferred to focus on the perks: “I would like being a queen for fashion reasons.”
McCarthy responds: “I like the variety of the responses. I asked the question because we just came out of an election season. We had two candidates, regardless of what you thought of either one, neither of whom really needed the job. Neither of them needed to be President of the United States, but they put themselves in such precarious positions and made such targets of themselves.”
McCarthy asks: How would you describe the tone of the show? Do you think it’s more romance or plot/events driven? Would you say there was intentional comedy in it? What drew you to the show?
Analyzing the answers: Reign drew fans in for many different reasons. Shannon wrote, “I think the show has everything, to be honest. Romance, of course, but there is always SO MUCH going on that it always has your attention. I can think back on some bits that I thought were funny, such as Catherine de Medici planning her own beheading down to the last detail.”
Cindy said, “I think it’s a very good mix of romance and plot driven. I absolutely love the humor, and I hope that there are more episodes like that because it can be a bit dark at times.”
Lindsay gushed, “When describing this show to others, I always say it’s the most perfect blend of historical fantasy/fanfiction that you’ve ever seen. It has it all — the epic romance, the danger, the intrigue, betrayals, the affairs, the quest for power — all portrayed by beautiful people, wearing beautiful clothes, who live in gorgeous castles. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
McCarthy responds: “The answers make me feel like we succeeded in what we attempted to achieve. I wanted the show to be a mix of tones, too, while being very high-stakes. The first two seasons were pretty plot-driven. The first handful of episodes were establishing Mary and Francis, but there were kind of big moves going on with what was happening internationally.”
Overall, she loved how insightful and thoughtful the fans’ answers were. Her wish as they watch the final season play out: “I hope they remember the show as a unique journey of a very distinctive life, about a woman who we meet as a girl and her coming into not just her political power but her personal power. I hope they look back on choices people make with forgiveness and compassion.”
The final season of Reign premieres Feb. 10 at 9 p.m. on The CW.