Tony Curran in "Mary & George" Source: Starz

EDGE Interview: Tony Curran Gets Close with Nicholas Galitzine in 'Mary & George'

Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 6 MIN.

Two of the more unexpected queer icons from history are King James I of England (who was also King James VI of Scotland, the son of Mary, Queen of Scots) and a favored member of his court, George Villiers, whom most historians agree was likely one of James' male lovers. Their bond may seem surprising, since this was the same King James who commissioned a new translation of the bible – you know the one; the version that declares two men "lying together" is an "abomination." (There's some disagreement around the translation, since the original word seemingly refers to a prohibition that applied to members of the Jewish faith, probably with regard to male temple prostitutes, rather than a blanket condemnation of same-gender sexual activity.)

Whatever the bible that bears his name might say, King James I showed great favor to George Villers, who, as a result, had an outsized influence on the affairs of England at the time. The seven-episode Starz series "May & George," which is based on Benjamin Woolley's 2018 nonfiction book "The King's Assassin," zeroes in on their relationship, positing that George's mother, Mary, encouraged the young man to pursue a sexual relationship with the king as a way of securing – and improving – the Villiers' standing in society.

Watch the trailer to "Mary & George."

The palace intrigue built into the premise is juicy, and the series – co-created by Oliver Hermanus ("Moffie"), with about half the episodes helmed by the South African director – delights in presenting artfully staged, and decidedly steamy, tableaux rife with sexuality, jealousy, and plenty of male nudity.

Scottish actor Tony Curran, a native of Glasgow, has played everything from MCU villains to recurring characters on "Ray Donovan," "Sons of Anarchy," and "The Flash." He's even had a role in the 2013 movie "Mary Queen of Scots" as John Knox, leader of the Reformation in Scotland.

Curran shares the screen with "Red, White & Royal Blue" star Nicholas Galitzine, who plays George Villiers, and Julianne Moore, who plays Mary. The electricity is palpable between these three main characters. EDGE had a chance to ask Curran about his experiences on the set of "Mary & George," his insights into the historical King James, and what it was like to share those intimate moments with Nicholas Galitzine.

Nicholas Galitzine and Tony Curran
Source: Starz

EDGE: 'Mary & George' has some pretty sizzling scenes.

Tony Curran Sizzling is a good adjective, yeah!

EDGE: Did you worry at all they might be a bit too spicy?

Tony Curran: Oh, no, I think they weren't spicy enough!


Tony Curran: When I read it, I was like, "Oh, my goodness, this is, um... can I actually watch this with my mother?" But I actually watched [episodes] two and three with my mum – last week, actually – and at one point she went, "For heaven's sake! Are you going to do a scene with any clothes on?" But she's been watching my career for years, so she was suitably unimpressed. Well, she was impressed with the show!

I think the show has a lot of sensuality and sexuality to it, but I think it's a device by a lot of these characters to get to certain places within this world. It's a sexual currency, if you will. I think there was a reason for it, for a lot of these characters. Spicy is a good adjective. I like that.

EDGE: What was it like working with Nicolas Galitzine in those scenes, and forging the emotional connection between your characters?

Tony Curran: You know, Nick's a good friend. We formed quite a bond on the show. He's a lovely actor. He's a charming young man; he's really funny and sweet and down to earth. And, gosh, I don't know what it would have been like if the relationship hadn't been so close, you know, hadn't been so tight. It was definitely some very tender moments and very challenging physical connection between us. But ultimately, Nick was very much in George's shoes, if you will, and me with James was the same, so when it came down to these very sensual moments, I think we were so enveloped in those characters and in that world, and we trusted each other. We had this lovely intimacy coordinator, Robbie, and everybody just trusted each other. We knew the job that we had to do, so we just expressed that.

Obviously, these are queer characters, but there's a tenderness between George and James, which I think hopefully comes across – and ultimately, I think, King James really cared for George Villiers deeply.

Tony Curran, Julianne Moore, Nicholas Galitzine and Oliver Hermanus attend the "Mary and George" UK Premiere at Banqueting House on February 28, 2024 in London, England. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

EDGE: For you, in your actor's notebook, what is King James' malaise? Why does he need these extremes?

Tony Curran: I think a lot of it goes back to not having sort of a matriarchal figure. Mary, Queen of Scots [James' mother], was, you know ... executed. And I think his traumatic childhood, obviously pertains to the man he became.

I spoke to Benjamin Woolley. We would always look at paintings of King James, and we'd always say, "What does he look like, what is that?" And I would say, "Well, he doesn't look like he wants to be there. He wants to be distracted. He wants to be somewhere else." And a lot of his sensual exploits were, I think, an escapism. He just wanted to get away from the weight of the monarchy, the weight of this political world that he was in. Many people were always vying for his affection, vying for his attention to try and ascend up through society – obviously, Mary Villiers and George did that, themselves.

There's a scene with Georgia at the end of episode two where he says, "Take me, bury me! I want to forget who I am." So, I think there were elements of those pleasures that he just wanted to forget and go somewhere beautiful or magical.

EDGE: Julianne Moore is royalty of a sort – Hollywood royalty. What was it like working with her?

Tony Curran: It was a joy. She brings such a calm, fun nature to set, and a sort of fierce professionalism. A lot of the scenes that we did together were quite poignant. When I first met Julianne, she was just like, "Hey, Tony, how you doing?" I said, "Nice to meet you, Julianne." And she said, "Where are you from?" I said, "Glasgow," and she goes, "Oh, your accent may trip me up." And I said, "Why is that?," and she goes, "Because my mother's from Greenock," and Greenock is a little town just outside Glasgow.

I didn't actually realize that at the time, but Julianne Moore's heritage is Scottish – hence the red hair maybe. And also... her performance is, is so layered and so powerful. I think people are really going to really respond to it. She really does kill it, in more ways than one.


"Mary & George" is streaming on Starz. For more information, follow this link.

by Kilian Melloy , EDGE Staff Reporter

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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