Politics, Intrigue, Sex: ‘Becoming Elizabeth’ Stars Talk Tudor Drama (VIDEO)

She would eventually become one of England’s greatest monarchs, but first, the teenage Elizabeth Tudor (Alicia von Rittberg) had to survive the medieval court’s political, religious, and sexual intrigue. How she does that is the stuff of Becoming Elizabeth, Starz‘s new luscious drama, which begins in 1547 when the future Queen Elizabeth I is orphaned after the death of her father King Henry VIII (he ordered her mother Anne Boleyn executed when Elizabeth was a toddler).

“She’s dropped into this void. It’s incredibly dangerous and scary and yet tempting,” says von Rittberg. “She knows exactly who she is and how to play by the rules but yet she is a young girl who just wants to experience life and make her own decisions and not be influenced by her family.”

That’s a tough want, considering her nine-year-old brother Edward (Oliver Zetterström) is soon crowned king. England’s nobility vies for influence over him, Elizabeth, and their sister Mary (Romola Garai).

The sisters are pitted against each other as the kingdom’s aristocrats struggle over which religion will dominate England. Garai explains: “Mary is a very committed Catholic, and Elizabeth was raised Protestant. [The] sisterly relationship involves a lot of love, a lot of suspicion, a great deal of anger.”

Elizabeth is invited to come live in the palace of her widowed stepmother Catherine Parr (Jessica Raine) who soon marries ambitious, charming Thomas Seymour (Tom Cullen). “Almost right away [his] head is turned by Elizabeth,” Raine says. “She’s a real innocent in the world of politics, sexual relationships and over the course of this series, it is safe to say, she gets corrupted. But it forms how she will run England when she becomes queen.”

Cullen says Seymour is the most interesting character he’s ever played. “He’s a hothead. He’s passionate,” Cullen says. “But he’s also very tender, loving. And he’s very morally bankrupt, and selfish, and takes what he wants.”

Luckily Elizabeth has a friend in her peer, Robert Dudley (Jamie Blackley). “He is a voice of truth,” Blackley says. “He isn’t afraid to tell her what he thinks. They’re on a journey figuring out who they are and who they want to be.”

Becoming Elizabeth, Series Premiere, Sunday, June 12, Starz