‘Mary & George’ Star Tony Curran on King James I’s Romance With George: ‘He Fell For Him Deeply’ (Exclusive)

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King James I is the grand prize in the ultimate game of scheming and power. Mary & George premieres April 5 on STARZ. The magnetic Tony Curran effortlessly steps into the role of King James I, who is seduced by the charismatic George Villiers, played by Red, White & Royal Blue’s Nicholas Galitzine. With his mother’s influence, George becomes King James I’s lover and one of his most trusted advisors.

News47.us spoke exclusively with Tony about diving into the role of King James I and how the royal’s traumatic past influenced him as an adult. He opened up about how King James looked for a “distraction” and falling in love with men like George provided that outlet for him. But did the monarch’s yearning for “sensual pleasures” cost him his life? Read our full Q&A below.

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King James I is very well known in the long list of royal figures. What kind of research did you do on him? 
Tony Curran: I read a lot, and I went on YouTube. But the most informative part of the research was a gentleman called Benjamin Woolley. Benjamin is the author of the novel The King’s Assassin, which the show is based on. Benjamin is like an Encyclopedia Britannica of historical monarchy information. Benjamin wrote the book, and it’s pretty much all factual. Our story is based on the book, so I basically talked to him in January last year. I sat down with a pen, paper, and we had a Zoom call. For about two hours, I just dived into his cerebral passages and asked him questions about King James, about the Villiers, and about that incredible period of history.

Did this research and talking with Benjamin influence your portrayal of King James or change your opinion of him?
Tony Curran: No. I mean, it’s interesting. You hear about Henry VIII and the first Queen Elizabeth, who was on the throne for 40 years, whom King James succeeded. I don’t know if I’ve seen that much on TV or written about King James. But talking to him about it was really compelling. He would look at photographs, and he would go, “Look at him sitting on that seat with his crown and scepter.” He was asking me, “What do you think about it?” And I said, “Well, he looks like he’d rather be somewhere else.” There’s the old adage, heavy sleeps the head that wears the crown. There’s a term that he gave me that I stole and it’s “King James was nourished in fear.” He was kidnapped when he was 13 for a year. His father, Lord Darnley, was assassinated. He was blown up. His mother, Mary, Queen of Scots, was exiled from Scotland and executed by Queen Elizabeth. You might see he had a bit of trauma as a child. I think that definitely informed his approach to life and the very marrow of the person he became. He did so many amazing things, little-known things. The King James Bible, of course, which you might find in hotels around the world. He translated that. Jamestown, of course, was the first British colony in the Americas.

He wasn’t fond of a witch. He wrote this book on it called Daemonologie. There’s a story that King James went over to Denmark to get his wife, the Queen of Denmark. Twice she tried to come over and twice there were terrible storms. She couldn’t make it so he had to go and fetch her, if you will. He blamed it on these three women. Alas, I think they may have been hung or burnt at the stake, but there are three witches at the beginning of Macbeth and apparently William Shakespeare based it on King James’ execution of these three women. There was 20 years of peace with France and Spain. Unlike Queen Elizabeth before him, he wasn’t a warmongering king. He would rather go and see a playwright, write, go hunting. I’m interested to see what people think. And, of course, there is his sexuality as well. That’s another aspect of him. There’s a lot of depth to this man, and it’s a very compelling time of history as well.

Kings and queens have always had favorites. King James was an intelligent man. Do you think he was aware of the ulterior motives people had in getting close to him?
Tony Curran: That’s a very good question. Yeah, most definitely, because he was very guarded. Paranoia will destroy you, but I think his paranoia was a sort of defense mechanism. Everybody always wants to take the power from him, but at the same time, he trusted people. There was Esme, Lord Lennox, who was one of his first great loves when he was a young man. Lord Lennox was older. Robert Carr and, obviously, George Villiers. He became the Duke of Buckingham, but I think he found solace in these relationships. There are some moments in the show where he wants to disappear sometimes. Someone once said that if you can’t find meaning in life, you’ll find distraction. I think he distracted himself with falling in love with sensual pleasures. I think people do that today, don’t they? I think his drug of choice was the passions that he had for for these relationships with these men. He did have 7 children. I mean, Queen Anne was actually pregnant 10 times. Three of them survived. His son, King Charles, became king after him. I think he felt the pressure of coming from Scotland and becoming a king of England. I think he used to walk about his palace with his doubler stuffed with padding because he was scared and apprehensive that people might stab him. I think he’s quite a compelling figure that we haven’t seen, so I hope people connect with him in some way.

To bounce off that, in these passionate relationships, there’s still a power dynamic. But when you strip everything away — metaphorically and physically — it’s a very primal thing. There’s an intimacy in the bedroom that he maybe doesn’t have outside of it. 
Tony Curran: That’s a good way to put it. He closed parliament for 6 years. Politically, he would only open parliament when he needed to raise taxes because he was broke. He was fond of the finer things in life. He liked jewelry. His dog was actually called Jewel. He did love a fine piece of cloth, and I think he spent a lot of his money on that.

King James I is the main focus of Mary & George, a show about scheming and power on STARZ. Tony Curran plays King James I, who is influenced by George Villiers, played by Nicholas Galitzine. With his mother’s help, George becomes King James I’s lover and advisor.

In an interview with News47.us, Tony Curran discussed how he researched King James I and how his traumatic past shaped him. King James I faced many challenges in his life, including being kidnapped and losing family members. Despite this, he accomplished many things, like translating the King James Bible and establishing Jamestown.

In his personal relationships, King James I found solace and distraction. He had a complex power dynamic with his favorites, like George Villiers, whom he trusted but also may have been aware of their ulterior motives. These relationships provided intimacy and passion in his life.

Overall, King James I was a compelling figure who faced many challenges and found comfort in his relationships and passions.

Author: Clara
"Greetings! I am a media graduate with a diverse background in the news industry. From working as a reporter to producing content, I have a well-rounded understanding of the field and a drive to stay at the forefront of the industry." When I'm not writing content, I'm Playing and enjoying with my Kids.

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