‘Victoria’ Creator and Author Daisy Goodwin: ‘People Want Strong Female Characters’

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Diane Clehane and Daisy Goodwin

DianeClehaneLunch_FeaturedI was royally excited about this week’s ‘Lunch’ with author Daisy Goodwin, who has pulled off the unfathomable feat of writing a best-selling book while simultaneously creating a series from said book all in the space of a little over a year. “I started writing the novel and at the same time realized it would make a good television series,” she told me. Within three months, she had a deal to make Victoria for ITV/PBS. “I got an agent and a producer. No one could say no to me.” And that, as they say, was that.

Of course clever Daisy already had two New York Times best-sellers, The American Heiress and The Fortune Hunter (both from St. Martin’s Press), and spent 10 years at the BBC making arts documentaries but, she said, “I’d never written a script before. It was quite an education.”

Diane Clehane and Daisy Goodwin
Diane Clehane and Daisy Goodwin

Daisy had the highest praise for Victoria stars Jenna Coleman (Dr. Who, Death Comes to Pemberley) who plays the young, diminutive and strong-willed Queen Victoria (“She’s amazing”), Rufus Sewell (The Man in the High Castle) cast as her much older and world weary Prime Minister Lord Melbourne (“Such a great actor”) and Tom Hughes as Prince Albert (“He’s an Englishman playing a German who speaks English. He’s so good that my mother-in-law, who is German, asked, ‘Are you sure he’s not German?'”)

“Hanging out with the actors was fantastic,” she said. “Sitting there for the first read-through was thrilling. I’ve never been so excited about anything in my life.” Listening to the actors say the words she’d written “felt like I’d died and gone to heaven,” said Daisy between bites of Nantucket Bay scallops.

Sewell, it seems, left a particularly strong impression on Daisy. “Rufus is a very, very close reader of the script. Some actors just turn up and do it, but with him we had some very long discussions about two or three words,” she recalled. “There was a scene where Melbourne says he doesn’t want to read Dickens and he asked, ‘Did he really say this?’ And I told him, ‘He did.’ I learned when an actors have a concern you have to listen. Rufus was a great teacher. He’s also the only actor I’ve met who is happy when you take away lines. He can do it all just with his facial expressions.”

I couldn’t agree more. The chemistry between Sewell and Coleman is so completely off the charts in the show’s first three episodes, it’s sure to make a lot of viewers sad to see history play out when ‘Lord M,’ as Queen Victoria called him, steps aside when she falls in love with Prince Albert. “In the U.K. [the series aired there late last year] there was this whole thing on social media between #Vicbourne and #Vicbert,” said Daisy. Who won the day? “It was pretty close.”

Even though everyone knows Victoria and Albert went on to have what became one of Britain’s greatest love stories, I’m still partial to Lord M and young Victoria as a couple. “It was definitely love between Melbourne and Victoria,” said Daisy. “She fixated on him because she didn’t know any better. He could have stopped her from marrying Albert, but he knew it was the right thing for her. Lord Melbourne was Victoria’s first love and Victoria was his last love. His story is quite sad. When he died, she burned all his letters.”

The those final scenes between Victoria and her Lord M are heartbreaking. The dialogue in the actors’ most poignant scenes (of which there are many) is pretty much word for word from the book. “It’s my vision in both [versions],” said Daisy. “If it worked, there was no reason to change it.”