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Why Mary Queen Of Scots From The Serpent Queen Looks So Familiar

Period dramas are hidden gems and have made somewhat of a comeback in recent years, with shows like "The Crown," "Peaky Blinders," and "Bridgerton" amassing huge audiences eager to take a deep dive into the past. "The Serpent Queen," released in September 2022, seems likely to keep this trend going strong for some time. Set in the 16th century, the show revolves around the life of Catherine de Medici, a French-Italian noblewoman who ruled France effectively for nearly 30 years. The first two episodes of "The Serpent Queen" gained a perfect 100% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, and judging by its source material; it will only keep improving. 

Excellent writing aside, "The Serpent Queen" also has a cast of talented actors who seamlessly bring historical figures to life. It can be highly challenging for performers to recreate a specific era believably and entertainingly, but "The Serpent Queen's" casting directors have done an excellent job choosing the right people for their respective roles. Such was the case with Mary Queen of Scots, played by Antonia Clarke, an actress who's graced quite a few other popular series and films over the last decade. 

She was part of the ensemble in Les Misérables

Antonia Clarke's fans might have caught a glimpse of her in 2012's "Les Misérables," where she was one of the actresses forming the ensemble for the song "Lovely Ladies." While her role in the epic musical was not particularly significant, just the mere fact of appearing in this award-winning film was enough to open up further opportunities. It is worth noting that the actress hadn't appeared in any period dramas before "Les Misérables." 

If not for the musical, it is quite possible that Clarke wouldn't be able to secure more prominent roles in other historical productions later down the line, including "The Serpent Queen." As Clarke herself admitted, the sheer scale of the production intimidated her a bit: "I was scared because I've never really done any dance or theatre before, and it was much more theatrical than what I used to do. A lot of the other cast members had done the stage show or had been in different productions in the West End, so I was a bit out of my comfort zone, but [it was] a good experience." (via The Resident)

She played Lucy in Lightfields

Not long after starring in "Les Misérables," Antonia Clarke was cast in ITV's "Lightfields," a mystery-horror mini-series, which aired in 2013. The show revolves around three families living in a large farmhouse estate across three different periods. It is also a follow-up to 2011's "Marchlands," which followed a similar formula of depicting the fate of several families inhabiting the same house across decades. In "Lightfields," Clarke played Lucy, one of the farmhouse's original inhabitants from 1944, who died in a barn fire and continued to haunt the new owners in the decades following her death. 

"Lightfields" may not have been a smashing hit like "Les Misérables," nor was it particularly well-received by the critics (The Guardian), but it was Clarke's first significant role. It undoubtedly gave her more room to showcase her acting talent. As it was a mix of period drama and horror, one might say that the actress's role in "Lightfields" foreshadowed the genres she would be cast in most frequently in the years ahead. 

She was Frances Stewart in The Great Fire

The casting directors from ITV must have liked Antonia Clarke's performance in "Lightfields" because merely a year later, she appeared on that channel once again, this time as Frances Stewart, Duchess of Richmond, in "The Great Fire," directed by Jon Jones. The mini-series depicts the events of London's Great Fire, which spread across the entire city in 1666 and lasted for four days, and it places a significant focus on the British royalty's actions during these events. 

Although she only appeared in two episodes of "The Great Fire," Clarke's character was crucial to the show's plot. She played Francis Stewart, with whom King Charles II fell hopelessly in love to the point of considering divorcing his wife, the queen, to enter a relationship. This entire plotline was drawn from historical facts. Still, as the lead writer of "The Great Fire," Tom Bradby, confessed, some parts were fictionalized to increase the entertainment value: "I try to take as much as I can from fact, but then obviously you've got people investing many millions of pounds in a historical drama so then you have to fictionalize it in a manner that's going to make it work across four hours and pace evenly" (via The History Vault).

She played Maria Feodorovna in HBO's Catherine the Great

Over the years, Antonia Clarke has proven that portraying historical characters is one of her strongest suits. In 2019, she was cast as Maria Feodorovna in HBO Max's "Catherine the Great." The series follows one of Russia's most iconic monarchs as she navigates the palace intrigue and international conflicts throughout her reign in the second half of the 17th century. 

The series didn't get any raving reviews, but it was received fairly well by critics, with a 68% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes. Interestingly enough, viewers were not as fond of "Catherine the Great," and the average user score for the show amounted to only 34%. Regardless of the general opinion on the show, it is safe to say that appearing on-screen alongside the legend that is Hellen Mirren further established Antonia Clarke as one of the industry's go-to actresses for period dramas. 

Clarke has also starred in a number of horror movies

Aside from historical dramas, Antonia Clarke is quite fond of the horror genre. Although she admits she's not immune to getting frightened by scary films and plays, she simultaneously finds them entertaining. "There is an element of fun in scaring yourself. I remember seeing 'Woman in Black' on stage, and that freaked me out for life," she said in an interview with BBC

Clarke appeared in several horror movies, including "The Thirteenth Tale," "Anna," and "Altar." Originally titled "Haunting of Radcliffe House," "Altar" is a film for which Clarke got the most recognition. She portrayed Penny Hamilton, the main character's daughter. Her filmography suggests that horror and drama are the genres Clarke feels most comfortable in, but more recently, the actress also played a few significant roles in comedies, such as "Book of Love" and "All My Friends Hate Me." 

With the role of Mary Queen of Scots in "The Serpent Queen," Clarke has the chance to showcase her talent and advance her career with what is shaping up to be her biggest gig to date.