For any great period drama, it is essential that cast members learn the customs of the era in which a series is set and meld them into their performances. From accent, to wardrobe, to mannerisms, to facial expressions, to etiquette, it’s imperative to get the details of a specific point in time, perfect.
In “Victoria,” actress Eve Myles portrays Mrs. Jenkins, the no-nonsense senior dresser to the Queen. As this character, Myles’ appearance is reserved, while her interactions are to the point and sometimes too forthright.
When it came to readying herself for the role of Mrs. Jenkins, Myles reflects fondly on how the cast and she really had to zone in on embracing the era’s finer points.
“We had an advisor, Alastair Bruce, and he taught us a certain way to stand, what to do with your hands, where you would be looking – you never make eye contact when certain things are going on, you never turn your back on the Queen,” explains Myles. “There were all sorts of rules. When dressing the Queen there would be certain mannerisms for how you would do it, never to be too familiar… it’s so different to doing anything contemporary when you take on your own character and make them a modern day person.”
She continues: “With a historical drama you really have to bend to how people acted in those days; how people greeted each other, where your status was in the house would really reflect on how you would behave. I have learned so much! That is why my job is so interesting, I never stop learning.”
While on the job as Mrs. Jenkins, Myles says that the stark, work-womanlike wardrobe also really transformed her into the character. So much so, she would become unrecognizable to those close to her.
“It’s crazy, when you put the costume on in the morning – I never called it a costume it was my uniform – straight away you are there,” offers Myles. “You are uncomfortable, your shoulders don’t fit you properly [and] your hair is severe. For me Mrs. Jenkins didn’t even look like me so I would walk onto set and feel like a completely different person.
“I had a friend of mine,” she adds, “Tom Price, come on set for a day and he walked passed me a few times without realizing. I turned to him to say ‘are you not going to say hello?’ and he literally fell off his chair. He did not recognize me and I took it as such a compliment.”
This week on “Victoria” (Tuesday, April 17 at 8pm ET/5pm PT), When Victoria’s uncle Leopold proposes Albert as a husband, suitors swoop in desperate to win the Queen’s hand in marriage. Although Victoria determines to reign alone, Leopold rightly suspects that her indifference to marriage is something to do with the chemistry between her and her Melbourne.