Anna Popplewell is similar to her Reign character, Lola, in many ways. Both are warm, charming and a little daring, but you can bet that Popplewell wouldn’t find herself in similar circumstances as her often-troubled television counterpart. In the first season alone (spoiler alert!) Lola has experienced a scandalous pregnancy, a failed marriage and an adventure in arson.
Here, Popplewell talks to DuJour about what it’s like trying to keep up with her character on the plot-heavy show and what’s in store for Lola in the second season, which premieres tonight on the CW.
We have to talk about the costumes. They’re amazing! What’s it like wearing the period clothing?
I think any role you play is such an important informant of your character, and costumes help you inhabit the role you are playing. And we have extraordinary costumes. They are a mashup of high-end labels, custom builds, vintage pieces and more period things. It’s very playful, really. They are extraordinary to wear because you never know what combination of things you will get. The heels are a bit killer, almost literally. I’ve had stilettos go through staircases and things on set. Not my most elegant moment. But they are a lot of fun to wear and they really furnish and inform the world of the show.
Getting into the plot, what was your first reaction when you found out that Lola was pregnant?
Well, I was surprised. The girl is pretty fertile! One night with Francis and boom she’s pregnant. It was a really surprising plot twist for all the cast, actually. I don’t think it was something any of us saw coming. So that was interesting to play and motivate and it definitely put Lola in a very awkward position for season two. Francis finds her having had this baby and kind of dictates what they’re going to have to do.
Lola is in a bit of a bind at the start of season two because she had just been through a really difficult labor in a plague-ridden village, having just come from helping her husband murder his uncle to avoid blowing his cover for false identity. So things have been stressful, really! And I don’t think it’s going to let up going forward. Being back at French court is going to be really difficult for Lola because obviously she’s in this really awkward position having had her friend’s husband’s baby and there’s a lot of sort of political and social complications that come with that being back at court. She is waiting to hear if Francis is going to officially claim his son, and in the meantime she’s kind of seen to be his mistress even though she’s not. And she’s slightly socially elevated but also has a controversial and frowned upon status because of that and it’s definitely not a status she enjoys, so she’s negotiating that at the start of season two.
What kind of preparation did you do to play a pregnant character?
I watched a lot of Call The Midwife, and I just asked people who had been pregnant and talked to pregnant ladies and spoke them about the physical changes and what hurts and what doesn’t and tried to use that. You always worry about looking fake when you’re doing that kind of thing.
Was it fun to play a little bit of a deceitful character along with Lola’s husband Julien, burning down the house together?
Someone actually played that song as we were filming that scene! It was so fun. As an actor I am always racing to keep up with the character on this show. The plots twist so often, and it’s this weird combination of having the luxury of developing a character in long form. In a way, I have months of preparation for everything that happens on the show, and at the same time we often have last-minute changes. The show moves so quickly that you really have to be on your toes, so I feel incredibly prepared and totally unprepared at the same time.
There are so many characters on the show—what’s it like on set?
We see so much of each other. I think I’ve seen more of my cast members in the last year than I have my boyfriend! There are a whole bunch of ex-pats and we all moved into the same area. We hang out all the time and they are such a lovely bunch. I feel very lucky to be part of such a nice cast. I have a particularly goofy laugh but there are several goofy laughs, so I am not alone in that. On set everyday there’s always this combination of slightly mad laughter going on everywhere.
Looking ahead to this coming season, what are you most excited for fans to see Lola encounter?
I won’t spoil too much, but Lola has a really unexpected love interest early on in season two, and it has been so much fun to play. It was totally unexpected for me because I thought I was just going to be doing lots of scenes with the baby. So that’s going to be fun and I hope fans will enjoy that. That’s all I’ll tease about that.
Well I can’t wait to see the season premiere tonight.
We are having a party here tonight and we are all going to watch the screening together. It will be nice to be together.
Photograph by Nick Dabas