This past week, I learned that I have a fairy godfather named Roger. He made sure I attended a ball at Versailles during Paris Fashion Week! Confession: it was actually a kickoff event for Versailles Season Two. But it was at the New York French Embassy and it was a fairy tale come true! Ovation TV was gracious enough to invite the mainstay of the show, its fans. Fans didn’t feel out of place among more important NYC socialites, since everyone paled in comparison to the show’s stars and models donning actual show costumes.
Guests were treated to champagne and escargot and the most decadent tiny chocolate pastries you’ve ever tasted. Later in the night, Oscar-nominated costume designer Madeline Fontaine spoke about this season’s designs.
The preview featured key Season Two outfits for Madame De Montespan, the Queen, King Louis, and his brother Philippe. Here is a sampling:
Executive Producer Claude Chelli discussed set designs. Filming of Versailles is challenging because the crew only has access to the buildings and grounds of Versailles on Mondays when it is closed to the public. So elaborate sets were meticulously created to create specific rooms. Working from paintings, drawings and photos of the ruins; the sets for Philippe’s residence at Saint-Cloud had to be approximated since the buildings no longer exist.
(Spoiler Alert: The following contains spoilers from Season One and a few minor ones from Season Two.)
I was able to ask Elisa Lasowski, who plays Louis’ wife Marie Therese of Spain, if the Queen gets to smile in Season Two. She immediately composed her character, and with her fiery, yet dead gaze, pursed her lips and curtly retorted, “(Inhale) No.” Seriously, her mouth hardly moved when she said it. She was transformed into the living statute that IS the Queen of Versailles. Goodness knows, Louis never gives her cause to smile.
Anna Brewster, who portrays Montespan, was nothing like her character. She was warm and welcoming to everyone in the room and explained that she hoped she has given some humanity to her loathsome, self-serving character. Anna’s character gained her humanity with me early in Season Two, after an incredibly acted scene between Montespan and the Bishop. Trust me, every woman will appreciate it.
I don’t want to give too much away, but here is my quick take on Season Two as a whole: there is less focus on the construction of Versailles, but all the nobles are still corralled there. You know what happens to rats when their population is left caged and unchecked.
The King’s valet and defector detective, Bontemps and Fabien, are steadfast as ever, despite the continued abuse and neglect by their sovereign. With Henriette dead, Montespan is now fully entrenched as the King’s mistress. Chevalier and Philippe are still the greatest couple on earth. But Louis does force Philippe to take a new bride from among the German nobility. His new wife, Princess Palatine, is a bit coarse for the French court, but a breath of fresh air for everyone else. The only noble male in court that has a problem with her is Chevalier, which is understandable. I think she is a perfect addition to the love triangle of her husband and his true love.
The most intriguing part of this season is the writing. Despite the occasional soap-opera drama, the episodes are beautiful modern Shakespearean scripts. They aren’t as intense and heavy with metaphor as Season One, but the dialogue is so tasty you can gorge on massive amounts of plot each week, and never feel full. The writing touches upon the underlying story, but keeps the audience focused on the characters and relationships.
Another thing I like about this season is Louis, which is saying a lot since I didn’t like his character at all in Season One. The King was mostly shallow last season – he didn’t evolve in any way. He was a spoiled but scared boy who knows he will always get his way. Season Two sees a mild development in his character, as he struggles with the consequences of his actions upon those he loves. The water nymph who ran through Louis’ dreams in Season One is gone. Perhaps he has resolved his mommy issues. But he continues to be haunted by dead women. He also struggles with the limits of his power and reach. Will he learn that he isn’t the center of the known universe? Tune in to find out!
Season Two of Versailles premiers Saturday, September 30th on Ovation TV. Look up your local listings at www.ovationtv.com.
Photo Source: Me, the wonderful people at Ovation TV, Versailles, and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in New York City