Holliday Grainger The Borgias

Holliday Grainger, who we last saw in Any Human Heart, stars as the infamous Lucrezia Borgia in Sky Atlantic’s lavish new drama The Borgias, set in the Italian Renaissance. She tells TV Choice more about playing one of history’s most notorious minxes

How much did you know about the Borgia family before you landed the part of Lucrezia?
Nothing! I’d never heard of them, so when I got back from the audition I was straight on the internet to find out more about them, feeling really embarrassed by my ignorance!

The whole family are villains — how does Lucrezia compare to her father and brothers?
What I like about Lucrezia in the first series is that even though she does some questionable things, she’s reacting to a situation she was forced into, and she’s doing something about it. So you can kind of understand her actions.

Lucrezia is very close to her brother Cesare (Francois Arnaud) and it’s hinted that their relationship is incestuous…
Yes, historically that was always rumoured, but that may have been propaganda by their enemies. It’s hinted at in the series, but it’s up to the audience to interpret whether it’s just a very strong brother/sister relationship or whether it’s a bit more.

Does Lucrezia suffer for being a female at that time?
Definitely. At the start of the series she’s only 13 and she’s married off to help her family’s political allegiances. She doesn’t have any choice in the matter.

You’re just off to start filming the second series of The Borgias in Budapest. What did you do in the break between the series?
A couple of short films, and carried on with my Open University degree in English Literature. It’s supposed to be part-time but I hardly did any work while I was filming The Borgias, so I spent February and May frantically writing essays to get them in on time! I’d love to play Estella in Great Expectations. She’s an amazing character [since our chat Holliday, has been cast as Estella in a forthcoming film version opposite Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes]. I’ve also just finished Far From The Madding Crowd, and Bathsheba Everdene would be a great character to play.

Lucrezia’s a mistress of manipulation — are you good at manipulating people to get what you want, Holliday?
I’d love to say I am, but you know, I can’t even lie — I’m rubbish at it! Maybe I could learn a little something from Lucrezia Borgia!

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