The CW’s Reign may not exactly be a beacon of historical accuracy, with its prom-esque costumes and modern-named ladies in waiting, but TV audiences aren’t too upset by that fact. The show, based on the life of Mary Queen of Scots, has a fiercely loyal fanbase that is utterly devoted to its stories and characters. Reign fights every week for its ratings, and though it’s one of The CW’s less-watched shows, its fans welcome new episodes every time they air. Another new thing they’ve welcomed? Season 3 newcomer Charlie Carrick, who plays Robert Dudley, Queen Elizabeth I’s secret love interest.
While new to Reign, Carrick is no stranger to the small screen. Since beginning his career in 2008, he’s been seen on everything from The L Word to Supernatural, and was a recurring character in Season 3 of The Borgias. Carrick, originally from England, was named one of the Toronto International Film Festival’s Rising Stars in 2012, and since then has gone on to split his time between acting in independent films and on television.
With Season 3 of Reign heating up more and more every week, The Hudsucker sat down with Charlie Carrick to chat about being the newcomer to set, his costar Rachel Skarsten, and Robert Dudley himself.
The Hudsucker: What originally interested you about acting? What helped you make the decision to pursue it as a career?
Charlie Carrick: It’s hard to remember what interested you when you were a kid. I know that when I was about nine years old, I played the Pied Piper in a little school play, and then when I was twelve, I was Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I suppose then I just liked the attention and the feeling of being different in a positive way, rather than in a way that made me feel bad. As I got older, I started to really love movies and went to the cinema as often as I could. What I saw on screen seemed so much more exciting, important, and honest than my day-to-day life. I still feel like that now—that acting is like a distilled version of life—and I sometimes find that easier and more satisfying to deal with than real life, which is always very complicated. Nobody really encouraged me to pursue it as a career, but no one tried to stop me either. I always just did what I wanted. I often think about how funny it is that so much of our adult lives are shaped by the way we felt and the countless small decisions we made as kids.
The Hudsucker: You’ve been acting in Hollywood since 2008. Is there a difference working on sets in England versus the US and Canada?
Carrick: To be honest, I have zero experience with working in England. I’ve spent pretty much my entire adult life living and working in Canada on American and Canadian productions. I did a stint on The Borgias, which was shot in Hungary. I’m not sure how different it was, apart from the fact that I had lots more people to talk about football (aka soccer) with, which was a huge plus!
The Hudsucker: As one of the newcomers to Reign this season, what has the reception been like from the cast, crew, and fans?
Carrick: It’s always a little bit nerve-wracking to join a show a couple of seasons in, but everyone has been very welcoming. The principal cast is quite large, and because the show now takes place in both the French and English courts, there are lots of characters whose story lines stay separate from mine. But the show does these read-throughs of each episode before they goes to camera, and it’s great to have everyone in the same room and to get a sense of what’s happening in the show as a whole.
The Hudsucker: What can you tell us about your portrayal of Robert Dudley? What secrets might he be hiding?
Carrick: Well, his main secret is pretty much out in the open for viewers of the show—he is the lover of the “Virgin Queen”! That secret, and the necessity of keeping it, is central to his entire life as depicted on the show. He is in this unprecedented position of being a male “favorite” to a female monarch, and I think we have seen already this season his desire to be known for more than just his relationship with Elizabeth—to hold a meaningful, respectable position in court.
The Hudsucker: Did you do any research on the real Robert Dudley prior to beginning filming? What do you think of him?
Carrick: Yes! I have read quite a lot about the real Dudley and found him to be a very interesting man who did so much in his life. As a young man, he was imprisoned in the Tower of London for leading the force that very briefly put Lady Jane Grey on the throne. He served with distinction in battle and experienced huge highs and lows in his and his family’s fortunes. I think it must have been very difficult for this vigorous, driven man to then be subject to the Queen’s desire to keep him close at all times. Also, he was born on June 24th and I was born on June 25th, which for some reason I find neat.
The Hudsucker: Much of your screentime is with the actress who plays Queen Elizabeth I, Rachel Skarsten. What’s it like working together?
Carrick: Yeah, there are days on set when it is just Rachel and I together all day, shooting three scenes back to back to back, so we’ve certainly become pretty well acquainted. She is definitely now my favorite half-Norwegian, vegetarian hockey goalie. You can’t say fairer than that!
The Hudsucker: Are there any funny or interesting stories from set that you can share?
Carrick: The makeup department has these digital clippers so that all the guys can keep their facial hair exactly the same length from episode to episode. I came into work one day, on perhaps episode 2 of the season, and, since my beard had grown in quite a bit since I had last been in, went over to the makeup trailer sink, set the clippers to 3.5 as usual, and set about my trim. Somebody in the trailer asked me a question, so I turned the clippers off to answer them and then resumed shaving. Apparently, when the clippers are turned off, they reset to 0.0 and so, in one fell swoop, I took an enormous chunk out of my beard! Incredibly, makeup was able to fill in the gap with this metal-filing stuff, and you honestly couldn’t even tell. Apparently all the men on the show have done it at least once, so I guess it’s kind of a Reign rite of passage.
The Hudsucker: Do you enjoy doing period pieces? Is there a historical time period in which you’d love to portray a character?
Carrick: I really do enjoy doing period pieces, although I’m not sure I can quite articulate why. This is the third one I have done on screen, and there is something about putting on period clothes and navigating period sets that helps you to slip easily into the world of your character. Likewise, the costume and the language give you so many clues as to how your character might behave. There is always a really interesting dynamic between the manners and conventions of the day, which can seem really alien to us, and the thoughts and feelings that the characters are experiencing, which are exactly the same as ours. I’d love to do something set in the 1950s or ’60s. I’m most interested in twentieth century history because it still feels tangible. It would be amazing to inhabit a world that my parents and grandparents actually walked around in. Having said that, I’d also like to do something set in Ancient Rome!
The Hudsucker: Your indie film, The Devout, is making the film festival rounds right now. Why should audiences seek it out? What can they expect from the film and from your character?
Carrick: Yeah, The Devout is a film I shot in British Columbia earlier this year and it’s a really gripping and moving story. It’s a crisis of faith drama about a small-town Christian science teacher—I know, not how I’m usually cast—whose beliefs are profoundly shaken when he comes to believe that his terminally ill daughter can recall a previous life. As he begins to understand that she might therefore know where she will go next, his desperate search for answers isolates him from his family and community just when he needs them the most. It’s quite an atmospheric film that explores faith and family in interesting, unexpected ways and I think the director, Connor Gaston, has a bright future.
The Hudsucker: What’s up next for you and your career?
Carrick: Who knows? As an actor, the next step is very rarely in your own hands. The last couple of years, I’ve had a nice balance between television work and good roles in independent films. I’d be happy to continue alternating between the two, as each of which brings its own challenges and rewards. I hope I’m fortunate enough to keep collaborating with exciting young directors and, in the long run, I’d love to direct something myself.
Reign is currently airing on The CW on Friday evenings at 8pm/7c. Keep up with all things Reign by following the show’s Twitter account.
The Devout is currently making its way through film festivals in Canada and the United States. For news about the film, Like the film on Facebook.