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I knock up a fancy brunch with eggs and chorizo and Holli arrives right on time to my new address in North West London. We eat and she makes enquiries about things and the girl I’m living with. She tells me about The Borgias, the Baftas and boys. Our catch up has been prompted by Holli’s recent appearance on my television, handing out an award for Best Short Film.

Despite not hanging out for six months or so, within days of my “Presenting a Bafta!?” text message, Holli is in my living room and it’s non-stop talk the same as ever, except these days we have more adventures to share. We met in our early teens and bonded over shared love for the Wizard of Oz sequel, Return To Oz. Now, Holli is the rosy-cheeked girl adventuring in a strange world.

We make arrangements for an interview in the future and I get all of the Bafta afterparty gossip off the record. In our brief meeting, I get some tales from a red rope dancefloor and get told that I absolutely must propose to my girlfriend properly, as simply agreeing to getting married is not enough.

A few weeks later…

Holli may well be lost and it may well be down to my poor direction; I’m a little lost Mancunian in East London. I decided the interview should be at this place because there’s a happy hour, and they tend never to be accused of false advertising. Liam and I are fresh from checking out an event venue and everything seems well so we wade into a two-Stellas-for-a-fiver deal.

A text soon tells me all is well with Holli. I presume she’s being nice because I know my directions were vague as balls. Either way, the booze is cheap and the place is pretty much empty, which is helpful. We scan the food menu and wait. I consider writing some actual questions for the interview but get no further than some shit about fear of being typecast.

Soon enough we have our interviewee and we put aside snack-thoughts. Welcomes and introductions ensue and I head to the bar as Holli takes a seat.

‘Sorry if this seems odd…but is that Holliday Grainger?’ The barman is clearly excited as fuck.

‘Yeah, we’re doing an interview. But she’s also a friend from school.’ He’s really excited. Apparently he’s seen every episode of The Borgias. I’ve never watched it at all. Love Holli, hate historical drama. Hate drama in general. Anyway, the barman wants to make Holli a cocktail. I’m almost not sure he should be allowed to do it unsupervised. I get more beer and rejoin the guys to await whatever creation this superfan comes up with.

We start off the record and get no real answers about Jeremy Irons’ cock. Holli warns that she may be interrupted at some point by a phone interview she has booked in with InStyle. We’re fully flexible and continue talk everything, taking in a discussion of wanking monkeys. Apparently, if the monkey is cute enough, the wanking is legit.

The cocktail arrives.

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Labels: Interview

When Holliday Grainger first read Great Expectations, she was quite young, she says, and didn’t really ”get” Estella, the beautiful, aloof young woman with whom the narrator has been in love since childhood. A second reading gave her a greater sense of how the character had come to be who she was.

Holliday Grainger plays 'the emotional version of Frankenstein's monster' in Great Expectations.

And by playing her, in the new screen version directed by Mike Newell, she came to see Estella very clearly. In some ways, Grainger says, ”She’s the emotional version of Frankenstein’s monster”.

Estella is the subject of a kind of experiment by Miss Havisham, the wealthy recluse who adopted her and shaped her from her earliest years, ”and she is very damaged, a victim of emotional abuse – even though I don’t think that was Miss Havisham’s intention”.

Costume designer Beatrix Aruna Pasztor created clothes for Estella that mirror who she is, Grainger says: ”A shell that you can never quite crack. Elaborate, composed. I love the fact that she has quite hard lines.”

For Grainger, Estella ”has a lot of anger and resentment inside her, I think, but she is also passive, and probably has very little confidence in herself, which is why she always reverts to the facade.” In a scene in which she is offered the chance to leave Miss Havisham, ”It’s a lot easier for her to stay. If she left she would have to unlearn all the self-restraint she has spent her whole life developing.”

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As Pope Alexander VI’s daughter, Lucrezia Borgia enjoyed riches, money and, it turns out, a considerable amount of power for a woman in 15th century Italy.

That was one of the reasons British actress Holliday Grainger was excited about Season 2 of Showtime’s “The Borgias,” in which her Lucrezia quickly grows from innocent girl to a fierce mother and shrewd politician.

Holliday Grainger

“Stray Dogs,” the April 29 episode, Alexander (Jeremy Irons) puts Lucrezia in charge of the cardinals when he leaves Rome to check on the progress of the war against the French.

“I was so excited when Neil [Jordan] had written that into the script. I’ve read quite a few biographies on Lucrezia Borgia and I was fascinated by the fact that she was the acting pope many times. There’s a famous portrait of Lucrezia on the papal throne and, yeah, you think that back then maybe women didn’t have too much power, but she did,” Grainger said during a phone interview at the beginning of the season. “There was no one else that [her father] trusted.”

Lucrezia not only sits in the chair of St. Peter in the episode, she and her mother, Vanozza (Joanne Whalley), and her father’s lover, Giulia Farnese (Lotte Verbeek), team up to help Rome’s poor and to clean up the city, an effort that will pit them against many of the cardinals.

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It’s the crack of dawn, but Holliday Grainger is hardly fazed by the early start. Sat in the lounge of a decadent West London home, she is bright and bubbly, already enthralling the photo-shoot crew with her recent endeavors on set with The Borgias including that of the recent addition of a panther as a pet for her character Lucrezia Borgia.

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Though perhaps currently best known for this role in the cult TV series – Holliday’s most recent selection of roles shall no doubt propel her into a whole new Hollywood league. This year, marking Dickens’ bicentenary, shall see the release of the hotly anticipated big screen adaptation of Great Expectations, with Holliday taking on the iconic role of Estella.  In Bel Ami, she’s playing the eventual bride to Robert Pattinson’s scoundrel protagonist; while in Anna Karenina, Holliday is placed alongside a cast of veritable who’s who in British talent with an appearance as Baroness Shilton.

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The Borgias were an Italian Renaissance noble family whose love, dysfunction, and power knew no bounds: Adultery, incest, and murder—including fratricide—are just some of their purported claims to fame. Naturally, as good Italians, the complex web of their lives was intertwined with the Catholic church, inextricably so because the patriarch of the family, Rodrigo Borgia, became pope.

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Photoshoots & Portraits > 2011 > 005. Interview Magazine

The Borgia saga has become legend and inspired novels, plays, and an opera, so naturally it was time for their story to be made into a Showtime series. Debuting this spring, The Borgias was created and produced by Neil Jordan (who won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for 1992’s The Crying Game).

The show combines a Sopranos-esque crime-family drama with the lavish period production of Rome. But added to that are intricate interfamily struggles one usually associates with Greek tragedy. Jeremy Irons plays the father, Rodrigo, but the rest of the cast, though relatively unknown, hold their own.

That’s particularly the case for two of the young and molto attractive Borgia children, who battle and plot their way into adulthood: Twenty-five-year-old French-Canadian actor François Arnaud, who plays Cesare, and 22-year-old Manchester, U.K., actress Holliday Grainger, who plays Lucrezia. As Cesare, Arnaud channels a son who has no qualms about murdering his own brother to take military control of the papacy and escape being part of the church.

“The character has such a great journey,” Arnaud says. “He goes from a daddy’s boy to a warrior and a killer and a lover. It’s more honest to fight than pretend to be Christian.” Arnaud, who has previously been seen mainly in French-Canadian films and television productions, believes much of the show’s controversy is over his character’s relationship with his sister. “There were a lot of rumors of incest between Cesare and Lucrezia,” explains Arnaud, “but we’re not going for that. There is a deep love and affection. The physicality of the relationship is almost childish. They always have their hands in each other’s faces, but it is innocent.”

Grainger, whose childlike beauty gives Lucrezia a certain wayward innocence, agrees. “It’s one of the only genuine relationships in the series,” she says. “You get a break from corrupt politics.” For those unfamiliar with one of the most infamous women of the 15th century, Lucrezia is an amalgam of Ophelia, Cleopatra, and Marie Antoinette. “Some think she is a selfish, manipulative villainess who poisons people and has incestuous relationships with her family,” Grainger explains. “Some see her as the pawn in her family’s game, and she is just weak and does what they say. Other people see her as a very strong woman who manipulates the situation to get the best outcome for herself and her family. I obviously like the third one!” Grainger is no stranger to period dramas, having also recently wrapped roles in this year’s highly anticipated Jane Eyre and the 1890s Parisian drama Bel Ami. “I’m ready to get out of my corset and into contemporary life,” she says. If the series does as well as expected, Grainger and her co-star should expect to spend a little more time in Italian finery, as well as on location in Budapest, where The Borgias is being filmed. “Even Italy,” Arnaud reasons, “doesn’t look like Renaissance Italy.”

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The Borgias actress Holliday Grainger has revealed that making friends with co-star Ronan Vibert made it easier to film their violent scenes.

Holliday Grainger plays Lucrezia Borgia in The Borgias

Lucrezia is the victim of rape by her husband, and Holliday said filming these scenes was strange.

She said: “It’s slightly surreal, but I didn’t find it traumatising at all. You put yourself in that mindset when they say, ‘Action’, but as soon as they say, ‘Cut’, there’s a boom mike stuck in your face.

“Yeah, there’s a random guy in between your legs, but he’s a guy that you’ve just been out for dinner with the night before, so you’re just chatting and making jokes.”

She also got to ride a horse for the big army scenes.

She said: “I was on horseback for a week. It sounds bad, but it was such good fun. David [Oakes] and I kept trotting off on our horses in between takes. They were like, ‘No, come back’ and we were like, ‘Sorry, but we’re in a big field on a horse, let us play!”

:: The Borgias starts on Sky Atlantic on Saturday, August 13.

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