Taking on a historical figure such as Queen Elizabeth I can be a daunting task for an actress, but Toronto native Rachel Skarsten tells Hello! that she was nothing but excited to step into the iconic shoes for the current season of Reign (Thursdays, E!). “I went to Queens University and studied English literature and this was the first time that I ever played a character that was a real person. I got to sink my teeth into studying her and reading everything that I could.” The Lost Girl star admits that she was nervous to join the show in the third season but "everyone was so incredibly welcoming of me."
Here, Rachel reveals her affinity for Cate Blanchett, the joys of wearing 16th-century costumes and her idea of the perfect day off in her hometown.
Reign is filmed in Rachel's hometown of Toronto.Photo: © Getty Images
it easy to master Elizabeth’s accent?
My audition for the show was the very first time I have ever done a British accent out loud and my main concern the whole time was not to look like an idiot [ Laughs]. But it’s been fairly easy. I had two very lovely dialect coaches who have helped me perfect it.
you do anything special to prepare for the role?
Cate Blanchett’s rendition of Queen Elizabeth is probably one of my favourite performances of all time. So I watched that until I think I memorized every line. Laurie McCarthy [the creator of Reign] had a very clear vision of how she wanted Elizabeth to be played and I really liked it. It’s this sort of new approach and the idea of meeting Elizabeth when she was early in her reign and still quite a young woman and dealing with all of those things that you deal with when you’re in your early 20s and you’re certifiably insane [ Laughs]. While I tried to observe other people and how they played Elizabeth and things like that, I wanted to make her my own as well.
Rachel wears the heavy crown of Elizabeth I in Reign. Photo: © M3
The costumes are stunning! What is it like getting into character?
I remember putting [on her first dress] and just thinking "This is the most lovely thing I have ever seen. If I ever get married I will wear this dress on my wedding because it’s so gorgeous!" Going into that wardrobe to have my fittings is probably one of my favourite parts of this job.
Since Elizabeth was such a strong woman, who are some women you look up to?
I always looked up to my grandmother on my mother’s side. She was an absolute force of nature. When she was 30, she was not married and she decided to go to India because it was her dream to change the world. So she went as a missionary. And I think of it even now, the pressure that I feel at 30 to have a life that looks like what people expect it should look like, and that not necessarily being the life that I want for myself. I always think of my grandma and the voracious appetite that she had for adventure and to set the world on fire. I feel very proud to have come from that.
What is your idea of the perfect day off in Toronto?
Going to Ezra's Pound, my favourite coffee spot, getting a coffee and a croissant and going to the botanical gardens which I love and have loved since I was a little girl. Then going to a book store and sitting and reading books [ Laughs]. I have a super geeky day off! And then maybe going to Fresh or something and getting some food. Definitely those two things. Anytime I’m feeling down or a little overwhelmed you can find me either at the botanical gardens or at Chapters.