Is period drama Victoria the new Downton Abbey?


The creator of new ITV period drama Victoria has said she would be flattered if the show can follow in the footsteps of Downton Abbey - but those are "big shoes to fill".

Executive producer and writer Daisy Goodwin's eight-part Sunday night drama stars Jenna Coleman as the young Queen Victoria.

Jenna Coleman in Victoria
Jenna Coleman in Victoria (ITV)

The drama may draw comparisons to ITV's previous flagship drama as it tells the story of the monarch's relationship with prime minister Lord Melbourne (Rufus Sewell) and her courtship with Prince Albert (Tom Hughes) and also examines life below stairs.

Daisy said: "It's very big shoes to fill, but I love Sunday night telly, so if people enjoy watching this as much as they did Downton, then our work is done."

Speaking at a press event at Kensington Palace, she said: "Downton Abbey is such a great show, I couldn't possibly hope to replicate that, but I hope it will give people pleasure."

Daisy Goodwin and Jenna Coleman
Daisy Goodwin and Jenna Coleman (Ian West/PA)

Asked if she would be flattered by comparisons, she said: "Of course I would be, it's a wonderful show."

Former Doctor Who star Jenna, who played assistant Clara Oswald, admitted she was not planning to sign up for another TV series after leaving the BBC show.

But she said the chance to play Queen Victoria was "impossible to turn down".

Tom Hughes and Jenna Coleman are Albert and Victoria
Tom Hughes and Jenna Coleman are Albert and Victoria (Ian West/PA)

"When I left Doctor Who the first thing I said was, I just don't want to do a series for a while," she said.

"And then Daisy and Damien (Timmer) took me out for lunch, and so it changed. But it's been such a gift."

Connecting with the character was no challenge, she said - once she got over Victoria's inconsistencies.

Jenna Coleman in forthcoming ITV drama Victoria (ITV)
Jenna Coleman in forthcoming ITV drama Victoria (ITV)

"She's just too impulsive and too tempestuous, so there's a thousand different directions you can go in, and if it's not logical then that's fine," the 30-year-old explained.

But she did face another challenge: her horse.

She said: "My horse is a show horse, so he likes to do the Spanish walk.

"When he gets bored on set he likes to Spanish walk while I'm on him, but I've realised it makes me look a little bit cool so I've gone with it now."

Rufus Sewell
Rufus Sewell (Jordan Strauss/Invision)

Her co-star Rufus appeared via video link to tell the story of his own issues with his horse, Rupert.

He explained: "It was never quite clear which end of the horse the complaints were coming from, but midway through my dialogue would come this noise - which is the sound of an animal complaining about how boring its rider is.

"I managed to keep a straight face, the same cannot be said of the Queen."

Jenna also had to put up with wearing blue contact lenses to look authentically like Victoria.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert (PA)

"I mean we must have gone - I think we are in the region of about 70 pairs, we tried," she said.

"Any of the portraits you see, the first thing you see are her eyes. They pop out at you."

Daisy said audiences may be surprised to meet an 18-year-old Victoria - who is most like Prince Harry.

The premiere was at Kensington Palace
The premiere was at Kensington Palace (Ian West/PA)

She said: "I think most people think of Victoria as an old bag in a bonnet don't they? That sourpuss with a crown who never smiled.

"But I've tried to show that Victoria is actually, at the beginning of her reign, a bit of a party girl. She loved dancing, she liked men, she had sex, she's more like Prince Harry than she was like Elizabeth II.

"Victoria came to the throne looking for action."

Victoria will launch on August 28 on ITV at 9pm.