Hot on the heels of its successful first season, REIGN went out in jaw-dropping style last week when it killed off the King of France (Alan Van Sprang). It also dared to lock the next king right out of the castle gates due to the looming threat of plague spreading through the local villages. So Season 2 of REIGN is going to be a tricky road as Mary (Adalaide Kane), Queen of Scots and now Queen of France may have to rule in her husband’s absence and keep her mother-in-law, Catherine de Medici (Megan Follows) at bay and also making a play for the throne.
As this week’s CBS Summer Soiree event, showrunner and executive producer Laurie McCarthy and star Megan Follows talked exclusively about the killer Season 1 finale and where the show may be heading in its upcoming second season.
So you left us with a whopper of a cliffhanger in the Season 1 finale with the death of King Henry and Francis (Toby Regbo) rushing out of the castle for the birth of his child just as the plague was coming. What could possibly be next in Season 2? Is Francis really going to step into his father’s royal shoes?
LAURIE: I think Francis will. He’s up for it.
Is Catherine going to be putting her crown to use and stepping forward to rule if Francis is not able to since he left the castle?
LAURIE: There’s no power void that Catherine can’t fill. There’s Catherine de Medici and the next king of France sitting next to her, which is going to reenergize the show.
I cannot see Catherine going quietly into the night, especially with her son now the king of France.
LAURIE: She’s going to be more active than ever ’cause she’ll have more power than ever.
Do you think she’s up for that?
MEGAN: I definitely think she’s up for it. I think she would do what was appropriate, but she’s a true politician at heart. She would know how to survive. She’s a survivor.
Mary and Catherine were a little bit more aligned towards the end of the first season. They seemed to work with each other’s interests in mind.
LAURIE: I think “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” until that enemy is no longer there. Then it’s anyone’s guess.
Were you surprised that the show killed off King Henry?
MEGAN: I always knew historically that he did die and he was the first person to go. But I wasn’t sure when. It was kind of a perfect, powerful way to end the first season. It was very painful. We were very sad.
LAURIE: Before the script went out, I emailed Alan and then we did a confidential email to the crew. So everybody knew and kept the secret.
Alan [Van Sprang] was such a great social media ambassador for the show. He really whipped the fans up in support of it.
MEGAN: (Laughs) He loved it. He’s good at that.
LAURIE: He really felt that it became a living, breathing organism and he enjoyed it.
Do you regret killing off Henry because he was such a fascinating character?
LAURIE: I don’t regret having done it. I regret having felt that it was necessary. I like to paint myself into a corner and it felt like a scary thing to do, and that alone made it the right thing to do. It would have been easier to keep him for more episodes, but then he was such a major character and his death was an enormous change in everybody’s lives that it felt like the end of the season is when it needed to happen.
REIGN was the dark-horse of the season. No one predicted that it would take off the way it did and then it just swept through the season.
LAURIE: I know. I heard that a lot.
MEGAN: Here’s to dark-horses!
REIGN also had one of the most fearless first seasons for a new show. It churned through material for all the characters and Catherine nearly lost her head several times. Were you ever worried that they may actually go through with one of the beheading scenes for Catherine?
MEGAN: No, but it’s so great to play when the stakes are high and there’s danger. I think that’s when Catherine is her happiest. She absolutely loves it.
The interesting thing about Catherine was we wanted to hate her, but then she’d do something so clever that we just could not help loving her.
MEGAN: Good! But you understand why she’s going the things she’s doing. She doesn’t do them maliciously. It’s just business in her mind, and those are the kinds of choices Mary’s going to have to start making. It is that realization that this is the kind of world you’re living in.
LAURIE: I get her completely. I feel like there’s really a maternal core to her. She’s a brilliant woman trying to survive in the 16th Century and lives for her children and the security of France. It’s noble. I mean, her means are not, but her goals are noble.
When something threatened her or her family, Catherine never hesitated. She dealt with it. That was really admirable. It also made it impossible to hate her ’cause she was doing all these incredible things for her family.
LAURIE: She doesn’t leave loose ends.
MEGAN: And she thinks she’s right. As a character, that’s a great thing to play. Whether she is or not is for her to worry about. But she is a very righteous person and she never forgets who has been loyal to her. That’s what’s fun for me. It provides for a large playing field.
Were you taken aback when Catherine jumped right into bed with someone she just met?
MEGAN: (Laughs) No, I was so relieved. After watching her husband constantly doing just that, I was like, “Yes!” Having to eat this humble pie so much, to see her take something she wanted was great. And she could do it because it was a disguise. The guy didn’t know. What’s fun for me is that she wants to have fun.
It seemed REIGN had perhaps the highest death count of any of the CW shows last season.
LAURIE: Did it? Even higher than the CW’s vampire shows?
Yes, those shows tend to resurrect characters they’ve killed. But on REIGN there is no resurrecting characters from death. When REIGN kills someone, they do not come back.
LAURIE: (Laughs) That’s right! We talk a lot about the peril of the times and it’s only meaningful if it touches the people that are watching.
Another thing REIGN was generous with was the romance and every character got a chance to play with romance this season, including Catherine.
MEGAN: Finally! And more to come. She’s single now.
For Season 2, will Bash (Torrance Coombs) be returning to court or will he be off doing his own thing?
LAURIE: Maybe a little of each. He has a certain freedom to go out and tackle problems as he has knowledge of people in the village and of the woods, but now that Francis is king, Francis will be drawing people he trusts closer.
You’d think with Catherine still around that might be a dangerous position and Bash would be wary of getting too close.
LAURIE: That’s true. Even for Francis it is a dangerous position. But if Bash does what Catherine wants, then it might be okay. You don’t want to cross Catherine. It’s going to be a really interesting power dynamic. In Season 2, we’re talking about really playing up the region around the castle and introducing other powers that Mary, Francis and Catherine have to contend with. Some of them are pretty malevolent forces.
So are now going to have to worry that we may lose Francis too in the next season?
LAURIE: We moved the stories very quickly in Season 1 and time sort of sped up, but we not likely to move at the same pace in Season 2. We’re taking our time, but when we hit that curve in the road, we’ll take it.
With that ominous teaser echoing in our minds, Season 2 feels too far away as we all count down to REIGN’s return this Fall. REIGN airs Thursday nights on the CW.