Troy: Fall Of A City

The story of a love that threatened to bring an empire to its knees

Interview with Frances O’Connor (Hecuba)

There are scenes where whole armies are fighting to the death on an almighty scale, but also wonderful, intimate moments… it makes the series involving and human, whilst maintaining an epic qualityFrances O’Connor
Date: 14.02.2018     Last updated: 15.02.2018 at 07.55
Category: BBC One; Drama

Tell us about your character. Who is Hecuba?
She is queen of Troy. Alongside her husband Priam, the pair have built this empire almost up from nothing. Troy was a humble Metropolis, which they slowly built up to become the centre of the great empire we see in this series.

What I found interesting is that she's got a public persona and a private persona, which are different to each other. When she’s in public, and especially when she’s in front of the Greeks, she's a lot tougher and much more steely. But then you see a softer side to her when she's behind closed doors, which was such fun to play.

She and Priam are very much on an equal footing, in terms of how they rule the kingdom together. As Troy’s King he's always the public spokesman, but behind closed doors she's very much his equal and they always talk things through to try and solve their many, many problems in a way. They can be pretty fierce with each other in terms of having differing opinions, but there’s always a mutual respect that was very attractive to play.

What attracted you to this project?
Hecuba is a very strong character, and overall the fall of Troy is such a great story which she's at the heart of. I've never done a project that had such epic proportions, as a lot of the stories I tell are more intimate in scale. So I was looking forward to that, plus the chance to shoot in South Africa. That was very attractive!

Did you do any research?
The scripts are so well written that you could just use that as your base and not do any research, but I found it really interesting to read further into the story. There are a lot of really great books written about it and the classic texts. There are so many differences - not just between them and what our story is, but between each other.

The story covers a war, which is obviously very male driven, but nevertheless the female characters remain central to the series...
The women of Troy are so strong - they had to be, in terms of what was going on around them. If you look at history I think it was only really when we reached the Victorian era that women became genteel and known as 'the softer sex', whereas the women in a lot of Greek plays are all very strong. I think all the women in this series have enjoyed playing their characters because they're such full-blooded and opinionated roles. They're all smart, complex, complicated and full of contradictions, so you can make interesting choices.

What kind of world do you think David Farr and the other writers have created?
It's very important in these big epic stories to create something that's also very personal, and I think they've trod that line brilliantly. There are big, epic battle scenes where whole armies are fighting to the death on an almighty scale, but at the same time the series has so many wonderful, intimate moments where you see the characters at home in the midst of it all, where their vulnerabilities and the massive dilemmas they face come to the fore. This makes the series so involving and human, whilst maintaining an epic quality.

What happens when Helen enters Hecuba's world?
All hell breaks loose! Initially we’re incredibly sceptical and we’re scared. Helen being there is so loaded because she's essentially ‘owned’ by one of the most powerful Kings in the world, and by escaping to Troy she and Paris have given him cause to attack. Hecuba and Priam are won over by her though. She's got a lot of guts to her, and she’s such a strong character, very charismatic and very principled as well. I think that appeals to us as King and Queen.

Why does Hecuba protect her?
It’s because ultimately they believe in Paris - or Alexander as they call him, as that’s his birth name - and now that he’s returned into their lives they want to stand by him. He and Helen also remind Hecuba and Priam of themselves when they were that age. They really do believe in the love they share - having seen it close at hand they believe the two should be together and that it’s right to defend them, right or wrong.

It’s not an easy decision though. The whole city and its citizens are put at such risk because of them, and Hecuba finds herself very conflicted. Across the series she really has to wrestle with what is the right thing to do.

What was the atmosphere like on set?
There were a lot of younger cast members, all these kids in their 20s, and this was the biggest job they'd been in, so there were particularly enthusiastic and charming and excited about it, and it was so infectious. It was lovely to be around that.

And the sets are incredible...
Yes! For the palace interiors we were in a studio in an industrial area on the edge of Cape Town which could not feel more different to ancient Troy. The moment you enter them though you are transported back - you are fully immersed into this world because the production design is just amazing. The sets are huge but the little details have not been neglected. You feel the reality of being in that world and you could see why people would want to take this city.

The exterior sets were shot out in the wine country of Cape Town against the backdrop of the mountains. Being there, it didn’t even look real - it's such a huge, sweeping landscape that instantly gives our series a mythical backdrop. In front of this they built so much of the city of Troy and filled it with supporting artists. It created a sense of reality that really helped us actors and I’m sure it will look spectacular. My costumes also made me feel so regal - Hecuba wears a lot of jewellery that had such a weight to it.