Elle Fanning: 'The Great' cast took 'comedy risks' in Season 2

Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult return for Season 2 of "The Great." Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult return for Season 2 of "The Great." Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 19 (UPI) -- Hulu series The Great takes a comedic look at the history of Catherine the Great (Elle Fanning) and Russian Emperor Peter III (Nicholas Hoult), and Fanning says the cast took more risks with the comedy in Season 2, premiering Friday.

"I felt like in Season 2, we were really going for it and embarrassing ourselves, just trying things which then inevitably are funny," Fanning said on a recent Television Critics Association Zoom panel.


The first season of The Great ended with Catherine staging a coup against Peter. Season 2 picks up four months later, with Peter and Catherine at war against each other, and Catherine pregnant with his child.

In history, Peter III died in captivity after the coup. The Great takes artistic license with that, showing Peter to sneak back into the palace, still pining for Catherine.

Hoult, 31, said Peter is using his time banished by Catherine to better himself, including trying to learn French, but he delivers it poorly.

"Luckily, I'm very bad at French, so that's something that I didn't have to rehearse or practice too much," Hoult said. "It was just natural to me to have a bad French accent. Sorry to France."


The Great delights in showing Peter as an ignoramus. In the first season, he pronounced the word "touche" as "toosh," a mispronunciation to which Season 2 refers again.

Fanning, 23, said she finds it challenging to remain in character as the calculating Catherine when Hoult is playing Peter so flamboyantly.

"Nick walking around in the absurd feather headdress, dancing and walking about, you can't help but laugh," Fanning said. "We try to hold it together."

Fanning said her Season 2 costumes were complicated because they included Catherine's pregnancy. Fanning wore a prosthetic belly for which the makeup department took a mold of her body.

"We would have different stages of the bump," Fanning said. "It was interesting working with our costume team making the dresses that would work and show the bump in a certain way."

Fanning said the prosthetic baby bump took two hours to put on and that Catherine's pregnancy symbolizes her future as the leader of Russia.

"Peter's not going to kill her with the baby in there," Fanning said. "So she's understanding that, and then also having to become a mother to the country."

Hoult said to expect more flamboyant attire from Peter as Season 2 continues. In a future episode, Peter throws Catherine a baby shower.


"I found it very liberating in many ways," Hoult said. "What Peter has designed for the baby shower that he throws is all shades of baby pink, blue and yellow, with plumes of feathers and a nice little dress."

New episodes of The Great premiere Fridays on Hulu.

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