Alica Von Rittberg plays Elizabeth Tudor in "Becoming Elizabeth." Photo courtesy of Starz
LOS ANGELES, June 12 (UPI) -- Alica Von Rittberg said playing Elizabeth Tudor in Becoming Elizabeth, premiering Sunday on Starz, shows how complicated Elizabeth's childhood was before she became Queen Elizabeth I.
"That is basically a coming-of-age story set in a political drama, set in a family drama," Von Rittberg said during a recent Television Critics Association Zoom panel. "It touches so many different nerves."
The series begins in January 1547, when Henry VIII dies. Henry's three children, Elizabeth (Von Rittberg), Mary (Romola Garai) and Edward (Oliver Zetterstrom) were potential contenders for the throne, though Edward was first in line.
28-year-old Von Rittberg said that Elizabeth I is well-known as a legendary historical figure. Von Rittberg said Becoming Elizabeth shows the human conflicts that were less explicit in history books.
"You understand how they grew up, how they were children, how they were raised, how they became these icons," Von Rittbeg said. "I think that is what we dare to show more and what we and the audience wants to see."
Elizabeth is 14 as the series begins. Though Henry is dead from frame one, Von Rittberg said Becoming Elizabeth viewers will see a sense of Elizabeth's relationship with him.
"Elizabeth was basically incredibly alone in this world and grew up without her mother," Von Rittberg said. "I think her father gave her that last sense of security, in a way."
The loss of a parent is compounded by the political intrigue to find a successor, Von Rittberg said.
"A question of where do I belong suddenly pops up," Von Rittberg said. "That can be incredibly scary when you're that young."
Elizabeth must contend with the political ambitions of the adults in her life. Tom Cullen, 38, plays Thomas Seymour, Henry's brother, who is pushing for his nephew, Edward, to succeed Henry.
"It's a scary and very unpredictable time, which really kind of gives the backbone for the show," Cullen said. "Everything feels very precarious, which is a great place for I think drama to exist."
Creator Anya Reiss said Becoming Elizabeth would portray Thomas engaging in a sexual relationship with Elizabeth.
"This relationship she had with Thomas Seymour seemed to touch on such relevant things now, such as consent and gender imbalance and power imbalance within relationships," Reiss said.
Cullen agreed with Von Rittberg's earlier comment about humanizing historical figures. He said Becoming Elizabeth also elevates historical characters who may have been on the sidelines of other stories.
"It's about characters that we don't really hear about," Cullen said. "We don't pass them by and we go into it. Actually, we really learn about the influence that these people had on Elizabeth in her early life."
Becoming Elizabeth airs Sundays at 9 p.m. EDT on Starz.