'Belgravia': Harriet Slater, Benjamin Wainwright discuss romance in claustrophobic society

Harriet Slater and Benjamin Wainwright star in "Belgravia: The Next Chapter," premiering Sunday. Photo courtesy of MGM
Harriet Slater and Benjamin Wainwright star in "Belgravia: The Next Chapter," premiering Sunday. Photo courtesy of MGM

NEW YORK, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- Harriet Slater and Benjamin Wainwright say their characters are in very different places emotionally when they meet and fall in love in the new British costume drama, Belgravia: The Next Chapter.

Premiering Sunday on MGM+, the sequel series is set in 1871, three decades after the events of the 2020 limited series, Belgravia.


Both installments were written by Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey and The Gilded Age, based on Fellowes' novel of the same name.

The Next Chapter follows the whirlwind romance of Frederick Trenchard (Wainwright), a British aristocrat haunted by his past, and Clara Dunn (Slater), a newcomer to London society.

The cast also includes Sophie Thompson, Alice Eve, Adam James, Edward Bluemel, Toby Regbo, Hannah Onslow, Claude Perron and Sophie Winkleman.


"Clara is extremely optimistic. She wears her heart on her sleeve. She's very trusting. She finds that whole world extremely exciting," Slater told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.

"I related immediately to her insecurities and her values, how much she loves her family and her relationship, in general, because it's not clear sailing. It's very up and down, and I think that makes it really realistic and really compelling."

Wainwright described Frederick as a "troubled individual."

"I don't want to say I connected to him in the same way because that would imply I had a really terrible childhood," the actor laughed.

"But I think we can all connect with feeling like an insider, even when we should be at the heart of something and I think Frederick has never felt comfortable anywhere until he meets Clara," he added. "But he's got a long way to go from that first episode."

Slater said it is love at first sight when Clara meets Frederick.

"This is her first-ever romantic relationship and she just gets completely swept up in the whole thing," the actress added.

"She comes from an extremely loving family and that's all she's ever known and that is what she expects from marriage and this relationship with Frederick and it doesn't quite go to plan. She grows a lot as a person because of that."


Frederick's upbringing with an abusive father means it is difficult for him to get close to anyone.

"He struggles to be truly intimate with anyone. I don't think he's been shown a lot of love in his childhood and doesn't really understand why anyone would love him," Wainwright said.

"Clara is a port in the storm, but he still doesn't really know how to let her in. He's attracted to her and amazed that she is attracted to him, but he has to learn to open up and be vulnerable with her or he risks losing her."

While readers and viewers seem obsessed with books, TV shows and movies set in this time and place, Clara and Frederick find themselves suffocated by the obligations, traditions and laws that come with their places in society.

"Clara has been thrust into this world that is so different than she knows. Like Ben said, I think she also feels a bit like an outsider," Slater said.

"The whole thing is extremely exciting, but also a little bit intimidating at the same time and overwhelming at times, as well. She tries very, very hard to fit in and do the right thing and not let anyone down and be the wife and lady of the house that Frederick and everyone else wants her to be, but it's not always easy."


As head of his household, Frederick finds himself nearly crushed by his responsibilities.

"It's expected of him that he will carry on -- as the firstborn -- the family line and not lose all the work of his father and grandfather, so he feels a lot of pressure and Clara feels that pressure as a result," Wainwright said.

"He needs her to conform and he needs her to play by his rules or, rather, the rules imposed by society," he added.

"Whilst he may not necessarily agree with the standards of behavior, they are so deep in him that he forces them on her without really questioning them or whether they are healthy for him or for her or for the greater good. It's heavy and I think it is a very claustrophobic society and he doesn't know any other way to live."

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