Countess Alicia von Rittberg grew up in a noble family in Munich. She was very young, still a teenager, she became the revelation of German television, and she was building a career that even deposited her in Hollywood, where she acted alongside Brad Pitt in “Fury”. Now, the Teutonic interpreter has the opportunity to explore her roots again: she has just premiered on the Starzplay platform “Becoming Elizabeth”, a period drama about the youthful years, full of intrigues, blood, sex and romance, of Isabel, the first.
But the Countess of the Von Rittberg House, whose power dates back to the 16th century, says that for the role, one of the most important roles of her career and that marks her landing on the international level, “the way I grew up was not a factor”.
“I think that the only thing I took from my life is being a woman, trying to find my way, my voice…”, Von Rittberg affirms in dialogue with EL DIA. The life of a nobleman today and a princess yesterday, of course, are very different. In that sense, “the most difficult thing”, adds the actress, “was understanding what it would be like if life was always at risk: you could make a decision and your head ended up nailed to a spike. But the rest of the challenges she faced, falling in love, navigating her family, growing up alone, because she was orphaned, and finding a way to get what she wants without pressure, also learning to observe, to learn and to be shrewd about what want, that’s something I could relate to.”
The series landed on the Starzplay platform, where a new episode will be released every Sunday, just in time for the Jubilee of Elizabeth II, which took its name from the Elizabeth explored in this fiction. However, the series created and written by the award-winning playwright and television screenwriter Anya Reiss, addresses a very different period from that of the mythical Elizabeth, that of the books: this new drama about the Tudors explores the unknown history of the first years of England’s most iconic queen, long before her accession to the throne.
Back then, the young Elizabeth Tudor was a newly orphaned teenager at the start of the series: then, she finds herself embroiled in the politics, and also the sexual exploration, of the English court, in a drama that follows the usual path of palace intrigue (the death of King Henry VIII sees his nine-year-old son Edward assume the throne and sets in motion a dangerous power struggle when Elizabeth, Edward and their sister Mary find themselves as pawns in a game between the great families of England), but adds a dose of high-voltage romance and coming-of-age story.
It is the portrait of a little-visited era in the increasingly explored genre of period fiction about royalty, but, says Von Rittberg, “the fact that there was not much research on that period allowed us to immerse ourselves in the human, emotional side ” of the future queen.
“Being so young, you’re just trying to find your way, form your own opinion, fall in love and not get married by an alliance!… Focusing on that human aspect helped us not get trapped by what the history books tell,” he explains. protagonist, for whom it was personally “liberating” to embody an unknown period of Isabel’s life, because, she laughs, “I was not so intimidated to be compared to all the other incredible actresses who have played her.”
Sure: from Helen Mirren and Judi Dench to Cate Blanchett, from Katherine Hepburn and Bette Davis to Margot Robbie, the iconic queen has been embodied by several of Hollywood’s great divas. Von Rittberg studied those works, she confesses, even if it was her turn to portray another Isabel: “Seeing these other films and actresses who played Isabel, it was interesting to see how they moved, how they sounded, how they wore their dresses: it was an important part of my research,” he says. “I’ve looked at other projects, and it’s beautiful to see how performances have changed with the times, like period dramas have also changed: You want to be true to historical facts, but you also want to create something that feels modern, that feels like something that has never been seen. That’s what fascinated me about ‘Becoming Elizabeth’: no matter what era it was set in, it felt modern, it felt inhabited by people just facing the same challenges we face today.”