Published: Thursday, 01 February 2024 15:02 | Written by Jamie Ruby
Belgravia: The Next Chapter is a sequel to Julian Fellowes’ limited series Belgravia that takes place three decades later. The series stars Harriet Slater as Clara Dunn, who after her father dies marries Lord Frederick Trenchard, played by Ben Wainwright. The historical drama follows their marriage as well as the hardships they face. Slater and Wainwright recently spoke with SciFi Vision about their work on the series, including the ups and downs of the characters’ marriage, the costumes and sets of the period piece, laughing behind the scenes, struggling with riding fake horses, and much more. Watch the interview or read the transcript below and be sure to check out Belgravia: The Next Chapter on MGM Plus.
SCIFI VISION: To start out, obviously at the end of the first one is when she falls and they have had their fight, but they sort of get closer after this, but there's a lot of kind of push and pull back and forth with you know, with fighting with getting over with it, with getting closer with getting further apart. Can you both tease sort of that trajectory through the season of how the relationship is going to be? HARRIET SLATER: I mean, it's sort of continues in that manner for most of the show, to be honest. It's very up and down, which was great, and also kind of tricky to play at times, because we were shooting out of order as you most often do. So, keeping track of where exactly we were in the relationship and whether we were having a good day or a bad day was a little difficult to keep track of sometimes. But yeah, I enjoy that. BENJAMIN WAINWRIGHT: I was going to say there were some weeks where we were shooting kind of every episode at once, and we were backtracking and forwardstracking through our relationship and trying to figure it out day to day. And sometimes, within a day, we'd be doing different episodes. You have to do somersaults to kind of keep on top of it. It's quite gratifying to watch it now. There's a lot of back and forth. It carries on in that vein, for sure. SCIFI VISION: Sort of tease a little bit too about some of the obstacles they face. I would say probably the two biggest ones being the doctor and also I think the marquis. It seems like she is trying to help at times, but maybe trying to stir trouble. It's not completely clear. So, can you sort of talk about those two things a bit? Whichever one of you wants to go first. HARRIET SLATER: I mean, it's kind of hard to talk about it without giving anything away, but yeah, I think they're just part of this world where reputation is everything, and people are always talking about you, and they know that…They really don't want all of their troubles out there, but people just keep getting involved, because people love the goss[ip]. And yeah, the marquis and the doctor, especially, are two characters who potentially could stir up certain things further down the line. Who knows? We'll see. SCIFI VISION: Anything to add for that, without without giving too, too much away? BENJAMIN WAINWRIGHT: No, I mean, we’re treading such a fine line here, but that's certainly two characters to watch, I'd say. SCIFI VISION: All right, that's fair. So, what's it like getting to be in such an elaborate - I mean, both for both of you, but especially for you, Harriet, in such elaborate costumes. I would think that it would be a lot of fun, but also maybe uncomfortable. HARRIET SLATER: You hit the nail on the head. That's exactly how it was. The costumes are incredible, and they do a lot of the work for you in a way, because they really make you feel like you are that person sometimes, because they're almost like a character in themselves, and some of them are genuinely 100 years old. So, that was amazing. But yeah, they're not the most comfortable, and they make going to the toilet pretty [laughs] difficult. It's quite time consuming. It was a relief getting the corset off at the end of the day, I will say. SCIFI VISION: I'm sure. What about you, Ben? Does it did it inform your character choices a lot? BENJAMIN WAINWRIGHT: Yeah, I mean…obviously I wouldn't dare complain about my costumes when the ladies in the production were all corseted, but certainly these high stiff collars, they force us to do a certain thing, and I don't feel the need to wear four or five layers of wool in my day to day life. So, that certainly informs your choices, too. But yeah, I mean, as Harriet said, so much of the work is done for you. You step into these kind of high heeled very stiff shoes and everything is about appearance, and your chest is puffed out, and your neck is pushed up. All you then have to do is really get the words out, and you already look like you're Victorian struggling against, you know, society's ills, etc. So, yeah. SCIFI VISION: Other than getting stuff out of order and the costumes, was there anything else that you found difficult, especially if it was particularly, I guess, in connecting with the characters themselves? For either of you? Was there anything you sort of struggled with at the beginning? HARRIET SLATER: I actually feel like even though it's a period piece, there was a lot in Clara that I recognized. I think Helen, our writer, is phenomenal. She's written these characters who are relatable, and they're going through things that people today, we go through. I think the story itself is about love and loss and unrequited love and relationship troubles, family dramas, and all of those things still happen on a daily basis now. So, I think even though it's set over 100 years ago, there's so much in there for audiences to recognize and empathize with and relate to. SCIFI VISION: What about you, Ben? Did you connect easily with your character? BENJAMIN WAINWRIGHT: Yeah, I don't want to say I connected easily with a guy with so much childhood trauma; my mom's still around. But, no, I mean, I had a lovely childhood, and Frederick had a horrible one. But we still have these insecurities and these embarrassments from being a child that I think we quite easily sort of amplified for dramatic effects. And, and I think, as Harriet was saying, Helen wrote actually very, very modern characters. Frederick’s struggle with mental health is very obvious as a modern reader, and I think it was quite easy to kind of put all of that knowledge I have onto him and just see him as sadly a man suffering out of time. I think he'd probably be fine in 2023 with a therapist, but no such luck. He only has Clara. She's pretty good. HARRIET SLATER: He tries. SCIFI VISION: And that was the next thing I was going to ask, and you sort of touched on this, but what was some of the preparation that you did do while you were forming your versions of the characters? HARRIET SLATER: …The classic dialect coaching, horse riding, training. We had a few horse riding sessions together as well, which was really fun. Yeah, your answer is gonna be way better than mine. BENJAMIN WAINWRIGHT: Yeah, I mean, all of those things kind of specific to production. And for me…the scripts didn't arrive till quite late. So, I knew I had something to go off, but not an awful lot. So, I was just kind of throwing myself into the period, into music and art and architecture, and trying to find something that clicked or that excited me or, or help to make sense of the period. Yeah, just looking for one little hook to kind of get in there that you can then use hopefully on set and when shooting. SCIFI VISION: Now Harriet, you mentioned the horses. Was that something you were familiar with, or was that something new that you had to had to navigate? HARRIET SLATER: No, I think I'd been on a horse once, maybe twice. So, that was pretty new. I was actually so excited about learning how to horse ride, because it was something that I'd always wanted to do. So, I was really grateful that this show gave me that opportunity. And then the end, I don't know if we’re allowed to say this [laughs] but we weren't on real horses. In the end, they were mechanical ones. So, all of those lessons kind of went out the window, and on the day, we actually had to learn how to make a fake rubber horse look like a real horse. SCIFI VISION: Well, at least you got the real training anyway. What about you, Ben, did you learn to do anything new? BENJAMIN WAINWRIGHT: I had done a little bit of riding when I was younger, but I was very grateful for the lessons, because I think there's good riding, and then there's acting whilst riding and trying to look relaxed. I mean, I wish we'd done training on the rubber horses. Those things aren't absolute nightmare. Keep an eye out. See if you can see what see which shot is where we [laughs] were on the rubber horses. SCIFI VISION: I would think that the fake ones would be easier, but maybe not! HARRIET SLATER: They are, because they barely move, but then that's hard in itself, because you then have to make it look like actually you're on a real horse. SCIFI VISION: That makes sense. Was there anything that you you both learned, though, not physically to do, but about yourselves maybe from just even an acting standpoint or just personally? Just something from the experience that it sort of taught you or something that changed you in some way? BENJAMIN WAINWRIGHT: …I think, for me, I sort of prided myself on not having to be method before I did this show. Then, actually the amount of times I had to take myself off and kind of stay in a certain mood or really focus on one thought to get to where I needed to for the scene was interesting. But then, I mean, I haven't done a part that’s demanded so much of me. So, I think that's probably what I learned. It's always harder than you think, basically. SCIFI VISION: What about you? Did it teach you anything about yourself, Harriet? HARRIET SLATER: That's such a good question, and nothing comes to mind, but I learned so much from doing this show, like a million things. We just had so much fun. And I think that that's something that I really learned as well as how, obviously, you take the work seriously, but how important it is to not really take yourself seriously and actually to just relax. I think having fun is such a huge part of relaxing and vice versa, and I think it's especially important when you're dealing with a storyline or scenes that are so intense and require a lot emotionally. I think it's so important to be able to flip out of that whenever you can and just have a laugh, which is really what we did on set. We had a lot of laughs. SCIFI VISION: I was going to say, so you both broke up some of the the seriousness behind the scenes in between takes? BENJAMIN WAINWRIGHT: Yeah, I mean, we had to. There were some weeks that were - in fact, the first couple of weeks were so heavy that when the cameras rolled that it meant when the cameras weren't rolling we were having a great time, because there's no other way of surviving it, really. HARRIET SLATER: [laughs] Yeah, there was quite a lot of corpsing in certain scenes where it wasn't really appropriate, but you kind of had to, or I think otherwise you’d have gone mad. SCIFI VISION: …Can you tease maybe one of your favorite scenes that won't give too much away? Something that you tease to fans who haven't seen it yet? BENJAMIN WAINWRIGHT: Harriet and I have some great scenes. There is a scene between…my brother and I that is a favorite of mine. I’ll say no more than that. SCIFI VISION: Is there anything you can think of Harriet? HARRIET SLATER: This is so hard. So, I mean, I also have some really lovely scenes with Hannah Onslow, who plays my sister, Emily, later on, which were just a joy. She's such a great actor. We really got on as well. So, it was so brilliant working with her and nice to have scenes with her, because at the minute, our lives are very separate. Clara leaves, and she is thrust into this world, and she doesn't really see her sister or her mom. SCIFI VISION: I was going to say, is there anybody that you would like to have had more scenes with? I mean, I know there's some party scenes and dinner scenes. So, sometimes everybody's sort of there, but you don't necessarily interact as much with with everybody. Was there anybody that you had really wanted to get the chance to spend more time with? BENJAMIN WAINWRIGHT: I felt very hard done by, because I barely saw any of Sophie Thompson, Clara’s mother. The scenes I did have with her were just, she's such a pro. She's so funny. She just makes everyone laugh all day every day and seems do it so effortlessly. And Frederick spent so much time in this very dark, very serious world, that there were whole days on set where everyone had been laughing in the scenes and out of scenes, whereas Frederick doesn't get to laugh ever really on screen. So, I was jealous with everyone all the time. SCIFI VISION: What about you? Was there someone you would have liked to work more with? HARRIET SLATER: Richard and Alice…who were in season one and played Ben's parents. But I never got to do scenes with them, obviously, because I was in a different time to them, but also I never got to meet them. Well, I met Alice briefly, but I never got to meet Richard, and I was disappointed about that, because I think he's such a brilliant actor, and I was big fan of season one. So, I wish I'd have been able to meet them. SCIFI VISION: The sets [in the show are] beautiful…Do you do you both have a favorite, I guess, set or area or location that was something that sort of stood out to you? HARRIET SLATER: I loved - we went back to Basildon house, I think, it was called, or Basildon Park, which is in Reading. We went there on three separate occasions for like a good chunk of time to shoot all of our interior scenes for the inside of our Belgravia house. That's where they were all shot. And I loved that, because I'd been there the year before with friends just to have a look around, because I love visiting old houses like that. So, to then go back and pretend that it was our house was pretty amazing. So, I'd say that was my favorite. SCIFI VISION: What about you, Benjamin? BENJAMIN WAINWRIGHT: Yeah, I mean, Basildon House was nice, because it was we spent weeks on end there, and it did start to feel like a sort of home [away] from home in a strange way. But there was one - on our honeymoon we go to Lake Como which was actually Saturday, Scotland, not Saturday, but we went to this place called Gosford House. And in Episode One, I mean, we are just gawping at this incredible Italian architecture and all this marble surrounding us, and that was pretty much - I mean, I don't think we saw that before we we did the take, so we are just kind of going “Bloody hell.” HARRIET SLATER: No acting required.