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February 07, 2017

Teen Queen

Jenna Coleman goes from Gallifrey to Buckingham.

Benji Wilson
  • Maarten De Boer/Contour By Getty Images

The journey from the Tardis to Buckingham Palace has seen Jenna Coleman graduate from being one of TV’s most famous sidekicks to one of history’s greatest rulers.

Not that she feels particularly imperious on this day. “We shoot through the winter in an airport hangar in North Yorkshire,” says Coleman, on the set of Masterpiece’s Victoria, “so you leave the makeup truck wearing a crown, but you’re actually wearing wellies on your feet as you stomp through the mud. That kind of grounds you.”

Coleman first came to attention as Clara Oswald in Doctor Who, gallivanting to Gallifrey on the arm of both Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi. In Victoria (airing in seven parts on PBS), she takes on the royal role when Victoria is still relatively unknown — not the grieving potentate, widowed at 42. Here she’s something closer to a stroppy teen.

“People have a preconceived idea of Victoria because photography wasn’t invented until late in her life,” Coleman says, “so the only photographs of her are in that stern, regal pose when she’s older. But she’s much more of an unexpected queen.”

The actress prepped for the role by immersing herself in Victoria’s compendious diaries.

“It’s the details that give you some idea of what she was like. In one entry she was going for a walk with Lord Melbourne [played in the series by Rufus Sewell] and she suddenly turns to him because she sees a big field in front of her and she wants to go and roll around in it! She’s a teenager and she’s really spirited — that is something I keep coming back to.”

Born in Blackpool, Coleman began performing in musicals at age 10. That was followed by an after school job in the British soap Emmerdale, playing a vicar’s niece gone bad. She worked continually on British television until global recognition came with Doctor Who in 2012.

Now, as she preps for the second season of Victoria, she does admit some concern.

“We’re trying to work out how to get through the nine — nine! — births of her children. I’m hoping they’ll do it in a big montage shot.”

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 1, 2017

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