The CW series Reign tells the story of Mary Stuart (Adelaide Kane), the young woman the world would come to know as Mary, Queen of Scots. The teenage Mary is already a headstrong monarch, who has been sent to France to secure Scotland’s strategic alliance by formalizing her arranged engagement to the French king’s dashing son, Prince Francis (Toby Regbo), but he resists the idea of settling into marriage, even though the two clearly have an attraction. As a result of his hesitance, Tomas (guest star Manolo Cardona), the Prince of Portugal, seizes his own opportunity to make Mary an offer that she just might not be able to refuse.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Manolo Cardona talked about signing on for Reign so soon after his run on the TV series Covert Affairs ended, his love for playing complex characters, how much research he did into the time period, how he views his character, working with these amazing costumes and sets, learning archery and sword fighting, and getting to work with such an incredible cast and crew. Check out what he had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
MANOLO CARDONA: It was good timing. I was in Toronto and I was finishing my season on Covert Affairs, and they were looking for Tomas in Reign. It just so happened that I was available and they liked me, so they hired me. It was great because I really enjoyed playing Tomas, and I really liked the show and everybody there.
Was part of the appeal of this role the fact that Tomas, the Prince of Portugal, is so different from Teo Braga on Covert Affairs?
CARDONA: Yeah, that’s one of the things that I really, really enjoyed. I had never done period work before. It was like a beautiful play. And it was a very different character from the one that I did on Covert Affairs. It was very, very nice for me. Also, Tomas is a very interesting character that has a lot of things going on in his head. He is another person from the one you’ve already seen. I love doing that kind of complex character.
When you’re part of a story that’s rooted in history, but is also still a TV show, how much research did you do, and how much did you just stick with the story being told in the scripts?
CARDONA: I always try to do research and read. Because it’s a history show, I read a lot about that period and specifically about what happened with Portugal, at that time, to better understand the role that I was playing. The show has a lot of fiction, so once you have the research, you just stick to the story that you’re playing. I read a lot, so that when I got the scripts, it was easier because I had the background and I had everything in my mind, and I could go and play with my intuition.
How do you view Tomas? Do you see him as a villain, or do you see him as someone who’s just trying to do what’s best for his country?
CARDONA: He’s an ambitious guy. He knows what he wants and he’s gonna get it, no matter what and at whatever cost. He is very charismatic, but behind the charisma, he has things going on. He’s moving forward with his dark side. It’s a very, very interesting character.
When you put on these costumes, did it really help inform the character for you, and even make you walk and carry yourself differently?
CARDONA: Totally. The costumes are so amazing. It’s ridiculous. Once you put on the clothes, you’re just in character. You have a different way to walk and to stand. Once you put the costume on, you’re just right there.
Does being on these sets also really help you feel like you’re in another place and time?
CARDONA: Yeah, the production designer did an amazing job. All the sets are beautiful. We shot in the studio in Toronto, and all of the sets there were so amazing. And then, we flew to Ireland to do a couple of scenes in the castle. It’s beautiful. Once you’re there, you go to another time and try to imagine what that must have been like. It’s just amazing.
You get to do a lot of really physical work on this show, with horseback riding, archery, sword fighting and even some dancing. Do you enjoy getting to do that type of physical stuff?
CARDONA: Yeah, totally! I enjoyed doing all of that stuff, a lot. It was so fun and so amazing. I used to ride horses when I was a kid, so I love to ride horses, and ride in the open, in these beautiful costumes. It was just incredible.
Did you have to do some training for the archery and the sword fighting?
Were there any mishaps with the sword fighting?
CARDONA: I trained a lot for the sword fighting. It was incredible. I had never done a period show with all of that sword fighting and stuff, so I enjoyed the job.
How was it to shoot the dance sequence? Did you have to spend a lot of time on the choreography for that?
CARDONA: Yeah, and it was so great. The choreographer was amazing, and Adelaide [Kane] was great. Everyone was very committed to it.
Tomas is much more of a self-assured man than Francis (Toby Regbo) is. What do you think Tomas thinks of Francis?
CARDONA: Tomas knows what happened between Francis and Mary, and he is a rival. He’s gonna do everything in his power to get rid of him. He wants Francis away. He wants to be with Mary, to get the position that he wants. He wants to be the next King of Portugal.
What’s it been like to work with Toby Regbo and get to play out that adversarial relationship between your characters?
CARDONA: Toby is a great guy. We get along very well. He’s a great actor, and he’s a great kid. He’s going to do amazing. He has a great future and a great career ahead of him. It was very fun, what we had to do together.
It’s hard enough to have any sort of romantic relationship, but when you have to think about the good of your country on top of that, that’s really more pressure than any one relationship can stand. Do you think Tomas has any real feelings for Mary?
CARDONA: Yeah. But what he really wants is to be the next King of Portugal, and the only way to do it is Mary because she’s a queen. That way, his father will empower him and he won’t be a bastard anymore. I think it’s just a matter of ambition and power. I don’t think he has true feelings for her.
When we were first introduced to Tomas, he seemed to be a sincere guy who was a viable option for Mary, but now it’s clear that that’s not quite the case. What can you say about where things are headed next?
CARDONA: This next episode is gonna be very intense. You’ll get a new Tomas with a different edge. You’re gonna meet Tomas’ dark side. It will be fun.
How has it been to work with Adelaide Kane, especially having so many intense moments together?
CARDONA: She’s great. She’s a great actress, and a great human being. Everybody in the cast was very nice to me, as were the producers and the directors. Everybody was so nice. It’s a great group. They get along very, very well. I had a fantastic time with them.
Reign airs on Thursday nights on The CW.