Sacha Dhawan & Phoebe Fox Interview: The Great Season 2

The Great gets the ball rolling on Russia's own Age of Enlightenment this week, with all 10 episodes of the second available on Hulu starting November 19. Catherine's (Elle Fanning, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil) victorious coup over her estranged husband Peter (Nicholas Hoult, Those Who Wish Me Dead) has her ready to make all sorts of changes to her adoptive nation, but her reign is not met without resistance.

While the courtiers she's won over are taken with her lofty ideas for change in general, the nobility at large is not particularly thrilled with the thought of losing their serfs overnight. And while Peter shores up his supporters on the side, even Catherine's closest confidantes must caution her against acting too rashly in Russia's best interest. Marial (Phoebe Fox, The Aeronauts) and Orlo (Sacha Dhawan, Doctor Who) love their empress dearly, but that doesn't stop them from worrying about her choices.

Related: Bayo Gbadamosi & Gwilym Lee Interview: The Great Season 2

Fox and Dhawan spoke to Screen Rant about juggling their affection for Catherine with their love for their country, and how conflicts might come to a head in their relationships this season.

It is a whole new world post-coup. Can each of you tell me where your character's mind is at the start of season 2?

Sacha Dhawan: Orlo... I'd say he has found himself or is finding himself. Not just navigating through these new politics, making exciting changes, but just in himself. I really loved that it felt very human, in a sense. In this crazy court, for a guy that's experimenting and has now got the confidence to try different things: to start drinking, to go to parties, to enjoy this new almost celebrity status. But also to experiment with his sexuality a little bit.

And it was also really interesting to see how Orlo and Catherine's relationship develops in the season. You'd think now that she's in power, it's an easy path to get Russia great again, but it's full of unexpected challenges and hurdles - and so many surprises for both of them. It does put a strain on their relationship, which you'll see.

Phoebe Fox: I think much like Orlo, in some respects, those of us who were quote-unquote "on the winning side" are reveling in it. We have newfound status and power, and that's what Marial was single-mindedly after in season 1 in this dogged fashion.

In season 2, she's just happy. I think she's just enjoying herself and opening up and being vulnerable - whilst at the same time just making sure that her status is secured, because nothing is safe in this court. People's loyalties change all the time, and people's amount of power; everything was very tenuous, so she's sort of enjoying it while she can.

Sacha Dhawan: Can I just say, when Phoebe - obviously, it's fair to say Orlo kind of hates Marial - but when I saw Phoebe as lady again, as it were, she looks amazing.

You both hinted at a little bit of conflict, and I think it's very clear that while we all know Catherine as the Great, she's not quite great to everyone yet. Would either of you like to expand on points of conflict you may have with your beloved Catherine?

Phoebe Fox: I think I continue in this role of that friend who drops the truth bombs. On one hand, I remind her of her brilliance and that she is exceptional. But on the other hand, I'm keeping her grounded and being like, "You can't wear that, honey." She's very ugly, Marial, and she keeps Catherine very grounded.

But their fundamental point of conflict is Marial's betrayal, which I think is one of those things in a friendship that probably they will never get over, even though it's sort of been swept under the carpet. But it's [also] Archie [Adam Godley]. They're never going to agree.

Sacha Dhawan: I see all Orlo and Catherine as brother and sister. They really love each other, but at the same time, they can be at loggerheads as well. And see that in season 2.

You rightly mentioned that she's Catherine the Great, but she's also slightly naive. Orlo is naive as well; this is a new chapter in his life. But she's naive in thinking that she can implement some, for Orlo, huge changes like freeing the surfs overnight. It's really detrimental, and it does put a strain on their relationship. Which is quite unfortunate, because they really genuinely care for one another.

But I think they've kind of got to go through that to realize how best to navigate each other. And Orlo isn't perfect either - he kind of undermines her slightly. He isn't like the other men at court, but he can just think, "I can just make decisions behind her back." And she rightly puts him in his place, actually. It's just learning about how to work with each other, like any new relationship.

More: 10 Best Period Dramedies Like The Great

All 10 episodes of The Great's second season are available to stream November 19 on Hulu.

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