It might be surprising to hear that an actress well-known for doing period dramas swore she’d never wear a corset again, but Game of Thrones’ Natalie Dormer had to break that vow so she could play Seymour Dorothy Fleming — aka Lady Worsley. The role of a “scandalous” 18th century noblewoman was apparently too delicious a part for Dormer to imagine anyone else playing. Considering how perfect she was as The Tudors’ Anne Boleyn, neither can I.
(painting of Worsley on the left by Joshua Reynolds)
For BBC2’s upcoming production of The Scandalous Lady W (formerly The Lady in Red), Dormer was convinced by director Sheree Folkson (Doctor Who, The Decoy Bride) to shoot all her sex scenes in a day. This being Pajiba, I can already hear you dirtybirds asking, “How many sex scenes?” — well, let’s just say, Lady Worsley seems to have earned her adjectives. After marrying Sir Richard Worsley, 7th Baronet (Shaun Evans) and quickly discovering her husband didn’t exactly fulfill her needs, Seymour took a lover or two — or 27 — then ran off with one of her favorites, Captain George M Bissett (Aneurin Barnard). Of course, the mister (Richard) didn’t take to kindly to his Lady’s behavior and had her charged with adultery (“criminal conversation”), perhaps forgetting that his own activities would also be brought to light. Turns out Richard was a closet peeper who delighted in pimping out his wife, and watching her sexcapades through a keyhole (as several of Seymour’s lovers testified). Of the racy script, based on Hallie Rubenhold’s Lady Worsley’s Whim, Dormer said she “…didn’t want anyone else to play this woman.” (Nor do we.)
After the director “decided to do all the sex scenes in one day,” Dormer said she “was a mess! “I was grateful, though, to be doing them with someone who I knew well.”
The actress was also fascinated by the story’s historical context:
“The real historical fact is so extraordinary and intoxicating. A woman couldn’t inherit her own property or own her own property until 1870 with the Married Woman’s [Property] Act.
It was only 145 years ago. And most women who go round the street tweeting and ordering on their Net a Porter app have no idea how minute the time is that we have had equality.”
(After her separation, Lady Worsley was unable to remarry — Richard refused to divorce her — she signed an agreement that required a several year exile to France, and property laws prevented her from officially owning a home that was by rights, hers.)
The Scandalous Lady W also starts Michael Bott and Alex Beckett; it airs on BBC2 August 20th.