Becoming Elizabeth's Tom Cullen Explains His 'Jedi Mind Trick' For Thomas Seymour's Complex Relationship With Elizabeth Tudor

Becoming Elizabeth debuted on Starz to give a fresh take on the stories of the Tudor monarchs. The historical drama is centered on the future Queen Elizabeth I, when she was just the daughter of Anne Boleyn and third in line for the throne after the death of King Henry VIII. Newly orphaned, Princess Elizabeth (Alicia von Rittberg) is taken into the “protection” of Catherine Parr (Jessica Raine) and Thomas Seymour (Tom Cullen of Knightfall), but it quickly becomes clear in the series that they have their own goals in mind. Cullen opened up to CinemaBlend about the “Jedi mind trick” he used to play his character, as well as Seymour’s priorities. 

Elizabeth I is famously known in the centuries following her death as the Virgin Queen who never married, but Becoming Elizabeth shows a young woman who is open to romance when it comes to the attentions of the dashing (and much older) Thomas Seymour, who just so happens to be married to her former stepmother. He shared his approach to playing both the charming and dangerous sides of his character with the teenage Elizabeth:

Well, when I first read the scripts, I think the thing that really kind of popped out to me was how complex all of the characters were. That show very much exists in the gray, and there's very little black and white in it. I think Thomas in particular is very, very gray in the sense that he's very complex. I kind of wanted to lean into that, and I had to kind of like play a Jedi mind trick on myself whilst filming, and really make him the hero of the piece. In my head, I'd renamed it 'Elizabeth and I,' thinking that this is actually a show about Thomas and his story and his rise to power. So I had to justify everything that he did. Otherwise, you judge the character too much. So yeah, I kind of wanted the audience to really like him, so that when things get a bit more complex, they feel like they are on the same journey as Elizabeth.

Viewers may be watching Becoming Elizabeth as an adaptation of Elizabeth I’s years following the death of her father, surviving the reign of her boy king brother, and development into the woman who would become queen, but Tom Cullen had to think of the show as Seymour would: a story about him. At this point in the story, Elizabeth truly is more of a pawn than a player without power of her own, and Cullen made it easy to understand why a young girl would respond to his attention. 

Alicia von Rittberg’s performance as Elizabeth also really sells the character’s infatuation with him, which is a sign that the show found the right actress to play the future queen despite her original belief that there was a mistake in her audition! As of the beginning of the series, the various characters have different plots and priorities in the transition of power from Henry VIII to Edward, with Catholic sister Mary and Protestant sister Elizabeth. What are Thomas Seymour’s priorities at this point? Tom Cullen weighed in: 

I think his priorities shift from like, how he got out of bed in the morning, to be honest. I think his priorities are quite simple. He wants to get out of his brother's shadow, and everything that he does very much is encompassed by that, I think. Yeah, that is definitely his big drive. The show has certainly made it clear that the two Seymour brothers are not quite cut from the same cloth, and it remains to be seen whether Thomas can grab some more power for himself… and how Elizabeth will be caught up in the whole affair. Viewers who know their history know that they certainly won’t get married and ride off into the sunset for a happily-ever-after, but that still leaves a lot of room for complications.

See what happens next on Becoming Elizabeth with a new episode on Sunday, June 19 at 8 p.m. ET on Starz. The network is the home of some of the greatest romance on television with Outlander (starring Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan), but it’s safe to say that viewers shouldn’t expect more of the same from Elizabeth and Thomas Seymour. For some more viewing options now and in the coming weeks, be sure to check out our 2022 TV premiere schedule. You can also check out Tom Cullen’s time in another period drama, as both seasons of Knightfall are available with a Netflix subscription.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel, but will sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation.