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The Serpent Queen Creator Explains Catherine De Medici Narrating Her Own Scandalous Story In The Starz Series

Spoilers ahead for the series premiere of The Serpent Queen

The Serpent Queen has come to Starz as its latest period drama, but this is a period drama unlike any other. While Queen Catherine de Medici may be at the center of the action, she’s not necessarily the heroine of the story… if indeed there is somebody who will be able to qualify as a hero. As Catherine is played in the show’s present by The Walking Dead’s Samantha Morton, she’s currently telling the story of when she was new to the French court (and played by actress Liv Hill). Creator Justin Haythe opened up to CinemaBlend about Catherine’s “very specific” purpose in telling her own story. 

Justin Haythe, who also serves as co-showrunner, writer, and director for The Serpent Queen, spoke with CinemaBlend about the new series. Even before the first episode aired in the 2022 TV schedule, it was clear from the trailer that young Catherine would be breaking the fourth wall while older Catherine narrated her story. When I asked how reliable of a narrator she is as a character, Haythe shared:

Well, I'm pleased to hear you ask that question, because direct address has been around since the ancient Greeks, Shakespeare, but it's a device that I reached for very specifically. I didn't want her addressing us. She's addressing Rahima, another character in the show. And she's doing it for a very specific purpose, to try to achieve a certain goal and get her to do something. So therefore, it's an act of manipulation, right? Anytime you tell someone a story to convince them of something, you're trying to manipulate, which she is doing, but the best form of manipulation is telling the truth. So there's somewhere in between, which is I thought a good way to frame the show because the show is about a world where it's very difficult to tell what's true and what's not. And everything's a manipulation because everyone's trying to survive.

While young Catherine is directly addressing viewers, it’s actually because the older version is telling this story to Rahima, played by Sennia Nanua. Viewers might have been more inclined to trust the character if she was just breaking the fourth wall, but her spinning this story to the serving girl means that she might just be sharing her own version of events to accomplish her goals. 

Of course, the queen would have no reason to tell any of her story to Rahima at all unless she had a specific purpose in mind. After the first episode, her purpose seemed almost to toy with Rahima for her own entertainment, but there’s certainly going to be more to the story there. Considering that the past storyline already proves that Catherine survived a lot to get to her place as queen, it’s probably safe to say that she’s a skilled manipulator by this point. 

Clearly, even though Starz has been the home of other period dramas telling the stories of royalty (with Becoming Elizabeth about the future Queen Elizabeth I ending just a little over a month before The Serpent Queen premiered), this is a different kind of series. There was certainly scandal in both The White Queen and The White Princess, but nothing like what Catherine is doing in telling her own story. Considering the talented cast and the lucky breaks that the production team caught, The Serpent Queen seems guaranteed to stand out. 

See what happens next on The Serpent Queen (opens in new tab) with new episodes on Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on Starz. Sundays are competitive nights of television this fall thanks to House of the Dragon bringing the Game of Thrones universe back to HBO at 9 p.m. ET, but The Serpent Queen’s 8 p.m. time slot should mean that Catherine de Medici’s story can be a priority even for fans of both. 

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.