Four-part series Catherine the Great begins in 1762, when the 33-year-old former German princess becomes Empress of Russia after pulling off a coup against her husband, Emperor Peter III, with the help of the court’s guard, led by her lover, Count Grigory Orlov (Richard Roxburgh).
Her passionate affair with another member of court, Grigory Potemkin (Jason Clarke), was her most important relationship, but she never remarried. During their time together, she passed a series of liberalising social and political reforms unheard of at the time, including establishing the first educational institute for women.
“Honestly, I didn’t really want to do this,” Mirren surprisingly confesses. “When you do interviews, someone inevitably asks what you’d like to play next and my mind went blank and all I could think about was Catherine the Great – never imagining in a million years that anybody would finance something like that! When the producer told me he had the money, my heart sank because I dreaded the idea of gearing myself up to investigate this world and play her.”
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