From ‘Awkward’ to awkward situations, Evan Williams is making a splash in the new royal drama ‘Versailles’ and told Hidden Remote all about the new series.
The French royal court is coming to U.S. television as Versailles begins its American broadcast run on Ovation starting Oct. 1. That means plenty of period-set scandal and mayhem, and one of the people at the center of that delightful chaos is Evan Williams.
Evan plays the Chevalier de Lorraine, whose personal life – including a very forbidden relationship with someone close to King Louis XIV – only makes his place in the French nobility even more complicated as his neck is constantly on the line.
It’s a very layered part and also a much different role for Evan to tackle, so Hidden Remote connected with him to chat about what makes his character so complex and what he’s loved about playing in 1667 France.
Hidden Remote: As viewers tune into Versailles, what do you want them to know about your character?
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Evan Williams: I would describe him as a damaged yet aggressively opportunistic person. Everybody else is there is because they’re invited or they have a job or they’re royalty and my character is only there because he’s the lover of the king’s brother.
Which means not only am I holding a position that is illegal and punishable by death at this time because it’s a Catholic state, so I already know that I’m getting the stink eye from the king, I also know at the snap of the finger, I could completely disappear.
So it’s like if everyone is on Mount Olympus, I’m the one that’s holding on with my fingernails and digging in so if I ever feel like I’m ravenous that’s why. I’ve got to be stealthy and efficient and smart about every step, while making it seem easy enough and effortless and second nature.
HR: Is that part of what attracted you to him, or what made the Chevalier someone that you wanted to play?
EW: It’s so fun to play a complex character that is damaged because we’re all damaged, I believe, and so getting to be able to tell my personal truth through the lens of this character was a great opportunity because you got to let the shadows come out and play.
Some people would describe the character as a villain but I’m bending over backwards to defend this guy. He’s a real character, a real person, so I’ve a duty to defend where he was coming from because I’m sure he believed he was doing what he had to do.
It’s fun to play a character that gets the jokes. One of the weapons in my arsenal is wit and that’s how I can make myself necessary and I can always disarm my lover who carries a lot of power. It’s like taming the lion; I’m always doing this delicate dance to get close to the lion’s mouth and never get bit so I can use humor to dance around that way. When it works, it works brilliantly and when it doesn’t, I’m in trouble.
HR: How was it for you to go from Awkward to this, which is so totally different? Did it take you a second to switch gears?
EW: I had done the fourth season of Awkward directly before I left to go shoot the first season of Versailles. And I came back and did the fifth season of Awkward and then I flew back and shot the second season of Versailles. So it wasn’t so much gearing back up, it was just switching gears because the way they shoot in Europe is way different than they shoot in America.
There’s two hour lunches and wine with lunch, they shoot eight-hour days so it’s sort of like a rush. Everything has to be so efficient; the crew on Versailles worked like a well-oiled machine and everybody was on their toes. Everybody was a craftsman. Everybody took great pride in their work. Everything has to be just so, so that can slow things down a little bit…but when it works well, it’s magic and I think you can see that in the final product.
HR: You actually shot the series in France, which must have been fantastic to actually film in the place you’re supposed to be.
EW: It was so wild. Getting to go someplace with so much rich history and then be able to dive into it and engage the imagination was awesome. And this kind of show really requires the size of budget that we had and I’m so grateful we had a production team that was able to throw their weight behind it because if we had cut corners it wouldn’t have really worked.
When you see the show, the money goes on the screen and they use every penny to great effect. We shot it from the most beautiful castle that’s private from the public and we were able to shoot at Versailles itself, which was insane. Getting to wander the halls of Versailles alone, entirely abandoned, in costume was one of the craziest experiences of my life.
HR: What people may not know about you is that you’re pretty worldly yourself. What are some of your passions?
EW: I’m leaving at the end of the month to go to Nepal and I’m going to build a school with a organization called buildOn. I’m super stoked about it because they’re a wicked organization and every school that they planted has grown. It’s not the kind of organization where they go in and do something for show; they really create change in these communities. I’ve been doing this kind of work since I was 15 and I’m super passionate about it.
HR: Your efforts for that trip also have a Versailles connection as well, right?
EW: I actually wrote a song and had the guy who plays Louis, George Blagden, and another actor named Mark Rendall had them sing with me. We did a three part harmony to this song I wrote and I put a little teaser online and said if we can raise the money that I need for this trip, I’ll put the full audio version online. We raised all the money within a day and it was amazing.
I think the reason is the fandom came together because they were moved by the show. They were moved by the hearts that they saw on the show and I think that if we can draw what moves us in fiction to what moves us in our real lives – the only reason fiction moves us is because it reminds us of ourselves and trying to bridge that gap for me is high on my priority list. So I was super thrilled to find they were coming out with their support like that.
HR: The music is something else that’s close to home for you about this show.
EW: The other thing that not a lot of people know is that I’m a musician as well and I get some of my music in the projects that I do. I’m probably not going to have too much music in Versailles because it’s so specifically period, but one of the cool things about it is that it has a modern spin, so it actually has electronic music mixed in with the soundtrack, which lends a sort of urgency and timelessness that works really well.
Some people love it, some people hate it but that’s one of the reasons it’s not a stuffy costume drama is it’s a sort of entirely modern show set in a historical setting. It’s sexy, racy and it’s challenging and fast.
HR: Is there anything in particular that you want to say to the audience?
EW: Just coming back from Burning Man, the thing that’s on my mind is scarcity. Why do we in this world think that there’s not enough to go around? I am not really sure that I believe there’s not enough to go around.
It’s just an ideological perspective that we have that we all assume there’s not enough so we try to get as much for ourselves as we can, which then makes there not enough. The thing about Burning Man is that there’s no commerce there. Everyone is just giving gifts to each other and everybody is taken care of.
Versailles premieres on Ovation Oct. 1 and will subsequently be available on Netflix. You can also follow Evan on Twitter for the latest updates on the show, his music and his charity efforts.