There was never a dull moment in Catherine de Medici’s world. The historical drama The Serpent Queen follows Catherine’s life from an early age as she’s thrust into the dangerous and duplicitous world of the French court. In this world, you can trust no one. Amrita Acharia plays Aabis, a member of Catherine’s entourage starting when the royal was a teen.
“It’s an entourage of absolute outsiders that in some way kind of need her, but she also needs them,” Amrita explained in our EXCLUSIVE interview. “Aabis is part of the Ottoman Empire, so she is a woman of color. That already makes her quite a bit of an outsider. She is considered quite attractive, which can be quite dangerous, especially alongside a queen who isn’t deemed to be so attractive. Or at that stage, not queen, but will be. She’s an interesting character to play because, on the one hand, her currency is her sexuality, her body, and her looks. But obviously, those will fade with age.”
She continued, “You see her throughout the show becoming a bit more mature and really thinking about the future a little bit more and making choices that she perhaps regrets later down the line. I think it’s quite interesting as well that she’s quite fluid in terms of both allegiances and her sexuality. It’s really nice to be able to play somebody that isn’t just straight. She’s kind of left field of what a woman like that would normally be in a story. I thought that was a really interesting choice for her as well.”
Amrita pointed out that all the relationships that the women of The Serpent Queen have on the show are “very much rooted in a drive to get something, whether that’s an emotional desire, or whether it’s a very political move. I think it places sex as like a chess piece in the game, where it’s not just there for the entertainment of your viewers or the entertainment of the men around the story, but actually is a very powerful move that you can choose to make or not.”
Catherine de Medici became one of the most powerful and longest-serving rulers in French history. In the show, Catherine is incredibly intellectual and cunning. Amrita revealed that Aabis and Catherine’s relationship is “quite frosty.” Aabis becomes Catherine’s dressmaker so Aabis “gets up there close and personal with her and sees her in the most vulnerable of times, the best of times, and the worst of times. And yet there’s always a kind of distance, obviously, between them because of where they are in the in the hierarchy of the story and history.”
She stressed that Aabis and Catherine do not trust each other, but that could be said for any relationship in The Serpent Queen. “The only thing they can trust is that anyone could stab you in the back,” Amrita said.
Because of the fraught environment, characters like Aabis have to always sleep with one eye open. “Aabis definitely struggles with showing anything that might make her weak or that people can use against her,” Amrita told HollywoodLife. “It’s really hard for her to ask for help, which is why I think she keeps everything quite close and secretive to herself.” However, as Aabis gets older, she begins to realize that “there are needs that she has as a woman and as a person as a human being that can’t survive this constant battle for survival that they’re doing in the French court, basically.”
The Serpent Queen marks Amrita’s first foray into the period drama. The actress admitted that she was intrigued by the show because “it was written in a way that would be described as modern but still holds true to the time. It was just really interesting because I found the female characters aren’t portrayed as kind of very stiff upper lip like you’d kind of expect in a period drama or sort of has been the case in the past. I thought it was really exciting that it was women that were really flawed. I mean, not just a little bit, but are just kind of nasty, especially to each other. They’re kind of like, this is what I want, and I’ll do whatever to get it. I find that really exciting and fun. I loved how Catherine de Medici is written as well. Obviously, it breaks the fourth wall. I always think it’s quite interesting when things like that are implemented into shows because it dares the audience to really get in there and be part of it.” The Serpent Queen premieres September 11 on STARZ.