There’s perhaps no more natural choice to play the part of the cunning and powerful Rodrigo Borgia, also known as Pope Alexander VI, than Jeremy Irons.

“There are many different views about Alexander,” says Irons. “People say he was a huge reformist of the church, a wonderful organizer, and a great military commander, as well as wonderful company and a man of great appetites. Yet people also called him incestuous, a murderer and an adulterer. I found he was a bit of everything. That’s great for an actor to be able to play.”

Neil Jordan, creator and exec producer of Showtime’s lush medieval series, is a friend of Irons. Both were taking in a play in Dublin when the Irish director told the British actor, “I’ve got something that might interest you.” A few weeks later, Jordan pitched the part of Borgia to Irons.

Irons, however, did not jump at the chance.

“I looked Alexander VI up on Google and learned that he was a big man. So I told Neil, ‘It’s nice of you to ask me but I think you could cast it better.’ Neil responded, ‘I don’t care what he looked like. The part is all about power and how this man dealt with power. I think it’s a role you can cope with and play well.’?”

In the end, portraying Borgia’s tricky relationships in dealing with power and his family is what convinced Irons to come on board.

“Today, people do things to strengthen their power base, to increase their power, to make the life they live more secure,” says Irons. “What interests me are the parallels between then and today, and how the games of power haven’t changed at all.”

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Lead Actor Contenders
Sean Bean | Steve Buscemi | Jeremy Irons | Matt LeBlanc |

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