“The Spanish Princess,” which premiered May 5, rounds out the Starz miniseries triptych that began in 2013 with “The White Queen” and continued four years later with “The White Princess.” The latest seven episodes revolve around Spain’s Catherine of Aragon, played by Charlotte Hope, in line to receive the highly contested throne of England in the 16th century. The stories are adapted from Philippa Gregory’s “The Cousins’ War” series.
Emma Frost served as writer on “White Queen” and showrunner on “White Princess” and, with Matthew Graham, is showrunner again on “Spanish Princess.” Just as the action draws heavily on alliances among women, a similar dynamic reigned behind the scenes when making the miniseries.
“We had a very conscious desire both politically and creatively to prioritize looking at the work of women [when we were crewing up],” says Frost. “Though we’d ultimately hire whoever was best for the job, with this show we were into the third iteration and felt a strong desire to really lean in to the female gaze.”
Frost notes that the series has always had women writers but posits: “What happens when the DP, the producer, the editor, director, almost everyone [in key roles] is female? Personally, I don’t think storytelling is gendered 90% of the time — men can write women; women can write men. Same with directing. I don’t think there is some kind of gender apartheid. But I do think there are certain stories that one or the other gender is better placed to understand and describe.”
The environment on set, Frost says, was stress-free and collaborative, without a single disagreement during the entire shoot. While various directors rotated among the episodes, one of the constants was cinematographer Maja Zamojda, who says, “Having females in the majority of the key roles had a great impact on the look and feel of the story.”
Two of the three directors as well as three of the four editors were women. The crew worked out of The Bottle Yard Studios in Bristol, England, where “The White Princess” had already shot, so crew members were familiar with the area and with what Frost calls “an embarrassment of castles, stately homes, Tudor barns” and gardens within an hour’s drive.
Frost says she aimed to stay close to Bottle Yard to streamline the shooting day, “and because we knew which locations were filming-friendly and — importantly — which ones provided continuity,” she adds. “For example, we shot at the Berkeley Castle for Westminster Palace courtyard and were able to use a couple
of the interiors and corridors as well. If you watch a lot of period dramas, you’ll know how rare it is to achieve that relationship between interior and exterior.”