In The Great, the court of Catherine II of Russia unfolds like a comic marionette show. The acclaimed television satire is a modern Hogarthian take on the period drama, setting the stage for Gwilym Lee’s suave Grigor as he survives the perils of court life. Or perhaps not. “We never know if we’re going to be killed off next,” he says with a laugh.
With the third season of The Great announced, it seems we will be seeing more of Lee. His portrayal has made him a favourite among viewers and critics alike, garnering award nominations from the Screen Actors Guild. With its sweeping story and witty script, Lee is well positioned to pull off the tragic Grigor: Lee is an alumnus of Guildhall, a one-time player for the Royal Shakespeare Company, and a star of television dramas. Perhaps you also recognise him from his performance as Brian May in Bohemian Rhapsody (the hair is a little shorter today).
As he prepares to get back into the thick of 18th-century Russian court life, we spoke to Gwilym about the art of acting, scriptwriting, his knack for carpentry, and why he would someday love to play Aneurin Bevan, the Welsh midcentury politician who created Britain’s National Health Service.