Elle Fanning says she 'would go home and cry' after last scenes with [SPOILER] on The Great
Warning: This article contains spoilers from The Great season 3.
So much for huzzah.
During the making of The Great's third season, the cast gathered around for Nicholas Hoult's last table read as Peter III. The plan was for the group to go to an '80s roller disco afterwards, so everyone was dressed to the nines in complete '80s garb — big hair, neon colors, and all. It sounds like a delightful scene, but there was just one problem: Everyone was crying.
"The last scene before [Peter dies] — I think it's a very long scene, it's like 12 pages perhaps — but that last scene that Catherine and Peter have, at the table read, we could barely keep it together," Elle Fanning recalls to EW. "When we finally finished the script, we were all like sniffling and crying. We were just sobbing knowing that he won't play that character anymore. It was so devastating."
Those caught up on the show know that in episode 6, after getting into a lover's tiff with Catherine (Fanning) over the fact he stole her army to invade Sweden without her permission, Peter takes his horse across a frozen lake. As he turns back to her, he utters his final words — "Actually, I..." — and the ice shatters around him, plunging him and his horse into their frozen graves.
Even though Fanning says she knew as far back as last season that Peter would be no more, nothing could really prepare her for it. "I was devastated. It felt like a real death. I will say, I would go home and cry. The sets felt so much emptier without having Nick fill them. I think also, Catherine and Peter, their dynamic and the scenes that we got to do together, it was just so sad knowing that we would never get to do that banter again, you know? We're going to work together again, but it's not as these characters," Fanning says.
Parisa Taghizadeh/Hulu Peter (Nicholas Hoult) and Catherine (Elle Fanning), shown in 'The Great' season 3.
Of course, Hoult didn't disappear entirely from set after episode 6. The star also played uprising leader and Peter's lookalike, Pugachev, through the entire season before that character, too, met an untimely end in the finale. However, this maybe wasn't as much of a consolation for Fanning as one might think. "It's just... Pugachev is such a different vibe. He really is. And I will say Nick kind of acts a little different on set too when he's Pugachev," she says with a laugh. "He always makes fun of me because he's like, 'You don't like Pugachev.' I'm like, 'No! I like Peter better!' But he's so brilliant at both."
Even though she doesn't vibe as much with his other character, Fanning says ultimately she's glad they didn't hire someone else to play Pugachev. "I'm so happy that Tony [McNamara, series creator] did that. Because I think [initially] they might have toyed with the idea of hiring someone else, but no, it's so much better that it's him. And we got to have him around till the end."
At the end of the day, even though she'll miss trading outlandish barbs with her scene partner and friend, and even though she admits she's nervous "because they're really big shoes to fill with Nick being gone as Peter," his death presented an exciting challenge for Fanning as an actress.
"I think the death obviously alters her in a kind of cataclysmic way, so it was exciting to get to play that," she says. "I think the journey of grief at the back half of the season, the way that Tony wrote it, I think he wanted to show, especially in episodes six and seven, this manic grief. And Catherine is in complete denial, which is also interesting to play."
It also presents a unique challenge for the star and the show moving forward. For the first time, Catherine the Great will be ruling Russia on her own, unencumbered by her arranged marriage. What does that look like for her? Should the show get a season 4 order, the season 3 finale offers a quick tease about what viewers could expect. After being plagued by such deep grief, Catherine ends the season in the palace's stateroom, hair cut off, dancing alone as AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long" plays in the background.
"At the end, Catherine is just... it's such a total rebirth for her. She cuts her hair, and she has the dance. And she's really leaving the past behind," Fanning explains. "So I think in many ways, Tony was like, if we get to go again, it's really got to be completely new." Huzzah to that.
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