Victoria Star Jenna Coleman on Tiaras, Corsets, and Channeling the Queen
For Jenna Coleman, playing the queen in PBS’s Masterpiece series Victoria certainly has its perks. “I’ve gotten pretty comfortable in a tiara, I suppose,” says the 31-year-old with a laugh. “But the first couple of weeks of shooting were bizarre because you step on set and suddenly you’re sat on a throne and people are curtsying.”
Royal court etiquette isn’t the only thing Coleman had to get used to for the show, which returns on January 14. Her restrictive wardrobe was also an adjustment. “After seven months of filming, I wanted to throw my corset in the bin,” she says. “You’re forced to walk around so demurely when you wear one, and I honestly don’t know how women did it. They wore so many layers too. Each dress basically has a big duvet underneath.”
That’s not to say Coleman rejects all fashion trends from Victoria. She favors baubles inspired by the queen’s namesake era—her favorite is an Annina Vogel ring, which was a gift from her family on her 30th birthday—as well as “really high collars, lacy shirts, and ruffles.” When she’s not in costume, she opts for tried-and-true Brit brands such as Burberry and Erdem, but she faces the same #petiteproblems as the 4-foot-11-inch monarch. “There’s so much that I’d love to wear, but the proportions aren’t always right,” says Coleman, who is 5 foot 2. “You really have to know what works for your frame when you’re short.”
She may be close in height to the former ruler—she even visited Buckingham Palace to see Queen Victoria’s throne, which was “so tiny, it was almost miniature”—but certain physical features separate the two. “My eyes are brown, so once I put my blue contact lenses in, that’s when I really feel like her,” says Coleman. “It’s amazing what just changing the eye color does.” She’s also grown accustomed to donning a fake baby bump. “Season 2 is about the early part of Victoria and Albert’s marriage, when their honeymoon period is interrupted by [having] many children,” she says. “She keeps getting pregnant and becomes resentful. Tension also develops because Albert wants to rule.”
Of course, Victoria’s famous moxie never allows that to happen, and some of that brio has rubbed off on Coleman. “Victoria was so impulsive and would say exactly what she thought,” says Coleman. “Playing her definitely has made me less apologetic and more assertive, but God help me if I pick up any more of her habits!”
For more stories like this, pick up the January issue of InStyle, available on newsstands and for digital download Dec. 8.