The Great's Nicholas Hoult on playing a 'childlike emperor'

Description: Episodic Photo - Nicholas Hoult as Peter, Emperor of Russia.Actor: Nicholas Hoult..

Nicholas Hoult as Peter, Emperor of Russia in The Great, which starts on Channel 4 on January 3, 2021 - Credit: Ollie Upton / Hulu / 2020 ViacomCBS

Shooting scenes of the pilot episode of The Great wasn't the first time Nicholas Hoult had filmed in Hatfield.

Having played Harley in the Oscar-nominated The Favourite, Hatfield House was a familiar location for the X-Men and Mad Max: Fury Road star.

Swapping Queen Anne period England for 18th century Russia, he plays Emperor Peter in the 10-part series about the rise of Catherine the Great.

"The Great is a satirical view of Catherine’s experience moving to Russia and planning a coup to become Empress after she discovers that her marriage and the court was not all she hoped for," explained Hoult.

"It’s about her growing up and understanding how she can change the world around her and use her voice.

Nicholas Hoult as Peter, Emperor of Russia in the first episode of The Great. This scene was filmed

Nicholas Hoult as Peter, Emperor of Russia in the first episode of The Great. This scene was filmed on location in the Marble Hall of Hatfield House in Hertfordshire - Credit: TM & © 2020 ViacomCBS All Rights Reserved.

"I play Peter. He’s a childlike emperor who runs the court like a big party, lacking empathy or a filter. He’s a real foodie."

After filming The Favourite at Hatfield House during the spring of 2017, Hoult was ready to work again with show creator Tony McNamara, who won an Oscar nomination for movie The Favourite.

Nicholas Hoult as Peter, Emperor of Russia goes shooting in The Great

Nicholas Hoult as Peter, Emperor of Russia goes shooting in The Great - Credit: Hulu / 2020 ViacomCBS

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"I love Tony’s writing, it’s unlike anything I’ve read," said Hoult. "Sharp and witty with wonderful turns of phrase but also brilliant character development.

"To prep for the character, I didn’t research the real Peter, I used the script more as my guide to what the character should be like.

"We’re not trying to be factual but tell a great story with this backdrop."

Nicholas Hoult as Peter, Emperor of Russia in The Great

Nicholas Hoult as Peter, Emperor of Russia in The Great - Credit: 2020 ViacomCBS

While the scandalous goings-on make The Great fun to watch, Hoult acknowledges the script also has a lot to say in a world still living in the fallout of #MeToo.

"It’s very much about female empowerment and holds a mirror up to a lot of things happening in the world today. But wrapped up in a fun historic setting."

Filming has already started on season two of The Great, with the production crew returning to Hatfield House last month to shoot scenes in the grounds of the Hertfordshire stately home. 

Peter, Emperor of Russia, and Catherine the Great at banquet

Elle Fanning as Catherine the Great and Nicholas Hoult as Peter, Emperor of Russia - Credit: Nick Wall / Hulu / 2020 ViacomCBS All Rights Reserved.

"I’m looking forward to seeing where the relationships go, the characters took so many unexpected turns in the first series I’m excited to see what’s next," said Hoult.

  • The first episode of The Great arrives on Channel 4 at 9pm on Sunday, January 3.
Elle Fanning as Catherine the Great wearing her crown

The Great starring Nicholas Hoult and Elle Fanning can be seen on Channel 4 from January 3 - Credit: 2020 ViacomCBS All Rights Reserved.


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