Chloé Hollings takes audiences back in time in hit show ‘Versailles’
Like most children, Chloé Hollings found herself greatly influenced by her mother as a child. She was an actress, and a young Hollings was brought up hearing stories about her mother’s past performances and the wonderful characters she studied. It felt like destiny that she herself would also become an actress, originally wanting to be just like her mother, but quickly realizing it was also her passion. At 14, she first stepped onto a stage to play Lady Macbeth, a character that fascinated a teenage Hollings. She couldn’t seem to believe that this woman was all pure evil. From then on, she was hooked, understanding the power of analyzing a script to find a person’s humanity and sincerely portray them.
Such an understanding has allowed Hollings to rise to the forefront of Europe’s entertainment industry. She has starred in Hollywood blockbusters like Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and voiced characters for mobile apps like Bury Me, My Love, a video game. The app was far from Hollings only experience in voice acting, as she is best known for voicing a main character for the best-selling video game Overwatch.
“I love that so much about my job is unexpected. I can be surprised at every turn. I feel free. I love that I get to self-reflect for a living. I love that I’m constantly learning. That every character I play somehow relates to me, as a human being, or those around me, or our politics, our culture, and that makes me a better person. I love that it is an absolute necessity for me to be curious in order for me to do my job. And I love that imagination is such a huge part of my life,” said Hollings.
As a bilingual actress, completely fluent in both French and English, Hollings has a lot of opportunities to portray characters in both languages. This is exemplified with her role in the popular French television series Versailles. The period drama takes place in 1667, where a 28-year-old all-powerful king of France, Louis XIV, decides to build the greatest palace in the world - Versailles. But a drained budget, affairs and political intrigues complicate things.
“It’s always important, I find, to re-visit our history. French history is a central part of European history, which is such a big part of our world. Even today! We wouldn’t have the Human Rights Declaration if it weren’t for the fall of the French monarchy. But I love that some visionary artists are able to take historical facts and turn them into a sexy and trendy show that people actually want to watch. In this case, it’s so important that the energy of what was going on at that time is translated into the show. We’ll never know what it was like to be there, but we can figure out how it felt. And on another level, it’s always important to be able to relate to people we feel so far away from in terms of class and culture. With a series like Versailles, a spectator is able to look at King Louis XIV and think, ‘Hey, he’s experienced grief and sickness as well, he has doubts and fears as well.’ And that’s marvelous,” said Hollings.
The show premiered November 16th, 2015 on the French network Canal +. It was distributed not only in France, but in the U.K., Canada, and the U.S. as well, including on the streaming giant Netflix. The commercial success generated through this international distribution was reinforced by its consistently high viewership. Versailles also saw critical acclaim through its various award nominations, which included nods from the Canadian Screen Awards, Saturn Awards, and even the SXSW Film Festival.
“The success is very humbling. If you asked most people to listen to you talk about a dead king of France, they’d probably run away before you could finish your first sentence. This show got three seasons. Some of the fans are still so sad that it ever ended. I just love it when anything I do moves the audience. Beside from the fact that our audience learned about this specific part of history, they got attached to these particular human beings, and their particular struggles. They were able to discover the inside of the Château de Versailles. Most people will never see it in their lifetime. They got to discover this long-gone world and, through our performances, observe that time’s society. It’s magical, when you think of it,” said Hollings.
In the series, Hollings played the pivotal character of the housemaid. Her character was essential in showing a certain reality of the life in Versailles: the poorer people, the powerless, the ones who serve, who make it all happen. The reason why this series was so successful was because it really showed this balance: there are people in power because there are people behind the scenes who must pay attention to every single detail; there’re people who can make mistakes and abuse power while others, such as the chambermaid Hollings played, will pay the highest price for any given tiny mistake. She appears from the very beginning, when the audience still believes that the life in Versailles is just parties and fun, the glamorous life. Her character shows that this is not the case.
In the show, Hollings’ character discovers that the Queen has given birth to a dark-skinned baby – meaning that she’s been unfaithful to the king. She is a good person, living in the fear of God, at a very specific time in history. Keeping this to herself is not an option but talking about it could get her killed. Her internal battle is a captivating story for audiences.
Spoiler alert: Hollings’ character is finally killed in the show, which means she, as an actress, had to die on screen. It was her first hanging scene, and a memorable experience for the actress.
“Not only was it really tiring to be wearing the whole gear that was going to support me as I fell from my stool, but it was really scary to have that knot tied around my neck! It was a very emotional scene. I was crying a lot and begging for my life. And then out of nowhere, someone kicked the stool from under me and I choked for quite a long time. Not fun to watch for my Mum, who still hasn’t, by the way, but definitely a great scene, that got me my best compliment ever from one of my partners, Tygh Runyan, who said: “I don’t even need to act”, because it felt so real to him,” Hollings concluded.
Written by Sean Conway