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'The Great' actor Sebastian de Souza believes his role as lover Leo is 'a marvelous swapping of stereotypes'

In an exclusive interview with MEA WorldWide (MEAWW), actor Sebastian de Souza of 'The Great' shares his experience of working on the Hulu show and being Catherine's boy toy
Sebastian De Souza as Leo (Hulu)
Sebastian De Souza as Leo (Hulu)

Actor Sebastian de Souza plays the role of Leo, a lover who Peter III of Russia gifts to his wife Catherine to keep her happy. His role starts off as something of a boy toy before progressing into a true lover of the empress who plans to overthrow her husband and take over the throne through a coup. In this exclusive interview with MEA WorldWide (MEAWW), De Souza revealed how he would "have been happy if I’d been offered the part of the tree."

Before auditioning for Leo the only script available to De Souza was the pilot. However, the actor doesn't make an entry until the third episode. So speaking about his first impression of the show, 'The Great' actor said, "So, in truth, I had absolutely no idea who this character was going to be, or where he might go, save for whatever I could glean from what he said in the few sample sides Tony (McNamara) had written specifically for the audition. But the pilot was enough to know that, whoever this Leo guy was, he was going to be a part of something completely and totally original."

He further added, "It was unlike anything I had ever read before. It was so good and strange and fresh and full of life that I would have been happy if I’d been offered the part of the tree." On a side note, he said, "This seems to be the general consensus among anyone that reads a Tony Macnamara script."

De Souza also notes how the production value of the show really impressed him, especially the costumes and makeup. About this De Souza said, "The way in which Tony writes breathes raucous new life into a genre that, before him, I think we all thought we knew. But, for me, the real heroes of the show as a finished piece of work are Francesca (production designer.), Emma (costume designer) and Louise (make-up designer): they have created a Russian court that is so rich and sumptuously textured that, even at its most ludicrous, at its most extraordinary, at its most opulent, the world the characters inhabit still feels weirdly familiar."

A still of Leo and Catherine in 'The Great'. (Hulu)

Speaking about playing the lover who waits at the beck and call of his lady and how this is in a way a reversal of roles, especially, in a period drama, De Souza said, "I think it’s a marvelous swapping of stereotypes and the mind boggles as to why it’s not done more often. It’s high time we had more men on the screen being ogled unceremoniously by women, instead of the other way around."  De Souza also added that it "it wasn’t at all unpleasant being objectified by Elle. She was a very polite ogler." 

Nicholas Hoult's character of Peter III of Russia is a source of comedy throughout the show. It is stunning, the way he delivered the most absurd things with a straight face. So what was it like to work with him on scenes? "Impossible," said De Souza and added, "If you think you find it hard to not laugh when Nick Hoult’s on-screen, try acting with him."

He also showered praises on both his costars Fanning and Hoult and said that it was a joy to work with them. He noted, "They are both consummate professionals."

Sebastian De Souza, Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult in 'The Great'. (Hulu)

Leo is ordered to be a married woman's lover, but not to fall in love with her. He becomes part of court politics without intending to and yet he floats through most of the highs and lows. Speaking about the most absurd thing about his character, De Souza was fascinated by, "How utterly relaxed he is about life and all of its ups and downs. He is completely unphased by the madness and meanness of Peter’s court. He just seems to go with it, like a buoy bobbing on a really rough sea. (Until he doesn’t: *spoiler alert)"

De Souza concluded by saying, "I hope that what people will love about 'The Great' is that it does what really good TV is supposed to do: turn the mirror back around on the people watching it. Yes it’s set in the 18th century Russia, yes people are eating moose lips and there are bears everywhere, but when all is said and done, I think it asks a very universal, very timeless question. What are you willing to do – what are you willing to lose – to get what you want?"

All episodes of 'The Great' can be streamed on Hulu.