Dame Helen Mirren has admitted she was scared of taking on her latest role as Catherine The Great, and went into it “sort of reluctantly and very nervously”.
The actress, 74, plays the 18th century Russian monarch in a Sky Atlantic period drama.
She said while it will be a highlight of her career, the part was not on her bucket list.
Explaining how the role came about, she said: “I was doing an interview, and the last question in an interview is either one or two things… it’s either, ‘What are you going to do next?’ or ‘What would you ideally like to play?’
“And I never know what to say at that moment, I can’t think of a single person or play or anything, so off the top of my head I just sort of said well Catherine The Great would be interesting. Never imagined in a million years that this would ever come to pass.”
Dame Helen said producers Charlie (Pattinson) and David (M Thompson) later came to her to say they had financing for the show.
She said: “I was like, ‘What?! No! No! I don’t want to do that – I was just saying it! That’s much too scary!’”
The actress said there was more of a weight of expectation as it is a character she said she would like to play.
She said: “I immediately tried to backtrack, but of course I couldn’t at that point… my feet were stuck in the honey.
“But I have to say I am so incredibly grateful for the fact that Charlie and David went out and did that.
“It is going to be one of the highlights of my career without a doubt, and I did go into it, as I say, very, very sort of reluctantly and very nervously.”
The actress said she did not think the show could be made.
She said: “Because the subject is so huge, it requires such investment, and of course I hadn’t grasped either that the whole landscape of our work, of drama, has changed so hugely in the last five or 10 years that it actually has become possible to do something like this, which 10 years ago I don’t think would have been possible.”
All episodes of Sky original Catherine The Great are on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV on October 3.