On the new Starz series “Camelot,” Green treats herself big-time — and makes the most of it.
There she is, as Morgan, in the series’ opening scene, fiercely facing down King Uther, the father Morgan believes has betrayed her. Drawing on her sorcery skills, she soon will arrange the king’s sudden death. She means to succeed him on the throne. And when Uther’s unknown son, Arthur, emerges to claim the crown, Morgan declares war on her half brother as well as the wizard Merlin, Arthur’s mysterious mentor.
“This castle and realm should be mine,” she proclaims.
“Camelot” premieres Friday at 10 p.m. EDT (airing opposite “Merlin,” a retelling of the Arthurian legend with Merlin as a young man, now in its third season on Syfy).
“Camelot” stars heartthrob Jamie Campbell Bower (the “Twilight” and “Harry Potter” film sagas) as Arthur, a carefree, impetuous young man who was raised from infancy as a commoner and is as surprised as anyone to learn his destiny: to lead Britain from a dark, troubled present into a bright, hope-filled tomorrow.
Joseph Fiennes (“Shakespeare in Love,” the TV series “FlashForward”) is Merlin, who has foreseen the legend of Arthur and aims to see it come to pass.
But Merlin and Arthur will have their hands full with Morgan as their rival.
“This pretender who wears my father’s robes, I shall gouge his eyes,” seethes Morgan just before first meeting Arthur, whom she mocks as if he were a child.
No shrinking violet, she!
“I was worried at the beginning that she is evil and that’s it,” says Eva Green (pronounced ay-vuh grain), as she laughs at Morgan’s confrontational style. “But she’s a very rich character. And she wants to be a great queen. She believes in equality between men and women. She celebrates sexuality, nature, life.
“And the relationship between Morgan and Arthur will evolve: She hates him at the beginning. But her head is telling her, ‘I hate him,’ while her heart is telling her otherwise.”
The 30-year-old Green, who was born in Paris to a dentist-father and actress-mother Marlene Jobert, is perhaps best known for her 2006 role as tough-and-dishy “Bond Girl” Vesper Lynd in “Casino Royale,” opposite Daniel Craig.
Her screen debut was four years earlier in Bernardo Bertolucci’s sexually graphic “The Dreamers,” and she starred in Ridley Scott’s “Kingdom of Heaven” alongside Orlando Bloom, Jeremy Irons and Liam Neeson.
In the 2009 drama “Cracks,” just released on DVD, Green plays the enigmatic diving instructor at a 1930s girls school.
“It’s the movie I’m the most proud of. It’s about obsession,” she says with a satisfied smile. “And I play such a cuckoo character.
“I like extreme, intense roles. There’s always something wrong with my characters.”
But her taste for edgy performances sometimes puts her at odds with the people around her, she says.
“They tell me, ‘Play a princess! You have to play a princess soon,’ by which they mean (she explains), ‘nice and smiling and ‘I love you.'”
Green’s aversion to nice-and-smiling-and-I-love-you on the screen is made all the more striking by her very nice in-person manner at a recent interview. She’s a gorgeous brunette with porcelain skin and enormous blue eyes which, as Morgan, she can flash dangerously. But in marked contrast to a character like Morgan, she is soft-spoken and demure, and repeatedly apologizing for it.
“I’ve always been very shy,” she explains. “I was always hiding as a child. I was happy when it was raining, so I could hide under an umbrella.”
“My parents,” she says dramatically, clearly kidding (indeed, her twin sister, Joy, has always been outgoing). Turning serious, she answers, “I don’t know. It’s very strange. I was terrible in school. Really, really bad. I can still be that way in auditions — such a nerd, sweating!”
Given all that, acting wouldn’t seem her obvious career choice.
“I’ve always loved movies, but I didn’t want to say, ‘I want to be an actress,'” she recalls. “So I said I want to be a director, and I went to a drama workshop in England, saying I want to know how to direct actors. It was all a lie, I think. Then I told myself that I really want to act, so I did three years in France in drama school.”
“I got better,” she says, meaning: less shy. “Maybe acting helped me a lot to express myself, to feel fully alive, like I was somebody else. You learn more about yourself when you go through other characters.”
She confides to being plagued in her youth by a lack of confidence. Does she feel secure now, in adulthood as a prospering actress?
“Oh, God! No!” she blanches. “In this business, you have to be strong and have your armor on. And then go on set and be open and give everything that you’ve got. It’s hard.”
“I need to prove,” Green says. “I need to prove all the time.”