French actress Eva Green, 30, all angular features and piercing blue eyes, got her start playing a clothing-averse hedonist in Bernardo Bertolucci’s erotic political drama The Dreamers. Since then she’s worked hard to challenge the assumption that she is some latter-day Maria Schneider, yet has sorta stoked it, too, by starring as a hottie princess in Ridley Scott’s Crusades drama Kingdom of Heaven and a smarter-than-average Bond girl in Casino Royale. But starting tonight, she can be seen in the new series Camelot, playing her ugliest role yet: sneering sorceress Morgan Le Fay, who’s out to destroy her sun-kissed half-brother King Arthur (Jamie Campbell Bower) and his bestie, Merlin (Joseph Fiennes), in a bid for the throne. This being a Starz series, there is a heap of sex and violence. But as Green explains to Vulture, Camelot may finally be her ticket to another specialty: weirdness.
You’ve said that when you do a nude scene, you have to think twice. Why is that?
The Dreamers was the first movie I ever made, and people made such a fuss when it came out. Sex was a theme, but there was more to it. And then I saw a lot of pictures of me naked [on the Internet] — oh my God. This was terrible. I love the movie, but now I know that if I do a nude scene that people will talk about it. I always feel like I have to prove myself. I want to be taken seriously.
Knowing Starz has earned a reputation for pushing boundaries, why would you take this role?
This is not Spartacus at all. I have one sex scene. I don’t want to disappoint people [laughs]. That is it. Then Morgan’s a nun. She’s disappointed by men. She’s not a lesbian, either, but she surrounds herself with strong women. This is not, like, a show about sex and violence.
Have you seen Spartacus?
I don’t know if I can talk about that. I’ve seen bits and pieces. It’s … interesting. But this is not Spartacus.
Camelot certainly has violence, though.
Yeah. You’ll see it evolve. I mean, for my character.
Are you a fan of the fantasy genre?
I loved Willow as a child. But you don’t have a lot of magic here. It’s more earthly magic. It’s not fantasy fantasy.
I’m very kind of shy and very clear. People put me in a box: They think I’m a dark, sexy, French whatever. But in drama school, I loved playing Lady Macbeth. There’s something electric about those types of characters. They’re powerful. They’re strong. Because in real life, I’m like this [gestures to her small frame].
And Morgan fits into that?
She’s … complex. It’s like digging into somebody’s mind. There’s a movie I just did called Cracks. You had to read the script again and again to understand why my character would behave a certain way. Bad people are baddies for a reason. Damaged people are fun to play. Because in real life, I’m not a baddie. But that’s the great thing about Morgan: She has this vulnerable side which you will discover little by little. You don’t see it straight away, because she can be ruthless in the beginning.
You also do a pretty good English accent.
The French is … gone. I have a good dialect coach. It took me a while. When you look at The Dreamers, that was my real accent. During Casino Royale, the studio put the pressure on me to, like [says in a nasally American accent], “have a British accent.” Oh my God! I worked like hell. Like hell. Now I have to do an American accent for Dark Shadows [an upcoming Tim Burton film].
There have been so many adaptations of Camelot. Did you base your Morgan on any previous one?
I read a lot of books on Morgan. There’s this amazing French book; she’s described as a saint, a Joan of Arc character. She’s not the image that we first have in mind: a sorceress. She wants to restore pagan ways — celebrate sexuality, love.
Did you explore any modern-day paganism?
I met a shaman. She was the mother of a makeup artist who was on set! She was an amazing person — not, like, a weirdo. She’s not creepy, but the way that she looks at you, there’s something there. Her pupils are, like, [intense stare] moving or something weird. It’s as if she’s seeing your aura or something. She was talking about shape-shifting, because my character shape-shifts into animals sometimes.
Did she claim she could shape-shift?
Yes, it’s fascinating! She said my animal was a crane bird. But Morgan is a tiger [in Camelot]. There was like an energy about her. She kind of baptized me. She gave me a stone and said, “You will do, and it will be good.” She told me it’ll be all right.