Shondaland brings their dark and twisty signature to Romeo and Juliet! Get a sneak peek of tonight’s Still Star-Crossed premiere.
I haven’t met a juicy period drama that I didn’t love, and now that Shondaland is entering the game, you know things are going to be good.
Most of us probably read William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet in high school. I read it in ninth grade, followed by a screening of Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film (cringe-worthy because who wants to watch love scenes with their English teacher and classmates!). There have been several renditions of Shakespeare’s iconic tragedy, including Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 trippy modernization, starring Leo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. I think my favorite is the adaptation for Shakespeare in Love (1998). Watching Joseph Fiennes’ Will Shakespeare derive inspiration for his plays as a result of his relationship with Viola De Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow) is positively swoony. And those are love scenes that I can definitely get behind 😉
In any event, it might be difficult to think about how anyone could bring something fresh to this well-known and often-told tale. But as we’ve learned, you can always trust Shondaland to bring a brilliant twist!
Still Star-Crossed actually follows the lives of the Capulets and Montagues in the aftermath of Romeo and Juliet’s tragic death. We can recall Friar Laurence’s impassioned speech to the families as they arrive at the tomb where the two lovers have died. I think we all hope that, given this sacrifice and unfortunate waste, the Capulets and Montagues can come to some sort of truce. In Still Star-Crossed, we see that this is definitely NOT the case.
This time, we follow Juliet’s cousins, Rosaline Capulet (Lashana Lynch) and Livia Capulet (Ebonee Noel). Rosaline finds herself in the middle of a political play to try and save Verona. She will prove she’s a force to be reckoned with, especially when it comes to her destiny, and must make tough decisions regarding her loyalty to the Capulet name. On the other hand, Livia is a hopeless romantic who dreams of a marriage to provide her with a life she’s always wanted, but her yearning for love makes her an easy target, and she gets drawn into a sordid secret, without her knowledge.
Lord Capulet (Anthony Head), the patriarch of the Capulet dynasty, is willing to maintain the legacy of his family’s name at any cost. Lady Capulet (Zuleikha Robinson) may want the same as her husband, but a mystery surrounds her true ambitions.
We also get to know Romeo’s cousin Benvolio Montague (Wade Briggs). He’s now thrust into a position of responsibility because he’s the sole heir to the Montague name and must abide by a sinister plan to solidify his family’s prominence. The Montagues are on the precipice of matching the Capulets social status, but Romeo’s death threatens to stall their ascent. Angered by grief and the loss of his son, Lord Montague (Grant Bowler) will stop at nothing to ensure the Montagues are the most respected family in Verona.
A newly crowned Prince Escalus (Sterling Sulieman) is determined to end the bloodshed between the Montagues and Capulets, but his only solution forces him to decide between following his heart and protecting his kingdom. Eager to help her brother rule Verona, Princess Isabella (Medalion Rahimi) finds herself drawn to the throne, but quickly realizes that obtaining power as a woman will require succumbing to a twisted scheme.
In fact, the Capulets and Montagues aren’t the only ones affected by Romeo and Juliet’s tragic fate. The keeper of Verona’s darkest confessions, Friar Lawrence (Dan Hildebrand), feels a deep responsibility for their deaths. Similarly, the Capulet’s lifelong caretaker, Nurse (Susan Wooldridge) feels guilt. She holds many secrets of her own, including the fact that she is tending to Count Paris (Torrance Coombs), who was supposed to wed Juliet, but was left for dead after a brutal fight with Romeo.
Still Star-Crossed has all the things we love in period drama and historical fiction/romance: so much drama and intrigue, secret machinations and power moves, love lost, found, and lost again… but what’s also exciting is how the series brings in a non-traditional take on casting and prominently features actors of color. Yet, in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Heather Mitchell (Still Star-Crossed‘s Showrunner), is adamant that historical accuracy doesn’t always mean “white-washed”:
“The Renaissance was much more diverse than I think most of us, having just taken high school history or whatever, [remember],” she says. “Shakespeare in the 1500s is writing about an interracial marriage in Othello, and Alessandro deMedici is the ruler of Florence, and he’s a biracial man. And you’re talking about all these cultures along the Mediterranean who have been trading with the Arab world and the African world, and by the Renaissance, they’re starting to trade with Asia. This was not a white world, really. You may remember whatever artwork or whatever you want to, but I think, in reality, this is a more diverse world than people think — and on top of that, we just cast the best actor for every role.”
BRAVA… and I cannot wait for tonight’s premiere!
“In Fair Verona, Where We Lay Our Scene” (written by Heather Mitchell, directed by Michael Offer), literally sets the stage:
ABC’S PERIOD DRAMA EXPLORES WHAT HAPPENS AFTER ROMEO AND JULIET’S TRAGIC LOVE STORY ENDS AND IGNITES A TREACHEROUS FEUD BETWEEN THE MONTAGUES AND CAPULETS, WHICH UNFOLDS IN THEIR BELOVED CITY OF VERONA－In the wake of Romeo and Juliet’s tragic deaths, the Montague and Capulet rivalry escalates. A new royal takes the throne in Verona and struggles to determine what is best for his city, which is at the epicenter of mayhem. (via ABC)
Watch two clips from the upcoming show, which uses Romeo and Juliet’s love story as a springboard. In the first clip, we watch Friar Laurence marry Romeo and Juliet, and we already get an interesting twist with the presence of two witnesses. And in the second video, we see the ill-fated end of that romance, with the lovers’ funeral.
— Still Star-Crossed (@StarCrossedABC) May 26, 2017
— Still Star-Crossed (@StarCrossedABC) May 27, 2017
I already adore Lashana Lynch’s Rosaline. A servant? You better leave your prejudices at the door Benvolio! And as anticipated, the potential for peace between the Capulets and Montagues is sabotaged before Romeo and Juliet are even in their graves. I wonder what idea the FINE Prince Escalus will come up with now?
Check out 40 images from Still Star-Crossed, including stills from tonight’s premiere and character images. I’ll be live tweeting (@WeSoNerdy) so join me at 10:00pm ET to watch!