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Hulu released a trailer for their upcoming series The Great, starring Elle Fanning as Catherine the Great. In only a minute and a half, Hulu proved that The Great won’t be your average costume drama. Fanning herself, who starred in historical movies like Mary Shelley and The Beguiled, said the show represented a first for her as well.

The Great: Elle Fanning
Elle Fanning | Ollie Upton/Hulu

Fanning was on a Television Critics Association panel for The Great on Jan. 17. The Great premieres May 15 on Hulu.

Elle Fanning can’t do everything Catherine the Great did

Catherine the Great led a historic life, hence her surname. She attained the Russian throne by overthrowing her husband Peter (Nicholas Hoult). The Great begins with their relationship, but it plays fast and loose with history.

“We pride ourselves on not being historically accurate, I would say, so there is room to experiment there,” Fanning said. “Of course, the real-life Catherine did so much. There are elements of what she’s done. She brought female education to Russia and her period was the Enlightenment Period of Russia. She invented the roller coaster, so that tells you what type of woman she was, in that phrase.”

This helped Elle Fanning get into character as Catherine the Great

There are plenty of books Fanning could read about Catherine the Great, but they might not have helped her in this version. She stuck to the scripts by Tony McNamara to guide her version of Catherine.

Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult | Nick Wall/Hulu

“The script for me are what guide my story and my character,” Fanning said. “You can look at so many oil paintings of someone. You’re like, ‘They probably didn’t even look that way.’ So it doesn’t help me so much as the script does in just capturing the character that Tony has created and her essence and what’s her journey for the series more so.”

‘The Great’ is Elle Fanning’s first comedy

Fanning has been acting since she was three years old. It took 19 years for her to find a comedy. Of all things, it was a comedic take on Catherine the Great.

Elle Fanning in The Great
Elle Fanning | Ross Ferguson/Hulu

“I would say this is the first comedy that I’ve done,” Fanning said. “You do look in the scripts and you see it there like that’s a joke. I want people to laugh at this joke. How do I make this happen?”

Comedy is hard

Comedy adds more elements to acting. Fanning had to adjust to The Great, for example not trying too hard to land the joke.

“That did take a bit of getting used to for me of getting into the rhythm and of course, the delicious writing. It’s all there and you just have to say it. Sometimes I wanna stretch things out.  I want to take a pause here and say this speech and it’s like, okay, let’s just speed it up and say it really quick. It always works so much better that way. There’s a very specific tone to the show as you can see and just finding that tone.”

The Great pushed her out of her comfort zone too.

The Great: Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult
Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult | Ollie Upton/Hulu

“I had to learn with comedy not to feel embarrassed,” Fanning said. “I’ve learned so much in the process of this of bringing my walls down and going for it a bit more. That’s kind of the key thing I’ve learned. Don’t be embarrassed. Be Brave. Be Catherine. Pull a face, go for it, try this wacky thing. That’s the fun of it and the joy of it, that we get to experiment and go there and do things that you would never do on a regular film set.”