The Real Reason Helen Mirren Is the Perfect Person to Play Catherine the Great

Helen Mirren was apparently built to play royal figures. After taking home numerous awards for her role in The Queen in 2007, Mirren took her acting prowess to the stage. She won critical acclaim for her role as Queen Elizabeth II in The Audience. The play premiered in London in 2013 and later moved to Broadway in 2015. Now, Mirren is back to tackle another great monarch, and in taking on the role is working hard to dispel the myths and rumors that persist. In an HBO miniseries, Mirren will play Catherine the Great, and honestly, no one would have been a better choice.

Catherine the Great’s reputation was tarnished

Catherine the Great ruled Russia for more than three decades, but that reign wasn’t without controversy. The very concept of a woman ruling a country in the 1700s made many men’s blood boil. They attacked her at every level, including attacks on her personal morals. You see, everyone thinks Catherine the Great was a sex maniac, even today. That piece of information, however, was a carefully cultivated tale and perhaps one of the most successful rumors of all time.

Stories have persisted for centuries about her sexuality and alleged appetite for, how should we say it, unconventional sexual acts. You see, misogyny is nothing new, and slut-shaming is a tale as old as time. Everyone should know by now that Catherine the Great never attempted a sex act on a horse. It is not how she died. What most people don’t know is that her sexual appetite, while admittedly healthy, was incredibly exaggerated. According to History.com, the monarch took anywhere between 12 and 24 lovers during her adult life, although most historians now believe her sexual conquests are closer to 12 than 24. For reference, according to Healthline, the average Lousiana resident has around 15 sexual partners during their lifetime.  

Catherine the Great is a prime early example of slut-shaming. She was no different than male monarchs of the time, many of whom were known to take as many lovers as possible. But alas, she was shamed for her sexual appetite, even after her death in 1796. The actual cause of her demise was a stroke.

Helen Mirren has spoken out against slut-shaming in the past

While her role of Catherine the Great is said to be inspired. Her portrayal of the monarch is made even better by the fact that she has spoken out against slut-shaming in the past. Mirren, more than 40 years ago was subjected to a sexist rant during an interview. Allegedly, her erotic body made talk show host, Michael Parkinson quip that her bosom made it difficult for people to take her seriously as an actress. That interview happened in 1975.

Helen Mirren attends the Los Angeles premiere of the new HBO limited series "Catherine the Great"
Helen Mirren | Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for HBO

She made it clear then that people were free to think whatever they wanted to think about her. More recently she’s spoken out about her love for “shameless” women. According to E!, Mirren told Stella “Women were controlled by being shamed, so I love women who have claimed their own bodies: MadonnaChrissie Hynde, Joan Jett, Bonnie Raitt. I lovePussy Riot more than anything in the world. They all raise their middle fingers to this epithet of ‘slut.’ They wear what they want to wear, behave as they want to behave.”

She also has a soft spot for Kim Kardashian. Mirren admits that she’s not particularly interested in the family. She sees them as a phenomenon, but she appreciates the fact that Kardashian has suddenly made it okay for a woman to have a butt and thighs.

When is Catherine the Great airing?

The HBO miniseries will be dealing with the later years of Catherine the Great’s reign in Russia. The miniseries highlights the affair between the empress and Grigory Potemkin, a Russian military leader. The love affair forever changed the landscape of Russian politics.

The miniseries has aired in its entirety in the United Kingdom, but U.S. audiences have only been treated to the first of four parts thus far. The series began airing on HBO on Oct. 21. The first part is available for streaming. The following three episodes will be released weekly.