I fell off a horse and feared being stabbed: Matthew McNulty on filming Domina

Fans of Game Of Thrones and Succession are bound to love Sky original drama Domina , which returns for its second season this week. Set in Italy, the eight-part series continues the retelling of the power struggles for control of the Roman Empire from a female perspective.

Polish-born actress Kasia Smutniak stars as leading lady Livia Drusilla who, after three years away, returns to Rome alongside her husband Augustus Caesar, known as Gaius (played by Matthew McNulty). What they find is a city in revolt, with Livia’s children in open rebellion as the race for power in Ancient Rome turns deadly.

The first series aired two years ago, so when the green light was given for a sequel, many of the cast had to travel overseas again to commence filming at the Cinecittà Studios in the Italian capital.

However, for Kasia, who was thrilled at the opportunity to uncover more about her real-life counterpart, it involved a very short commute! “I’ve lived in Rome for 20 years,” says the 44-year-old.

“And there’s a place not far from my house called ‘Livia’s Cave’ which is quite amazing. I didn’t know much about Livia at the start of the project and I thought that was because I’m not from Rome. But none of my friends knew much about her either.

“When I did some research, the only things I found about Livia were in the pages of a book about Augustus (Gaius). This is the gap we’re trying to fill in this show, by showing what an incredible character Livia was. She lived and she fought for so long and she had so much power, so much influence. She was the first feminist and yet we know so little about her.”

Series one saw power-hungry Livia marry Gaius, providing her with a seat at the top of the fractious empire and dysfunctional dynasty. She had to fight to preserve her marriage and find a way to steer one of her sons into power – a plan of action that in series two hasn’t changed.

Mancunian actor Matthew hints that Livia’s hopes to get one of her children a seat at the “top table” is easier said than done.

“The family gets worse in series two,” laughs Matthew. “There’s more backstabbing, more fighting, more battles for power. The relationship between Gaius and Livia intensifies as their fierce passion and their hatred for each other peaks.

“They want to hurt each other more than they’ve ever done, but at the same time, they probably love each other more than they ever have as well. They know how much they need each other. Expect more political scheming, more death.”

Something else that we can expect from the second series of Domina is a raunchy scene or two – and not just between Gaius and Livia.

“For the first three episodes, Gaius is afraid of losing his prowess so he sets out to prove he’s still got it,” hints Matthew.

“I can’t say I love doing intimate scenes – it’s always quite difficult and embarrassing,” admits Kasia. “But I totally trust Matthew, we have a great connection.

“I’m so happy to get out for a few weeks and run in the forest,” she adds. “Shoot me, put me on a horse, take me to the river, I don’t care. I’m just happy to be outside. I got a lot of bruises from the show, but no major mishaps. I know Matthew did, though.”

“I fell off my horse once with all the military gear on,” admits Matthew. “As I was coming off the horse I thought, ‘What part of this costume is gonna stab me?’ My life flashed before my eyes.

“I got away with a broken wrist, but it was frightening. And it wasn’t ideal, it meant I had to shoot scenes sideways. Luckily, Gaius wears a lot of cloaks so I could hide the cast.”

Matthew really went the extra mile to ensure he looked authentically of the time. “I had a Roman haircut, which is quite difficult to make stylish in real life with the flat, weird fringe,” he laughs. “But the costumes – they do make you feel important. They bolster your confidence and ego!”

Season two of the Sky Original series, Domina, will launch in weekly double bills on Sky Atlantic and NOW from 13th September

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