Rich and Ruthless 'Riviera' - Julia Stiles Navigates Glamour, Intrigue in South of France Art World

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27 January 2019

OVATION, Sat., Feb. 9, 10:00 PM ET

By Taylor Neuman

Some of us only have dreams of vacationing in the south of France, but for the deceptive (and exceedingly rich) characters in Ovation’s new drama Riviera, premiering Saturday, it’s just what they call home. The series spins a slippery story about an art collector who mysteriously dies in an explosion, leaving behind his new wife, his ex-wife and his children. Soon his recent bride Georgina, played by Julia Stiles, finds herself caught in a web of schemes and lies, desperate to learn answers and get to the bottom of what happened.

Stiles talked to TV Weekly about her intense role, the intricacies of her character and what it’s really like shooting in that glorious locale.

If you could explain what the show is about to people, what would you tell them?
Julia Stiles: The inspiration for the show was this idea that behind every great fortune is a great crime. It’s set in the world of the very wealthy elite in Europe, but the focus is the sort of darker things that go on in that world beneath the glamour. I play a woman who doesn’t actually come from wealth, but she has worked her way up in the art world as a curator and a collector. She married into wealth. In the very first episode, her billionaire husband ends up dead, and the aftermath of that is what she has to deal with over the course of the first season. So, she’s navigating dealing with his estate, dealing with the rest of his family that doesn’t want her around — his ex-wife and three grown children — and dealing with discovering a lot of the deception that was in their marriage. She’s discovering that her marriage was kind of a fraud as well.

What do you love about playing Georgina?
She’s seemingly naive, but she very quickly rises to the occasion, so to speak. One of the biggest questions is, “Why does she stay after all of this tragedy has happened to her?” She really has a strong backbone, and I think she is insistent on proving to herself that she wasn’t that dumb in terms of being fooled by her husband. She finds herself in these really bizarre situations and also somewhat dangerous and challenging situations, and she’s always surprising.

What are the central relationships on the show?
The relationship with Lena [Olin]’s character is one of my favorites. It’s unlike anything I feel like I’ve seen on TV. I find it a relationship that continues just to surprise you. One minute you think they’re enemies, then the next minute they form an alliance or have mutual self-interest that they each benefit from. One minute they’ll be very serious and kind of catty with each other and the next minute cracking jokes, but it’s two very formidable, strong women at the center. … It’s actually the women at the heart of the show that I think stand out.

How was it filming in the south of France?
Oh my God, it’s amazing. When you’re in it in the middle of shooting, you can sometimes take it for granted, but then you step away from filming and I’m like, “Oh my God, that was just a dream.” I mean, everything. We were based in Nice, and I would live there even if I weren’t working there. I love that, first of all, over the course of filming we were there through different seasons. You got to see just how things quiet down, and the temperature changes a little bit although it didn’t ever really get that cold there. It wasn’t raining. So, it was quite wonderful in that way. Also it was kind of interesting to see these villas that we would shoot in sometimes and this extraordinary amount of wealth that I am not accustomed to. It’s another level of wealth than just rich people in the United States. The European old money is next level. … And then, the food is extraordinary.

What’s next for you?
We finished [filming Season 2] in December or November. … We were talking about a Season 3, but it’s not totally confirmed yet. I have a 1-year old, so I’m happily taking time with him to go to swim lessons. … I’m very interested in writing and directing my own project, but it’s hard to find time to do that. It’s just something that I would like to do, and it’s a good time too because there seem to be more opportunities for women, and actresses certainly, to create their own shows.
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