Gillian Anderson On Playing Elle Fanning's Mother in 'The Great' Season 2

The Great fans rejoiced when it was announced award-winning actress Gillian Anderson was joining the cast of the historical comedy-drama in October 2021. Anderson plays Joanna, Catherine the Great's mother, who is set to turn Catherine's (Elle Fanning) world upside down.

Speaking to Newsweek, Anderson said one of the reasons she accepted the offer to join the cast of The Great was the chance to work with Fanning.

After watching some episodes of the first season and enjoying the "really fun scripts" and constant satire, she was convinced to come on board.

Anderson continued: "They were just hilarious and [I] wanted to explore being a part of that world and getting to work with Elle."

In the new season of The Great, Catherine has managed to seize power from her useless husband, Peter III. However, shortly after the coup takes place, Catherine's distant mother travels to Russia to take a look at her daughter's victory.

Anderson described her character, Joanna, as "the maestro of marriage."

She said: "She is German, she is dressed in the latest styles of Paris and Europe and she is known as the maestro of marriage because she has arranged very high-profile marriages for her all of her many daughters.

"She has come to Russia because she has heard of daughter's coup and she wants see it for herself and possibly try and convince Catherine she needs to change her mind and just behave like the wife she was raised to be."

The character Joanna is loosely based on Catherine the Great's real mother, Joanna Elisabeth of Holstein-Gottorp, a German regent who lived between 1712 and 1760.

She was married to Christian August, Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst, and together they had five children. Their first one was Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst, who would later go on to become Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia.

Expanding on the mother-daughter relationship, Anderson said: "She [Joanna] is the apple of Catherine's eye and they are very very close.

"She is very controlling and has a lot of opinions about what Catherine is doing, how Catherine is doing it, what she could be doing it instead and so as close as they are, you also get the sense that Catherine might still have her mother on a pedal stool and has very very rose-tinted glasses in regards to her mother's intentions which we start to learn are a bit more dubious than they actually might be."

The Great season 2 is streaming on Hulu now.

Elle Fanning The Great
Gillian Anderson plays Elle Fanning's mother in "The Great," Season 2 Hulu