‘The Regime’ Creator Pulled From His ‘Succession’ Experience to Craft a Fictional Geopolitical Nightmare

Will Tracy details the “sickening fairy tale” at the heart of the HBO series, led by Kate Winslet’s neurotic chancellor

Kate Winslet in "The Regime" (HBO)

Set inside the palace of a contemporary European authoritarian government, “The Regime” may at first blush draw comparisons to other real-world countries, dictators or odd leaders — especially with Oscar-winner Kate Winslet in the lead as a fictional chancellor who’s blissfully ignoring the concerns of her citizens. But for creator Will Tracy, the key to “The Regime” was ensuring the show’s characters and plot didn’t adhere too close to any one real world event. A trick he learned during his time working as a writer on another HBO prestige drama: “Succession.”

“Everyone thought [‘Succession’] was going to be just an analog of the Murdochs or the Redstones or the Trumps and that was gonna be very reactive to what was happening in American politics, but you have to create your own thing,” Tracy told TheWrap. “I knew with inventing a country that although we did a lot of research that informed the show, I had to put it aside at a point and use what I could to make my own field.”

Inventing realistic relationships and political ecosystems came easily to Tracy after working in the writers’ room for “Succession,” whose fourth and final season wrapped up as Tracy was trying to get “The Regime” off the ground. While Tracy admitted he was “quite eager” to get out of the shadow of “Succession,” he utilized Jesse Armstrong’s framework to build off real events while creating a new world in and of itself.

Despite suspending his own disbelief, Tracy admitted he was nervous about unintentionally mirroring current events that happened after scripts were written, fearing that audiences would assume the show was reactive rather than within its own world.

The showrunner notes that while the series was written prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, he was concerned viewers might find a parallel between an episode in which some similar events occur.

“I did everything I could to go through there and try to iron out and remove any similarities or parallels as I could,” Tracy said. “Because it’s an invented country, and because it’s a small landlocked country in central Europe with a very particular politics and a very particular economy and very particular kind of leader, it would be difficult to mistake Elena for anyone but Elena.”

Matthias Schoenaerts and Kate Winslet in “The Regime.” (HBO)

The HBO political drama finds its protagonist in Chancellor Elena Vernham (Kate Winslet), whose incessant neuroses have her convinced a fatal illness is permeating from the palace walls. Despite every member of her staff bending their knee to maintain the chancellor’s ridiculous protocols, Elena finds herself searching for the next problem to obsess over — anything but the civil unrest outside her doorstep.

“I liked the idea of someone who had become so isolated by power and wealth, but also in that isolation, is lurking a feeling that something’s wrong,” Tracy said.

Though the satirical drama series centers on a fictional central European regime, Tracy positioned the country in the midst of a very real geopolitical climate, with the chancellor considering partnerships with the U.S. or China to harvest cobalt from their land.

The showrunner said he never considered the U.S. presidential election might align with the show’s release, but noted some could find similarities between Elena and other authoritarian leaders.

“When they first arrive on the scene, there’s something unusual about them — they look funny, or they sound funny, or they don’t come from a traditional political background … but then those same qualities are kind of what makes them unique and make them into a star, but they never forget, ‘They used to laugh at me,’” Tracy said. “If the show is finding any commonality amongst authoritarian figures, it’s that and make of that what you will in terms of the American election.”

As the story of “The Regime” unfolds, so does a “dreamy love story” that Tracy likens to a “sickening fairy tale.”

Matthias Schoenaerts (“Rust and Bone”) plays Herbert Zubak, a solider beaten down from a recent brutal civilian encounter, which earned him the nickname “the butcher” as well as a reassignment to the palace. While Elena and Herbert couldn’t come from more different worlds, his admiration and strength is exactly the foil to lure her out of her “gilded cage” and grasp her power.

The romantic entanglement comes six years into Elena’s reign as chancellor after inheriting a small political party from her late father — whose corpse remains in the palace’s mausoleum several years following his demise, and becomes the subject of Elena’s political consultations.

“There’s this other quite fragile, vulnerable person with their own damage, who comes in, who makes her feel strong again, who makes her feel like the best version of herself,” Tracy said. “By that same token, she also makes him feel worthy of love.”

While Tracy jokes his own description of their relationship paints the love story as “very traditional and healthy” — which he admits it is at times — he reiterates the relationship remains one between a “leader and a follower.”

“His damage and her damage are so at odds with each other, that it could never really become an equitable partnership,” Tracy said.

“The Regime” premieres Sunday, March 3 at 9 p.m. ET and will be streaming on Max.


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