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Could ‘Maxima’ Be the New ‘The Crown’? Creative Team Discusses ‘Shakespearean’ Dutch Royal Family Love Story

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Germany’s Beta Film is introducing at the London TV Screenings the first episode of “Maxima,” a six-part drama about the love story between future Queen Maxima of the Netherlands and the then Dutch Crown Prince Willem-Alexander. The series is produced by Millstreet Films “The Neighbors”), with Videoland (RTL Netherlands) holding Dutch broadcasting rights.

“Maxima” is adapted from the biography written by Dutch journalist Marcia Luyten in celebration of the Queen’s 50th birthday and focuses mainly on how the political background of Maxima’s father interfered with her very public engagement to the Crown Prince. Speaking to Variety ahead of the London TV Screenings, Justus Riesenkampff, EVP Nordics & Benelux at Beta Film, said “Maxima” was “especially appealing because royal stories resonate well.”

“It’s the second TV series made about a living royal — we couldn’t think of any other than ‘The Crown.’ And we have a lot of components that make it even more attractive: It’s a clash of cultures and a larger-than-life love story with a happy ending. It’s definitely something for our times and audiences across the world.”

The series’ producer and CEO of Millstreet Films Rachel van Bommel added that there is also a “Shakespearian” quality to the real-life story behind the show. “It wasn’t all happy when they met. There was this big discussion in Holland, as soon as the press found out who Maxima’s father was. As producers, it was very helpful to have the organic drama.”

Van Bommel is referring to the complicated history of Queen Máxima’s father, Jorge Zorreguieta, one of the longest-serving civilian ministers in Argentina’s 1976-1983 military dictatorship. Zorreguieta was not allowed to attend their royal wedding back in 2002, and his presence has caused further controversy in the years that followed. 

“We took some time to think about how to approach the politics, because you want to be authentic but on the other hand you don’t want to start a whole political discussion,” added the producer. “We decided to take the point of view of Maxima herself, and by taking her perspective, you don’t have to have an opinion about it, you can just be factual.”

The politics attracted series director Saskia Diesing, who felt a personal connection to the narrative. “I moved from Germany to the Netherlands when I was eight and was confronted with my own past. I had never heard about WWII before, I only heard about it when I came to Holland. This whole struggle of being held accountable for the past of your people or your family made the story very appealing for me.”

Maxima
Credit: Millstreet Films / Martijn van Gelder

“Maxima” was shot in New York, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands, with most of the Buenos Aires sequences shot in Europe due to the city’s similarities with the old continent. Diesing labelled such an ambitious logistical operation “exhausting,” but added how valuable it was working with an international crew and cast. “I’ve done a couple of international co-productions, and the learning curve amazes me every time. You learn so much as a director from people who have their own ways. It makes for such an enriching experience.”

Despite being able to turn Europe into Argentina location-wise, van Bommel knew she needed to cast according to the real-life characters’ nationalities. Argentine Delfina Chaves (“The Secret of the Greco Family”) and Dutch Martijn Lakemeier (“The East”) play the main couple alongside an ensemble including German star Sebastian Koch (“The Lives of Others,” “Your Honour”), Elsie de Brauw (“The Death of My Mother”), Valeria Alonso (“Tell Me Who I Am”), Daniel Freire (“Sex and Lucía”) and Ivan Lapadula (“Dos Vidas”).

“We knew right away that Maxima had to be from Argentina,” emphasised van Bommel. “There have been shows produced in Holland before where a Dutch actress plays Maxima and these stories are always told from after the engagement. Since we were going back in time, we had to go to Argentina and make the audience feel the country where [Máxima] came from. In Argentina, your family is your biggest value, so that helped the drama of when someone needs to choose between their family and their new life.”

Such a dedication to authenticity seems to be paying off before the series is even finished, with Riesenkampff adding that Beta Film has been “talking to local networks and players in Latin America and are in very, very advanced talks of finding a home there.”

“This means the Latin American audience, especially the Argentinians, are happy with the show. That’s a huge achievement, and it makes for a really credible international show, which we are looking forward to bringing into other markets now.”

Not only is “Maxima” working well with Latin American audiences, it also looks promising with a younger market. Diesing recounted that her 19-year-old daughter, “who doesn’t know anything about Argentina or the royal family, was really into the series,” with van Bommel adding that young audiences “responded really well to the series” during audience screenings.

“You don’t have to know Maxima and the Dutch royal family to enjoy the show. It’s a great drama, fun to watch and a real highlight of our slate this year,” concluded Riesenkampff.