NEW YORK — NEW YORK (AP) — How did Adelaide Kane get from the far western reaches of Australia to be crowned Mary, Queen of Scots?
In between Kane’s schoolgirl years in Perth and her starring role on the CW’s “Reign” (premiering Thursday at 9 p.m. EDT), there was a teenage stint on the Aussie soap “Neighbours.” Then her ramen-and-odd-jobs struggles in Los Angeles four years ago as she tried to break into the big time. The dry spell she encountered there triggered self-doubt and even anxious migraines.
“I was so sick of being unhappy,” she recalls. “That’s no way to live.”
She came close to going back to Perth and getting back in school.
Then a final Hollywood push bore fruit. Kane was cast in “Power Rangers R.P.M.,” followed by “Teen Wolf.”
Then she got her hands on a script for “Reign.” The role of Mary Stuart seemed perfect to her, all the more so since Kane’s mother is descended from the House of Stuart. Kane wangled an early audition and was signed without anyone else being looked at.
“The hours are long and it’s hard work, but it’s fantastic,” Kane says. “I’ve never been happier than in the past year. I just need to remind myself to breathe!”
As history reminds us (as does “Reign,” whatever its historical indulgences), Mary is a 16th-century teenage monarch who arrives in the French court with her ladies-in-waiting entourage to follow through with her arranged engagement to the king’s son, Prince Francis, which will secure Scotland’s strategic alliance with her homeland.
Needless to say, complications arise and many challenges face Mary — romantic, political and life-and-death.
Kane happily rolls out adjectives to describe her: “arrogant, headstrong, vivacious, smart, short-tempered, likable.”
She might also have added that Mary, like nearly everybody else on “Reign,” is gorgeous, an accomplishment she satisfies naturally.
Enthroned in an easy chair for a recent interview, the 23-year-old Kane reigns with porcelain skin, enormous, heavy-lidded brown eyes and pillowy lips that rival Anjelina Jolie’s. Shorn of Mary’s royal couture, she is dressed down stylishly in black jeans and a T-shirt that declares “The good are never easy, and the easy are never good.”
That might have been a credo for Mary, who is called upon to be tough, even conniving, in a world where she is under constant scrutiny, pressure and threat.
“I love it when you like a character and then she does something you don’t like and you hate her for a while — then you love her again,” says Kane. “I’d like to see her have unlikable moments that the audience understands and sympathizes with.”
Almost certainly Kane has already played such moments — eight episodes of “Reign” are already in the can, with Kane about to start her ninth.
Though certain locations are shot in Ireland, the bulk of the series is filmed in Toronto, with Kane — whose character is seldom out of view — putting in long production days, arriving at 5 a.m. for hair and makeup and not finishing until past dark.
The workload, along with her uncertainty about how the show will be received, weigh on Kane.
“I Skype with my girlfriends back home in Perth,” she says. “I’m not really dating because I don’t know how long I’ll be in Toronto. It’s lonesome. It’s isolating.”
She’s not complaining. Just honest. Headlining a series, even one with a large supporting cast (including Toby Regbo, Torrance Coombs, Megan Follows, Alan Van Sprang and Celina Sinden), can be all-consuming.
And then — in the best case — lurk the burdens of stardom that are hard to prepare for.
“I’m really nervous about celebrity,” she says. “That it will be too much.”
But Kane leaves no doubt she loves acting.
“It’s cathartic for me,” she explains. She and her brother were raised by a single mother, “and I spent a lot of my childhood keeping my problems to myself — I didn’t want to burden my mother. It was difficult for me to feel my feelings, so I just buried them. Then I found that acting was a way for me to get them out.
“But now that I’m a reasonably sane adult,” she continues with a laugh, “acting is more about my trying to engage other people: Acting is cathartic for the viewer, as well.
“If my performance touches someone, or helps someone understand themselves a little better, or gives them a laugh, I feel like I gave them something,” she sums up. “I want to touch people’s lives, and bring them along with me.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and at http://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier.