Nicholas Hoult Pitched Jennifer Lopez or Halle Berry to Play Joanna

  • Peter, Nicholas Hoult’s character, has sex with his mother-in-law Joanna on season 2 of ‘The Great.’
  • Elle Fanning joked that her costar suggested casting Halle Berry or Jennifer Lopez for the role. 
  • Hoult assured that he was “thrilled” to work with Gillian Anderson, who portrays Joanna. 

Warning: This article contains spoilers for season two of “The Great.”

When Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult read the script for the eighth episode on “The Great” season two, they had one major question: Who would play Joanna Elisabeth of Holstein-Gottorp?

On Tony McNamara’s fictionalized retelling of Catherine The Great’s (Fanning) reign over Russia, which hit


in November, the empress’ mother stirs up mayhem from the moment she steps foot in court. In a twist that no one — not historians nor viewers — could possibly foresee, Joanna falls out the window while having sex with her son-in-law Peter (Hoult) and dies.

“When I heard about this, I was like, ‘Who’s going to be the mom? Because we knew that his character would have to do this,” Fanning told Insider during a joint interview with Hoult. 

“We’re like, ‘Alright, maybe Pamela Anderson,’” she continued, adding, “He was pitching Jennifer Lopez, Halle Berry.”

Hoult chimed in: “[I was] thrilled with Gillian Anderson.”

As for the 53-year-old actress, who steals the show as the uptight German visitor on episodes seven and eight, Anderson apparently read through the sex scene in McNamara’s script and needed no further convincing.

“I heard that Gillian read that scene,” Fanning said, explaining, “She falls out and dies in that way, and gets fucked out the window.”

She added: “Basically, Gillian was like, ‘That’s why I want to do this.’”

gillian anderson the great

Gillian Anderson plays Joanna on season two of “The Great.”


Hoult and Anderson took instruction from a stunt team and intimacy coordinator Katharine Hardman while shooting the sex scene, which Hoult described as having “a lot of levels.” As he recounted the experience during the interview, he and Fanning, both of whom are executive producers on the show, had a hard time stifling their giggles. 

“Honestly, it was just brilliant to be doing that with Gillian,” the 31-year-old actor said.

His statement led Fanning to burst out in laughter. 

He responded, “I don’t mean it like that!”

But Fanning wasn’t quite ready to let her costar off the hook. “You’re turning bright red!” she teased. 

Season two of “The Great” is currently available to stream on Hulu. 

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