‘So unprepared’ The Last Kingdom’s Eliza Butterworth on surprise change to season 5 script
1st June 2022

Alexander Dreymon thanks fans as The Last Kingdom wraps

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Eliza Butterworth is best known for her stirring turn as Queen Aelswith of Wessex throughout all five seasons of the popular BBC and Netflix drama. Now her time on The Last Kingdom has come to an end, the actress has been sharing some surprising secrets from behind the scenes of season five.

The English actress admitted a script mix-up meant she didn’t know her lines during a crucial scene in the final season of The Last Kingdom.

Her mistake left her co-star Alexander Dreymon, aka Uhtred of Bebbanburg, rather confused when she started reciting dialogue from the first draft.

During the final outing, Aelswith and Uhtred bond over their shared loss of her daughter, Æthelflæd (Millie Brady).

Unfortunately, the emotional reunion was rather undercut when Eliza realised she hadn’t prepared for the correct version of their conversation.

“I learned the wrong lines for that scene!” she admitted.

Eliza realised much too late she had actually been learning lines from the first scripts the actors received before filming commenced.

“So, as actors, we get a read-through draft first,” she explained. “That’s the beginning ideas, it usually kind of sticks to that mould but a lot of the lines change.

“And sometimes they even change the plots. Sometimes they’ll change, ‘Ooh this character’s going to do that instead of this character’.”

Read-through scripts are a vital part of fleshing out the overall plot of each season of television, but they can often go through extensive rewrites before and even after filming actually starts.

Rather than checking her scripts for updates, Eliza spent weeks memorising the wrong lines of dialogue.

She told The Screen Chronicles podcast: “I had this read-through script, it was like a physical script. I was learning a lot of lines for that scene, so I was working on that.

“And I kept that script in my apartment in Budapest and, for some reason, I didn’t check the updated scripts we constantly get. I just kept looking at my little book!”

Once she returned to filming, her co-star Alexander and the producers were very confused when Aelswith took her conversation with Uhtred in a completely different direction.

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“We got to set, and they were like, ‘Okay, brilliant. This is a very emotional scene, we’re all going to be quite quiet. We’re all going to be really respectful’,” she recalled.

“I just start, and they were like, ‘Errr…’ And I just keep going in this monologue. And Alex is going, ‘No, no, no, I don’t know why you’re saying this.’

“I whipped out my little book and was like, ‘But it is! This is what I’ve done.’ They said, ‘Look at the final lines.’”

Thankfully, the series creators were able to reach a compromise, and let Eliza keep some of the lines she could actually remember.

She continued: “On that day it got a bit scary because I had to cobble two scenes together. They let me keep a bit of the original one, but they were like, ‘We also need to infuse these new lines’.”

“So, on that day, I actually kind of didn’t know my lines! If anything I was absolutely petrified, and each take I kept thinking in my head, ‘Just don’t f**k up your lines’.

“I was so prepared, but for the wrong thing, that I was so under-prepared for the actual scene. So, in the moment, I didn’t actually know what I was doing.”

Thankfully, Eliza and Alexander managed to pull through, and no one was the wiser when The Last Kingdom’s fifth season finally dropped on Netflix in March.

The Last Kingdom seasons 1-5 are available to stream on Netflix. Seven Kings Must Die will be released in 2023.

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