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Elle Fanning talks about role as Catherine the Great

Ready for her first close-up when she was just a toddler, Elle Fanning has gone on to work with the likes of Steven Spielberg and Sofia Coppola, among other A-listers.

But she thanks her actress sister, Dakota, for being her first cameraperson. “My sister and I were always acting for fun, although we didn’t call it acting in those days,” the 22-year-old says. “We were just playing. Imagining. We were princes and frogs. It was literally our daydreams coming to life.”

It paid off, as both are now in-demand young actresses. Elle’s latest turn is taking on the larger-than-life role of Catherine in “The Great,” a comedy/drama that debuted Friday on Hulu.

Fanning is currently quarantining at home, where she is passing the time taking long walks, whipping up spaghetti Bolognese and dying her famous golden locks (temporarily) pink.

Review Journal: What is your idea of a great Sunday during normal times?

Elle Fanning: A great Sunday is just relaxing at home in L.A. with my family and my dog. We take long walks, cook together and maybe go to a Korean spa. Maybe I’ll do a little bit of yoga just to stretch.

Tell us about “The Great.” Why do TV?

This just mixed comedy and drama in a very delicious way. It’s from the mind of creator, writer and executive producer Tony McNamara, who wrote the critically acclaimed “The Favourite.” I’ve never done a TV series, and it was quite thrilling because I had more time to really develop a character and have that arc. I could dig deep.

Catherine is a young royal woman living in rural Austria who in 1761 travels to Russia and becomes the empress by marrying the emperor of Russia, Peter (Nicholas Hoult). How does this take a toll on her emotionally?

She goes from an optimistic, romantic girl interested in finding her true love to a young woman dealing with the cold reality of her situation. She knows that love isn’t about her husband. But is it her destiny and fate to be with him? I love asking those kinds of big questions.

“The Great” is billed as a comedy. Is that a typo?

It is a comedy, although it took a bit of getting used to the rhythm of this piece because it changes between comedy and drama. At first, I was embarrassed because sometimes I had to make odd faces, but then I just let go. I was constantly on my toes.

How did two girls who grew up in Conyers, Georgia — you and Dakota — decide to take on Hollywood?

We come from a traditional, Southern, athletic family. Acting was not even on our radar as a plan, although I’ve been acting since age 3, playing the younger version of my sister in “I Am Sam.” I love my sister so much that I just wanted to do what she was doing.

You managed to have a very healthy childhood.

Even though I was in Los Angeles and now working more, my parents made sure it was still a very stable, grounded life. I was home-schooled by my grandmother in Georgia and then later went to L.A. public school. And I was encouraged to develop interests outside of acting. I played volleyball and basketball because I had a 7-inch growth spurt at age 12. I played all the tall sports.

Little girls love you from your role as Princess Aurora in “Maleficent” and the sequel. Are you a role model?

Aurora symbolizes the good and kindness in the world. She is acceptance. She lives harmoniously with nature. She’s a young woman now, strong and with more conviction in herself as she gains her independence, which makes her a great role model for girls. I’m so proud of her. We all need a little Aurora in us.

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