TV Real Festival Keynote: Mary Beard


A classicist who specializes in ancient Rome, Mary Beard offered up insights on presenting history fare at the TV Real Festival.

Beard’s latest project, Meet the Roman Emperor with Mary Beard from Lion Television, aired on BBC Two earlier this year. You can watch her keynote interview with TV Real’s Anna Carugati here.

On crafting Meet the Roman Emperor, Beard noted, “I didn’t want to do the biography of this one decent chap, followed by this one awful hypocrite, followed by this completely mad one. I want to say, What does it mean to be a Roman emperor? What’s the job description? What does a Roman emperor do all day? How did he get around? My basic point was that there are differences between different emperors, and, of course, we would like some more than others, but they’re much more similar to each other than they are different. What was great about doing that on television, not just in a history book, was that we could go to those places and really open up where the Roman emperor lived.”

Beard then talked about how she works with producers on her shows and her research process. “It really is a collaborative exercise. Television viewers concentrate much too much on the lead presenter and not enough on all the people who make the television programs possible. I have some ideas about what I would like to do, what point I would like to get over. Good directors and producers can help you say that and make it real. They have a sense of what works visually. I have learned a huge amount, but I’ve done it through endless discussions. How would we make that point? Where would we go? The whole process for me has been hugely enjoyable, but it’s also been a learning process.”