'Domina' star Matthew McNulty: 'Gaius is power hungry'

Matthew McNulty stars as the Roman Empire's first Emperor, Augustus.
Matthew McNulty stars as the Roman Empire's first Emperor, Augustus. (Image credit: Sky Atlantic)

Matthew McNulty takes a key role in Domina which brings the politics and power struggles of Ancient Rome to life. This sweeping period drama on both Sky Atlantic and EPIX follows the rise to power of noblewoman Livia Drusilla as she becomes the first empress of Rome. 

Kasia Smutniak stars as the leading lady, with Matthew playing her second husband, Gaius, who would go on to become the Roman Empire's first leader, Emperor Augustus. 

The eight-part series begins with a young and naive Livia watching her world fall apart with the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC and the end of the Roman republic, followed by the death of her father, Livius, a few years later. 

Years later she begins the journey to regain her inheritance and realises a marriage to Julius Caesar’s son, Gaius, will help her climb to the top of a brutal society. We spoke to Matthew (The Terror, Misfits) who plays Gaius from the third episode onwards, to find out more... 

Matthew McNulty on Gaius in Domina...

Matthew McNulty says: "Gaius is power hungry from an early age and he's always had to prove himself. He wants to rise as high as he can and the highest you can go is being a God. By the time I start playing him he definitely has a God complex!

"He's also intelligent, ruthless and a great orator, but gradually he goes from being a ruthless gangster to a statesman and a diplomat. In his search for power he also becomes a family man and marrying Livia, who's part of the Claudii dynasty, is an important move. Family is the building blocks of power in ancient Rome."  


Kasia Smutniak plays Livia Drusilla from the third episode onwards. (Image credit: Sky Atlantic)

Matthew McNulty on Gaius' marriage to Livia in Domina...

"They challenge each other and you never really know who's on top. He feels like she ignites him and is the one person that can that can get to him. She pulls out his humanity, because without Livia, there'd be a danger of Gaius becoming like a Roman Mark Zuckerberg! But she brings out the love in him, the passion and the fire as well.

"They both started off as sort of like young celebrities in Roman society so they've grown together, but at the same time, they've tested each other. They need each other and there's no more powerful couple in the world at that time than them!" 

Matthew McNulty on Domina's women... 

"The series tells the story of the beginning of the Roman Empire through the eyes of women and I think it's important because throughout history, the success of women has been denied. We've seen that in historical dramas since since TV and film began really, so it's nice to kind of have an opportunity to do justice to a great woman like Livia."

Matthew McNulty on filming Domina at Cinecitta Film Studios in Italy... 

"Walking into Cinecitta Film Studios was amazing because the place has so much history. It's where Fellini made most of his films, while Ben-Hur and Cleopatra were also made there. I was playing an iconic figure from history and that setting just adds to it and enhances your performance, because it puts you in the world.

"The Senate building was unbelievable and being able to stand and deliver a speech in front of a hall full of 'senators' was like being in theatre.

"But other sets affected you in different ways, because there are moments when we have close discussions on couches while lying down. It pulls your performance down and means you have to do things with your eyes and voice that you would otherwise do with your body." 


Gaius and his close ally Agrippa (Ben Batt). (Image credit: Sky Atlantic)

Domina will arrive on Sky Atlantic and streaming service NOW in the UK on Friday May 14 May at 9pm. The eight-part series will be box-setted too as it airs exclusively in all Sky territories, in Italy, UK, Ireland, Germany and Spain. NBCUniversal will look after distribution for the rest of the world including the USA where Domina will air on EPIX from June 6.

* Read here fo news about Domina Season 2.

Sean Marland

Sean is a Senior Feature writer for TV Times, What's On TV and TV & Satellite Week, who also writes for whattowatch.com. He's been covering the world of TV for over 15 years and in that time he's been lucky enough to interview stars like Ian McKellen, Tom Hardy and Kate Winslet. His favourite shows are I'm Alan Partridge, The Wire, People Just Do Nothing and Succession and in his spare time he enjoys drinking tea, doing crosswords and watching football.