“The female gaze personified.” That’s how American actor Emily Bader describes her new Prime Video series, My Lady Jane. And from the moment the first episode starts—with a brief, playful animated recap of the English Tudor era accompanied by an irreverent, decidedly modern narration and a line of voiceover that says, “Jane could have been the leader England needed, but instead history remembers her as the ultimate damsel in distress. Fuck that. What if history were different?”—the period-romance-fantasy show loudly and proudly makes that POV clear.

There’s a lot going on with My Lady Jane, which starts streaming on June 27. Adapted from a series of young adult novels, the series is set in England in 1553 and reimagines the life of Lady Jane Grey. As history tells it, IRL, Jane was a cousin to King Edward VI and reluctantly became Queen as a teenager after he died. But she only sat on the throne for nine days because Edward’s sister Mary Tudor (a.ka. Queen Mary I) usurped Jane. Jane was executed for treason, and is now remembered as a young woman who fell victim to the incompetent men around her trying to claim power. My Lady Jane forgets all of this, and instead creates a version of the world where Jane (played on screen by Bader) not only survives, but thrives as she searches for a fulfilling life that’s all her own. That, of course, includes some romance and, to complicate matters further (or emphasize the distance from real-world events), adding a fantasy element to the tale: in this alternate version of England, some “humans” are actually part of a shapeshifting species called Ethians, creating socio-political tension across the land. The show is a bit of Bridgerton (contemporary soundtrack and 21st century lingo included), a bit of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a bit of A Knight’s Tale, all heightened to the max to become its own distinct thing.

Prime Video

“There have been other projects showing the female perspective and that were sort of subverting history and the standards [put upon] women, but what makes My Lady Jane so different is that it really is the female gaze personified,” Bader says. “The things that might have otherwise been toned down when telling a female story are turned up—sexuality, lust, rage, passion. All those characteristics you don’t always get to see, all the flaws and dirty little bits that make people interesting are really put on display in this show. We’re putting big googly lust eyes on the men, we have himbo characters. It’s just showing the full perspective of what it is to be a young woman—which is so many things and so much more complicated.”

The series’ singular tone and voice is exactly why Bader jumped at the opportunity to audition for the role. “I was desperate for it right away. The character was described as ‘Blondie meets Elizabeth Bennet, and I don’t know what could be more amazing than that,” she says. The blend of genres is frenetic, while the dialogue is quick witted and full of sharp banter; Bader says it’s how the voice in her own head sounds. (If you’ve watched Gilmore Girls, you could probably relate too). And Bader commands the screen with ease; fictional Lady Jane Grey is immediately relatable and best friend material. She’s clever, funny and open, yet stubborn, frustrating and naive. You’ll want to shake sense into her and cheer for her at the same time. She’s someone you could know—minus the period costumes and knowledge about shapeshifting supernatural beings.

Prime Video

Romance is, of course, a crucial element of the formula that gives My Lady Jane its zip. When we meet Jane, her mom (Anna Chancellor) is trying to marry her off. The well-educated Jane, meanwhile, is fiercely against the idea and, in fact, doesn’t seem interested in love at all. But then she meets the rakish, handsome Lord Guildford Dudley (Edward Bluemel), who has no problem going toe-to-toe with her intellectually, and you can practically see the spark of attraction—something she’s clearly never experienced before—light up in her eyes. Even still, Jane tries again and again to resist the magnetism between them, determined to stick to the unconventional do-it-her-own-way attitude she’s always subscribed to. “She’s in complete shock at the reality of her feelings. All of her knowledge is from books, it’s not based in real experience,” Bader says. “[The attraction] scares her, because she expected herself to be, sort of, an independent solo-venture woman for the rest of her life, and all of the sudden, she’s having these feelings she can’t hide. It’s hard for her to let that in.”

The dynamic between Jane and Guildford contains all the traits you’d want from a compelling romance. There’s angst, but it’s not overwrought. There’s hold-your-breath levels of tension, longing looks and steamy scenes. And the on-screen chemistry between Bader and Bluemel (who you may recognize from Killing Eve and Sex Education) is kinetic, even during moments when their characters are more at odds. Bader says that their relationship was easy to develop from the moment she and Bluemel met in person. “We basically had that, like, ‘Oh, we’re the same’ connection,” she says. “I always say we were like two mischievous little children running around on set. We get along so well, so it really wasn’t hard at all. We also have a very similar way of talking, and I think that lends itself to the banter between [Jane and Guildford]—it’s almost like their love language.”

All that said, Jane’s relationship status is almost incidental to the true heart of the series: Jane advocating for and creating her own path to freedom and independence. Everything she does, she does with a steadfast belief that women—noble or not—are capable and entitled to so much more than they’re allowed during this point in time. “It all comes down to choice. She completely rejects the idea that women are not as strong as men, both physically and intellectually,” Bader says. “She wants the choice to do whatever she chooses, whether that is to get married, have children and be a provider, or run away into the woods and be a healer. I think that’s what all women want: the opportunity to choose.”