Realscreen Q&A: “Queen of Versailles Reigns Again” EP on revisiting doc subjects

Premiering on March 30 on Discovery+, the new series Queen of Versailles Reigns Again revisits the subjects of the popular documentary The Queen of Versailles ten years later. The earlier film, which ...
March 29, 2022

Premiering on March 30 on Discovery+, the new series Queen of Versailles Reigns Again revisits the subjects of the popular documentary The Queen of Versailles ten years later. The earlier film, which won the documentary directing award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, followed Jackie Siegel and her husband David as they set out to build the largest single-family home in America, inspired by and named after the palace of Versailles — until their quest was derailed by the financial crisis of 2008.

The new series sees the Siegels returning to their 90,000-square-foot home and chronicles the vast renovation project as the family seeks to rebuild the palatial estate, which includes five kitchens, a 35-car garage, a 150-person dining room, a ballroom and a built-in British-style pub.

Queen of Versailles Reigns Again comes from Ample Entertainment and executive producers Ari Mark and Phil Lott. Ahead of the series premiere, Realscreen spoke with Mark (pictured below) about the process of re-engaging subjects from a previous documentary, the move into a new genre for the prodco, and more. ari mark (1)

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Obviously this is a new story and focuses on the home renovation aspect, but how did you approach the Siegels, and the series in general, differently from the original Queen of Versailles team? 

In approaching the Siegels for a doc series, I wanted to make sure they knew that we were not wanting to replicate the preceding film. What became immediately clear is that Jackie and David value family above all. Jackie’s approach to Versailles is and always has been about perpetuating her family’s legacy, and we realized Versailles works best as a metaphor for that commitment. Exhausted by a cynical world, I think the Siegels, and the team at Ample, aligned because we both wanted to capture something positive, funny and escapist.

Are the Siegels involved behind the scenes on the new series?

The Siegels were extremely involved throughout production because it’s literally their house, their family and their life. So, we had to be in lockstep. Creatively, [though], we are always careful of too much input from talent, simply so we can deliver the most authentic version of a series.

Given the controversy that hit the original doc over one of the subjects’ reaction to the film, were there any concerns about returning to this story?

Once I got to know Jackie, it became clear that I was dealing with a straight shooter who loves to be on camera and wants to share her life with the world. That’s all.

Was there anything from the original Queen of Versailles that you felt should be addressed in this series?

Yes, we wanted to indirectly address the elephant left behind by the film: the Siegels’ financial collapse, and [the] real sense that they had made a massive mistake in attempting to build Versailles. I think this is their redemption moment. Versailles is getting built, despite all odds and obstacles. That’s who the Siegels are. They don’t ask our permission: they just do, and we love them for it.

Ample has a lot of experience in the true-crime genre, but this project is quite different. What were the challenges moving into a new genre with this series?

It wasn’t easy. We really wanted to figure out something hybridized: a comedic, fun spectacle for the renovation and reality audience, but also [something that] de-familiarize[s] the genre with a more fly-on-the-wall, observational style. I think we achieved that by embedding cameras inside the Siegel home, and also treating the environment with the scale and shine it deserves.

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for HMV.com. As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.