The producers of the new PBS production, “Marie Antoinette,” are certain the former French queen has gotten a reputation she doesn’t deserve. The first things that come to mind when mentioning her name are the guillotine and the quote “Let them eat cake.” For the record, she never said anything about pastries.

To counter some of the misinformation, the series – launching at 10 p.m. March 19 on Valley PBS – takes a look at the iconic queen through a 21-century lens in an effort to present a fresh version of Marie Antoinette. She’s portrayed as a free-thinking, independent feminist. That is very different from the usual portrayal of her as a frivolous, vain and spoiled young woman.

This first season of “Marie Antoinette” looks at her journey from reluctant child bride to Queen of France. She was sent to Versailles when she was a teen to marry Louis XVI and produce an heir. Instead of being forced to conform, Marie Antoinette would turn Versailles upside down to live her life on her own terms.

The task of portraying this feminist version of Marie Antoinette fell to Emilia Schüle who is a Russia-born German actress best known for such projects as “Berlin One,” “Point Blank” and “Treadstone.”

She sees Marie Antoinette as a very misunderstood person.

“People nowadays see her by what’s been framed by the revolution, by all those rumors that were supposed to destroy her and harm her,” Schüle says.  “The film that exists about her, that really showed Marie Antoinette as a luxury girl but she is much more complex than that and much more modern.

“She was fighting to preserve her freedom, her privacy.  She never abandoned her personal needs.  She always stood up for herself.  She really embodies our views today of equality, individuality, self-determination, and it was these modern qualities that actually eventually enabled her enemies to destroy her and undermine her.”

Under the complex rules of the French court, Marie Antoinette suffers from not being able to live her life the way she wants. She is pressured to continue the Bourbon line and secure the Franco-Austrian alliance. But faced with Louis’s avoidance, the mission turns out to be more complicated than expected.

Transforming into the Queen of Style and a true fashion icon, Marie Antoinette tries to recreate Versailles in her image: free, independent, and feminist. But defamatory pamphlets and persistent rumors about her private life undermine her status, and her opponents within the Royal Family will do everything they can to bring her down.

When Schüle auditioned for the project, all she had was the first episode that covered her journey from Austria to France.

Schüle says, “It reads like a nightmare because you could see her story as a fairy tale story.  She goes to France to become queen but after all, she’s a 14-year-old child that leaves Austria, her home country, leaves her mum, and is sent away to marry off some guy she’s never seen before and is supposed to consummate something that no one ever explained to her. So, I was really surprised about this approach.

“I mean she was really looking for a role in life. She didn’t just want to be a baby-producing person. And I think that’s what happens today. We are so many things as women. And the same with Marie Antoinette, she was a rebel above all, she was a queen, she was a mother, she was an icon, and she was a human being with needs. And she never let go of them.”

The series also will show that this union was a learning experience for Marie Antoinette and Louis. They were thrown together with the expectation of immediately producing heirs.

Louis Cunningham, the British actor playing Louis XVI, saw the early years between the couple as a time of discovery. But, they had to learn about themselves before they could deal with each other.

Cunningham says, “I think, well, for us, at least, it was really an exploration of what sex meant to these two individuals, and for them, it was political. So, it kind of, in a way immediately strips away the glamour of it when you kind of have two kids who are forced together in order to produce an heir.”

This approach comes from the script and the mountains of research the actors did before filming started. Schüle wished she had done a little more research on the costuming of the period.

She found the corsets to be a nightmare.

“I just had to stand there for hours and hours and hours for wardrobe fittings. They first put me in the corset.  I got sick, actually,” Schüle says. “It does really help to get into character because as soon as you’re in that corset, you really feel in a cage, and you have to adapt to a completely new way of existence.  And you really get the sense that this was a means to suppress women at the time.”