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Metro Toronto
February 13, 2006

Role hooks Anderson
Actress initially refused part in Bleak House

By Sandy Caetano

Wanting to further pursue her career in film and theatre, Gillian Anderson, formerly known as special agent Dana Scully from sci-fi drama The X-Files, told her agent to turn down any television roles that came knocking on her door.

That was until Bleak House, a new BBC One epic adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic novel, came about. Still, without even reading the script, Anderson turned it down.

“It was offered to me, and before I read it I believe I said that I wasn’t interested, and then I was told that it was going to be great and that I should just take a look at it,” said Anderson during a phone interview with Metro. “And I did find it great. I met with the director and producer and they managed to convince me.”

Anderson took on the complex role of aristocratic Lady Dedlock, a woman whose life has passed her by, and as a result has become bitter and controlling. One moment she seems vulnerable yet strong, then seems sad and cruel.

Throughout the film, Anderson plays all of these emotions and qualities, turning them on and off as she sees fit. Though Anderson admits it was a bit of a challenge becoming Lady Dedlock, she says it was more exciting than anything else.

“I think the challenges were in different areas, I mean that to me is exciting to be able to play somebody who has so many layers, that makes it interesting as an actor,” Anderson said. “And certainly figuring out and keeping track of where she’s at, at any given time during the story and the best way to convey that on camera that isn’t repetitive.”

It’s especially interesting to see how Anderson depicts what Lady Dedlock is feeling in all the scenes where she’s standing by the window, since each of those moments are on a different level of her journey and they’re not the same.

No matter how good the writing is in the body of a script, Anderson said it’s important for her to be able to identify with the character she’s been asked to play so she can be able to make that character come to life.

“It was part of my character and having the opportunity to play her and to jump into the challenges that come in playing her was what grabbed me,” Anderson said. “There are times I look at scripts that may be good, but I just can’t find a way in.”

Bleak House, which also stars Charles Dance (Gosford Park) and Alun Armstrong (Van Helsing), is currently running Sunday nights on PBS’ Masterpiece Theatre and will be released on DVD Feb. 28, two days after the program’s finale.

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