Pop Culture Princess

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Why is Gillian Anderson so picture perfect in period films?

Early news about Masterpiece Classic's schedule for 2012 includes a major casting tidbit about their upcoming programs designed to celebrate Charles Dickens' bicentennial birthday. A new version of Great Expectations is set for next April with Gillian Anderson playing the resentful eternal bride-to-be,Miss Havisham.

Anderson is no stranger to Masterpiece productions,not only from her Emmy nominated role as Lady Dedlock in Bleak House,having been a hostess of the show during it's Complete Jane Austen series a couple of years back:

For many actors,coming off of such a genre based hit show like The X-Files would have made any attempts at breaking out of the sci-fi mold next to impossible yet Anderson has been more than able to make a distinct mark elsewhere. She seems particularly at home in films set back in the past,leading a distinguishing air to the proceedings with ease.

We first saw this in the theatrical version of Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth in 2000,a film wasn't as appreciated then as it is now. Some may have thought the production too prim and proper in tone but Anderson fully embodied the charming yet clueless Lily Bart rather well.

Her simple yet subtle portrayal of a socially ambitious young woman who is her own worst enemy could have easily stepped out from the pages of Wharton's book:

Her acting talents are a plus,no doubt about it. However,it helps Anderson out quite a bit that she has such a versatile physical appearance that makes it readily believable to see her as a character from the Victorian era of London,Old New York or even the 1930s.

Most recently,she played Wallis Simpson in PBS's miniseries Any Human Heart and while Anderson is recognizable in the role,her facial features lend them credibly to being a mirror image of the infamous Duchess of Windsor:

Her most recent period piece performance has not been shown in America yet and I hope that our wait for the BBC adaptation of The Crimson Petal and the White is not too long indeed.

Based upon Michael Faber's absorbing epic novel,Anderson plays Mrs. Castaway,the eccentric but scheming brothel madam who is reluctant to part with her prize girl Sugar to lovestruck client William Rackam,not for a good price at least. With any luck,this oddly passionate drama will reach our shores as well as our TV sets,chalking up another winning Gillian Anderson piece of the past on film:

In the meantime,we have the delights of her Miss Havisham to savor next spring and the glory of her other Dickensian character to relish on home video. Gillian Anderson may have seemed to be the most unlikely darling of the period piece set but she has truly earned her place in the PBS pantheon and beyond. Long may this dark queen of drama reign:

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