Much as I love books — and reading is my very favorite pastime — I’m also a hopeless TV and movie buff. I can’t get enough of whatever the latest compelling television series might be or the newest film releases to hit the DVD racks. For years, I’ve closely followed the leads from all the major Pride & Prejudice adaptations so that I could check out their work in other acting productions.
I’ve watched Jennifer Ehle in Zero Dark Thirty, Contagion, Possession and on the short-lived TV series A Gifted Man. I even saw her in Fifty Shades of Grey and, most recently, on the “Madeline Pratt” episode of TV’s The Blacklist. I haven’t missed a Colin Firth film from Mamma Mia to The King’s Speech. (I will always adore him!) I’ve enjoyed seeing Kiera Knightley in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, Bend It Like Beckham, Anna Karenina, and more. And, of course, the talented Matthew Macfadyen, who captivated me so completely in his role on MI-5 that I watched season after season, pretty much devouring them whole. I still have the Ripper Street series to watch, and I’m hoping The von Trapp Family: A Life of Music will make its way to the American cinema sometime soon…
But the actors and actresses who weren’t our Lizzys or our Darcys have had some major acting successes, too, and it’s been fun to see them playing roles very different from their Regency-set period pieces. Rupert Friend, who played George Wickham in the 2005 P&P film, became well-known on the hit show Homeland. Anna Chancellor, our Caroline Bingley in the 1995 P&P, guest-starred on Downton Abbey last year and was, of course, one of the main cast members in the romantic comedy Four Weddings and a Funeral, which I’d loved. Tom Mison, who played Charles Bingley in the mini-series Lost in Austen, has been the lead in Sleepy Hollow for three seasons now, portraying my favorite Ichabod Crane to date. And Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson, who stole our hearts as the Dashwood sisters in Sense & Sensibility, have so many acting credits between them that I couldn’t begin to start counting. Winslet has been in everything from Titanic to Divergent. And Thompson starred in Stranger Than Fiction (which I thought was absolutely brilliant), Saving Mr. Banks, and she even showed up recently in Burnt.
So, I find myself thinking frequently about the way actors and actresses take on different personas when they try out a new role, and I’ve even written about an actor in one of my “Mirabelle Harbor” novels (Dane Tyler in THE ONE THAT I WANT). But, last week, I had the opportunity to do the something a little closer to the camera…
Usually, I’m a suburban mom and a fiction writer, but on Thursday I was cast as an extra in the NBC drama Chicago Fire, and I had a blast! It was a truly fascinating experience (I wrote about it on Facebook here and re-posted to my blog as well for those who aren’t on FB). I was one of about 22 extras, divided into 2 teams, all of us playing either lawyers or paralegals in a few scenes filmed on the set of a “courthouse” in Chicago. For a day, I was doing something very different from my typical romance-writing and mom-of-a-teenager role. Not only was I pretending to be a paralegal, a profession I have only a glancing familiarity with, but I got seven hours worth of insight on the set into what the life of an actor/actress is really like. From the early wake-up call (I needed to get up at 5am in order to make to the city by check-in time), the “costume inspection” (something I’ll write more about once the episode airs early in 2016!), and the way the crew worked together to bring the scenes to life (I was lucky enough to get to participate in two of them), it was a one-day crash course into the world of a TV drama.
To be honest, while the on-camera stuff was really fun, the absolute best part of it, in my opinion, was everything that went on behind the scenes. The crew bringing in the lights and props. The cameraman adjusting his position on that moving dolly. The assistant directors monitoring everyone’s positions and coordinating the blocking. The way they all really called out words like “Reset,” “Rolling,” “Set,” “Background,” “Action,” and “Cut.” I had about a million questions, but I was only able to ask a fraction of them 🙂 . Reason enough to want to go back, right?!
The experience made me admire my favorite Austen actors all the more — whether they were performing in a production based on one of Jane’s books or on a TV show that expanded their acting portfolio to include contemporary storylines. Who are the actors/actresses you’ve seen playing in an Austen adaptation that you’ve enjoyed watching in other film/TV roles? What TV shows or movies have grabbed your attention recently? For me, it’s been NBC’s The Blacklist (and Ehle rocked in her guest role), but I’d love some new recommendations!!
Marilyn Brant’s latest novel, THE ONE THAT I WANT, is a standalone story in the “Mirabelle Harbor” series. It’s about a young widow whose best friend finally talks her into going out on the town again. Over the course of the summer, she’s stunned to find herself the object of interest of several different men: the boy who broke her heart back in high school, the college ex she’d left behind and, most surprising of all, the movie actor she’d always fantasized about but had never met in person…until now.
“An engrossing page-turner, a mix of lighthearted humor, drama and tragedy that packs a powerful punch…” ~Deb Haupt, The Reading Frenzy