Everything about Alias Grace, eh?

Alias Grace: Rebecca Liddiard previews Mary’s influence on Grace’s life

Rebecca Liddiard is taking over CBC one Monday night drama at a time. At least, it sure feels that way. The Toronto-based actress can be seen in Season 1 of Frankie Drake Mysteries, which just happens to debut after her run on Alias Grace is complete.

In Alias Grace, airing Mondays at 9 p.m., Liddiard portrays Mary Whitney, the lively housemaid who befriends Grace (Sarah Gadon) when the latter arrives at the home of Thomas Kinnear (Paul Gross) to work. Grace, who lived through hardship in Ireland and survived a horrible ocean crossing to Canada, views the Kinnear farm as heaven on earth and Mary as her best friend. At least, that’s the way Grace remembers it as she tells Dr. Simon Jordan (Edward Holcroft) the journey that led Grace to murder and incarceration at the Kingston Penitentiary.

In our latest exclusive interview, we chat with Liddiard about working on Sarah Polley’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s book and what’s to come later this season.

This is a spooky project. Anyone who has already read the book knows Mary appears to play a part in Grace’s actions. What is the relationship between these two women?
Rebecca Liddiard: Mary has also had an incredibly difficult life, just being part of this lower class, working in service, but she has lived through the Rebellions of 1837 and 1838 and her parents were very involved in it. She has this incredibly optimistic, idealistic view of the possibility of what her life could be. That lends herself to her incredible spirit that she tries to pass on to Grace. Mary gets caught up in life and her ending is just as tragic, but I think that spirit of something better and somehow transcending this life that they’re in sticks with Grace.

This is a speculative account of what’s going on in Grace’s mind, but I’m with you … I like to think Mary’s influence—if not her spirit—continues on with Grace as the rest of the story unfolds.

Mary passes away as a result of a medical issue. That must have been an intense scene to film.
Those scenes were the first ones I shot on Alias Grace and the first shots of the whole series!

How do you even prepare for that?
A lot of it is done in the moment. It was sort of a weird day. It was the beginning of the whole thing for everybody. We went to this house in the middle of the woods at Black Creek Pioneer Village and we filmed this scene. And, you just start screaming. It was really heavy.

The climax of the miniseries involves Mary as well, when Grace allegedly channels her during a hypnosis session.
Sarah [Gadon] and I talked a lot about that. How much is Mary still a part of the story at this point? I also did some recordings for Sarah reading her script in my voice so she could play around a bit. The effect is very terrifying. It’s incredible and chilling.

Alias Grace airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on CBC.

Image courtesy of CBC.

 

 

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Links: Alias Grace

From John Doyle of The Globe and Mail:

Link: Alias Grace: An ambitious, almost brilliant Margaret Atwood adaptation
Alias Grace (Monday, CBC, 9 p.m.) is tightly wound, stark and knowing about its central female protagonist. It is a very literary and at times elliptical adaptation, one that soars when it reaches into the elusive soul of Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon) and at times the six-part series hits you like a headache, it is so charged and sententious. It is sometimes gloriously exciting as Grace is revealed in oh-so-many twisted ways and, simultaneously, it suffers from the great curse of Canadian TV drama – it becomes visually inert when imaginative vigour and freshness of expression are called for. Continue reading.

From Victoria Ahearn of The Canadian Press:

Link: Alias Grace comes at a ‘critical moment,’ says star Sarah Gadon
Sarah Polley’s new TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel “Alias Grace” has been about 20 years in the making.

As it turns out, the timing couldn’t be more perfect.

Debuting Monday on CBC-TV and Nov. 3 on Netflix globally outside of Canada, the Ontario-shot miniseries comes after the smash success of another recent adaptation of Atwood’s work, eight-time Emmy winner “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Continue reading.

From Sonia Saraiya of Variety

Link: TV Review: Netflix’s ‘Alias Grace’ 
For a book that is essentially un-adaptable, though, “Alias Grace” presents a remarkably faithful and dazzlingly complex portrait of servant girl Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon), a real-life “celebrated murderess” who was found guilty and imprisoned, at 16, for the killing of her master and mistress. Continue reading. 

From Daniel Fienberg of The Hollywood Reporter:

Link: ’Alias Grace’: TV Review
Polley and Harron (and Atwood’s source material) represent a powerful and thoroughly in-synch writing-directing team, spinning six episodes of television out of a story that is, on its surface, barely a film’s worth of plot. Continue reading. 

From Courtney Shea of Toronto Life:

Link: Q&A: Sarah Gadon, the star of CBC’s new Atwood adaptation, Alias Grace
My agent sent me the script. When I saw it was a Sarah Polley project, I flipped out. Growing up in Toronto, I had always looked up to her as an actress, and I’ve watched her evolve into a director, producer and writer. I’ve always carried around a secret dream that maybe one day I might get to work with her.  Continue reading. 

From Hermione Wilson of The TV Junkies:

Link: Alias Grace: Why You’ll Want to Catch Margaret Atwood’s True Crime Novel as it Comes to TV
Making a Murderer had you hooked, and the first season of Serial made you wish you could read Adnan Syed’s mind, you’ll love Alias Grace! This latest TV adaptation of a Margaret Atwood novel (following close on the heels of the Emmy-winning The Handmaid’s Tale) is based on the true story of Canadian murderess — allegedly — Grace Marks, an Irish-Canadian maid who was convicted in 1843 of murdering her master Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper Nancy Montgomery.  Continue reading.

 

 

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Alias Grace: Sarah Polley’s excellent Margaret Atwood adaptation comes to CBC

CBC has made it part of their mandate to focus on adapting more Canadian novels into television projects. They’ve already done it recently with Anne—Moira Walley-Beckett’s take on Anne of Green Gables, in production on Season 2 now—and Allan Hawco’s Caught, his adaptation of Lisa Moore’s novel.

Now the network goes all-in with Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood’s novel about a murderess in 1840s Canada. Debuting Monday at 9 p.m., the six-parter has been adapted by Sarah Polley and stars Sarah Gadon in the lead role of Grace Marks. The project ticks all the boxes of what’s top of mind in society—women’s rights and the immigrant story among them—and a hot genre in true crime. Alias Grace is based on the real-life case of domestic servant Grace Marks, an Irish immigrant who was imprisoned in Kingston Penitentiary for teaming with stable-hand James McDermott (played by Kerr Logan) and murdering their employer, Thomas Kinnear (Paul Gross) and his housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery (Anna Paquin). The book and the production introduce a fictional doctor, psychiatrist Simon Jordan (Edward Holcroft), into the mix, who meets with Grace to discuss what she recalls of the crimes. Did Grace really commit the murders she was convicted of? And where does housemaid Mary Whitney (Rebecca Liddiard) fit into what happened?

“Adapting Alias Grace was like a boot camp for screenwriting,” Polley says during a media press day in Toronto. After buying the rights to the novel years ago, Polley initially thought Alias Grace would be a feature film. Those plans were scuttled because the book contained too many time jumps and changes in characters’ views and voices to make a movie feasible. A six-hour television series was perfect, giving her the opportunity to fit everything in. Once she had the scripts done, Polley began shopping them around; executive producer Noreen Halpern snapped it up for Halfire Entertainment after having a coffee with Polley.

“Sarah handed me the six scripts and I read them in one sitting,” Halpern recalls with a smile. “Once you start reading them, you can’t stop. The writing is so compelling.” Equally compelling is the colour palette devised by director-executive producer Mary Harron. Washed-out greys are the backdrop to scenes in the Kingston prison, dark grime on the ship from Ireland to Canada, rich browns in the prison governor’s office where Simon and Grace’s conversations take place, and golds seeping into Grace’s reflections of her happy days at the Kinnear farm.

“When she arrives in Toronto, which is supposed to be this promised land, it is a sea of mud,” Harron says. “When Grace sees the farm for the first time, it’s bathed in golden light. Even though terrible things happened at this farm, in her memory it was a beautiful place.”

What really makes Alias Grace hum is the cast. Gadon is spectacular as Grace and Holcroft is equally to task as Simon. In Sunday’s opening moments, Grace serves as narrator, describing her long prison term and the reason she was there in the first place.

“I think of all the things that have been written about me,” Grace says. “That I am an inhuman female demon. That I am an innocent victim of a blaggard forced against my will and in danger of my own life. That I was too ignorant to know how to act and to hang me would be judicial murder.” While she states each version of herself, Gadon twitches and teases her face to match each person the public views. With such skill in presenting the right face, who’s to say Grace isn’t playing the victim in her chats with Simon? Is she playing him for a fool, hoping he’ll help to have her pardoned?

“We have our own theories,” Gadon says with a smile. “Margaret Atwood was very, very against us sharing them with you. I will say that we all got so caught up in the whodunit aspect and the web of lies. What’s interesting is that the book is historical fiction but Margaret did take every piece of historical fact and weave it into the story, which makes it so difficult to make up your mind whether she did it or not.”

Look for more exclusive Alias Grace interviews with cast members Sarah Gadon, Kerr Logan and Rebecca Liddiard in the coming weeks.

Alias Grace airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

 

 

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Link: Margaret Atwood on growing prominence in Trump era

From Victoria Ahearn of The Canadian Press:

Link: Margaret Atwood on growing prominence in Trump era
“They’re very, very different, there’s no comparison to be made. They’re in completely different styles and time periods and there’s nothing really connecting them except for this conversation about women and history, in terms of the shows, I mean…. In terms of looking back at women and where they’ve come from and what life was like for an immigrant-domestic woman.” Continue reading.

 

 

 

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CBC announces its 2017-18 primetime schedule

From a media release:

CBC, Canada’s public broadcaster and the number-one media brand in Canada,* today announced broadcast premiere dates for its fall 2017 television season, featuring a uniquely Canadian lineup of new and returning series including Canada’s most-watched homegrown drama and comedy series, MURDOCH MYSTERIES and KIM’S CONVENIENCE.**

New original series launching on CBC this fall include the highly anticipated miniseries ALIAS GRACE (6×60) premiering Mon.Sept. 25, written and produced by Sarah Polley, directed by Mary Harron and starring Sarah Gadon, based on the novel by Margaret Atwood; THE GREAT CANADIAN BAKING SHOW (8×60), the homemade version of the popular British competition bringing together 10 amateur bakers from across Canada hosted by Dan Levy and Julia Chan, premiering Wed. Nov. 1; FRANKIE DRAKE MYSTERIES (11×60) from the producers of Murdoch Mysteries, following Toronto’s only female private detective in the 1920s, premiering Mon. Nov. 6; and THE STATS OF LIFE (4×30); a factual series that humanizes a range of population statistics to reveal the surprising truths about how Canadians live today, premiering Fri. Nov. 24.

CBC will also offer the exclusive Canadian broadcast of Jane Campion’s acclaimed drama TOP OF THE LAKE: CHINA GIRL (7×60) premiering on Wed. Oct. 25, starring Elizabeth Moss and Nicole Kidman. The BAFTA-nominated British series THE DURRELLS (6×60) will also premiere on Wed. Sept. 13.

Returning drama, comedy, factual and arts series include CORONATION STREET (Sept. 18), with six new episodes per week this fall including back-to-back episodes on Mondays; DRAGONS’ DEN (Sept. 28), featuring Arlene Dickinson’s return to the Den as the sixth Dragon; arts series EXHIBITIONISTS (Sept. 22); weekday daytime series THE GOODS (Sept. 18); HEARTLAND (Sept. 24); Emmy-nominated political arts series INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM (Oct. 13); KIM’S CONVENIENCE (Sept. 26); MR. D (Sept. 26); MURDOCH MYSTERIES (Sept. 25); RICK MERCER REPORT (Sept. 26); and THIS HOUR HAS 22 MINUTES (Sept. 26).

On Mon. Nov. 6, flagship news program THE NATIONAL launches with a new format hosted by Adrienne Arsenault, Rosemary Barton, Andrew Chang and Ian Hanomansing. CBC News’ investigative series MARKETPLACE, THE FIFTH ESTATE and THE INVESTIGATORS WITH DIANA SWAIN also return with new seasons on Fri. Sept. 15.

CBC’s award-winning documentary programming moves to Sundays starting Sept. 24 including David Suzuki’s THE NATURE OF THINGS, which will launch its new season with THE WILD CANADIAN YEAR (5×60), showcasing Canada’s extraordinary wildlife; and CBC DOCS POV (formerly FIRSTHAND), which launches with Bee Nation, a charming documentary following students as they prepare for the first-ever First Nations Provincial Spelling Bee in Canada.

Also this fall, CBC SPORTS will provide compelling coverage and storytelling leading up to the OLYMPIC WINTER GAMES PYEONGCHANG 2018 and connect Canadians with high-performance athletes each weekend with ROAD TO THE OLYMPIC GAMES, which launches its fall season on Sat. Oct. 21 with coverage of the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating from Moscow, Russia.

CBC’s fall 2017 broadcast premiere dates and times are as follows –
All series will also be available to stream on the CBC TV app and at cbc.ca/watch (all times local with the exception of Newfoundland, please add half an hour to all times)

MONDAYS

  • 2 p.m. The Goods (Season 2 premieres Sept. 18)
  • 7 p.m. Coronation Street (fall premiere Sept. 18)
  • 8 p.m. Murdoch Mysteries (Season 11 premieres Sept. 25)
  • 9 p.m. Alias Grace (Miniseries premieres Sept. 25)
    [Frankie Drake Mysteries series premieres Nov. 6]
  • 10 p.m. The National (launches Nov. 6)

TUESDAYS

  • 8 p.m. Rick Mercer Report (Season 15 premieres Sept. 26)
  • 8:30 p.m. This Hour Has 22 Minutes (Season 25 premieres Sept. 26)
  • 9 p.m. Kim’s Convenience (Season 2 premieres Sept. 26)
  • 9:30 p.m. Mr. D (Season 7 premieres Sept. 26)

WEDNESDAYS

  • 8 p.m. The Great British Baking Show Season 7 premieres Aug. 23
    [The Great Canadian Baking Show premieres Nov. 1]

THURSDAYS

  • 8 p.m. Dragons’ Den (Season 12 premieres Sept. 28 with a two-hour special)

FRIDAYS

  • 8 p.m. Marketplace (Season 45 premieres Sept .15)
  • 8:30 p.m. The Investigators with Diana Swain (premieres Sept. 15)
    [Interrupt This Program Season 3 premieres Oct.13]
    [The Stats of Life series premieres Nov. 24]
  • 9 p.m. The Fifth Estate (Season 43 premieres Sept. 15)
  • 12:30 a.m. Exhibitionists (Season 3 premieres Sept. 22)

SATURDAYS

  • 6:30 p.m. ET Hockey Night in Canada

SUNDAYS

  • 7 p.m. Heartland (Season 11 premieres Sept. 24)
  • 8 p.m. The Nature of Things (Season 57 premieres Sept. 24)
  • 9 p.m. CBC Docs POV (Season 4 premieres Sept. 24)

 

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