Tag Archives: Margaret Atwood

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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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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Photo gallery: CBC’s Alias Grace

A full summer of programming is still ahead of us—hello Killjoys, Wynonna Earp, Dark Matter and Orphan Black—but CBC has got us excited for the fall.

The network announced earlier today that Alias Grace debuts Monday, Sept. 25, at 9 p.m. on CBC. Based on Margaret Atwood’s award-winning novel and inspired by true events, the six episodes are written and produced by Sarah Polley and directed by Mary Harron. The miniseries tells the story of Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon), an Irish immigrant and domestic servant in Upper Canada who—along with James McDermott (Kerr Logan), a stable hand—is accused and convicted of the infamous 1843 murders of her employer, wealthy farmer Thomas Kinnear (Paul Gross), and his housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery (Anna Paquin).

Here’s a sneak peek gallery of some of the key cast. Are you as excited about Alias Grace as we are? Let us know in the comments below!

 

Alias Grace debuts Monday, Sept. 25, at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT) on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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Links: Margaret Atwood

From Hermoine Wilson of The TV Junkies:

Link: Why iconic author Margaret Atwood is killing it on TV right now
“I think that is one of the effects that series like this can have because each one is centred on a letter and learning letters and how they fit into words of course helps children read. But I don’t think it was in my mind anyway. If your primary purpose is didactic, the story will often be boring.” Continue reading.

From Victoria Ahearn of the Canadian Press:

Link: Margaret Atwood on alliteration, new Wandering Wenda show, being a teen puppeteer
“Kids think it’s funny and when the parents read the books, they often get mixed up and kids think that’s funny too. The Bs and Ds are particularly difficult for kids with dyslexia, and the Rs are particularly difficult with some people from other countries who are learning English. So in fact the R book has been used as a teaching aide in language classes for that reason.” Continue reading. 

 

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