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.

 

 

Greg David
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Greg David

Prior to becoming a television critic and owner of TV, Eh?, Greg David was a critic for TV Guide Canada, the country's most trusted source for TV news. He has interviewed television actors, actresses and behind-the-scenes folks from hundreds of television series from Canada, the U.S. and internationally. He is a podcaster, public speaker, weekly radio guest and educator, and past member of the Television Critics Association.
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