If you’ve ever turned on your TV or pressed the play button on your streaming device, you’ll know Harriet Walter’s face.
The highly respected Walter (she’s a lady, you know), a mainstay of British television, film and theater, was so busy that she had breakfast with her husband when COVID-19 rolled around and shut down productions across the entertainment industry. Guy Schuessler – but every day.
It’s a perk of this tumultuous year with everyone trying to find the silver lining at an otherwise emotionally bloody time.
“Most of the time, I find it very pleasant to be at home with my husband for months because we’ve been traveling – he’s an actor too,” Walter told news.com.au.
“And here we are, every morning he would be at breakfast. That was great.”
Even so, Walter was grateful that an appearance turned up during the pandemic lockdown because, as she puts it, “It’s not good to have so much time to think about how we don’t know what’s going to happen to the world, working is one.” helpful distraction ”.
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This project is a revival of the iconic 1980s series Talking heads, a series of monologues written by playwright Alan Bennett and then performed by Eileen Aitkens, Maggie Smith and Patricia Routledge.
Walter is one of a class of top British actors competing in the 2020 series starting tonight on BBC First on Foxtel * and Fetch. This also included Martin Freeman, Tamsin Greig, Jodie Comer, Imelda Staunton and Kristin Scott Thomas.
The series consists of 12 episodes, each moderated by an actor who tells the audience a story in the character. Walter takes up a story that Stephanie Cole portrayed in 1988 about a recently widowed woman, Muriel, whose fortune is gradually declining.
Walter speaks only to the camera for 36 minutes, a slimmed-down performance that relies exclusively on one person and conveys the emotional heart of the story.
It is also important that Walter memorize long sections of the monologue. She confessed that at the end of a long shot she had mixed up a line – “I think this happened once and it ended up going right” – but she just got on with the job and did it again.
“Maybe the director would remember it differently, but I don’t think I’ve ever done more than three takes,” she said. “I flashed lines in my head for three weeks. It was a good challenge to have a monologue for the first three weeks of the COVID lockdown. ”
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Their episode was filmed in the day after the crew rehearsed the blocking and other technical aspects the day before. Due to the pandemic, the sample and pre-production process was completely different and she had more input than usual.
“We rehearsed on Skype and Zoom, then I had discussions with the designer about costumes and we were supposed to bring any costumes we had because the BBC was trying to keep costs down so the profits we could give away were bigger [COVID] Charities, and also eliminate the need to buy faucets and be too close with other people during lockdown.
“We had a pretty good time when we were on a Zoom call and the hair and makeup designer was talking to my husband by cutting my hair,” Walter mused. “It was actually very successful. I had a pretty good haircut! ”
For her character Muriel’s appearance, Walter was inspired by her mother. “I sent photos of my mother because there were many aspects of Muriel that are very similar to my mother. For example, my mother is always dressed in bright colors and I don’t tend to. ”
Walter said she refused to see Cole’s original performance on Talking heads but then gave way.
“I’m afraid I kept saying,” don’t watch, don’t watch, don’t watch, “and then I did,” she admitted. “The thing is, in my life I’ve played a lot of classic roles that I knew other people had done before me. And you get used to the idea that you can’t compare one performance with another. ”
One of her most recent roles that is definitely beyond compare is the runaway hit and Emmy winner Succession. Walter only appeared in three episodes in the first two seasons, but as Lady Caroline Collingwood, mother of the three Roy children, she is a scene stealer.
Walter actually worked with one of the “Roy children” almost 20 years ago – Kieran Culkin in the 1999 TV miniseries, The magical legend of the goblins. Culkin was a teenager at the time, although Walter remembers that he was “a little boy” and even showed him a photo of him as a sprite with rosy cheeks.
Walter, who was nominated for her guest actress role this year Emmy, said she still isn’t sure how she was cast on the series by writer Jesse Armstrong, a man she referred to as a “genius.”
“I don’t know how someone is cast. It’s always one of those puzzles that you feel a little vulnerable – what they think of me is that they think I can play that awful person. ”
But as the audience saw on season two, Lady Caroline may have a more complicated side that leads her to this broken and controversial relationship with her children.
“I just wrote that. I showed Jesse Armstrong [Lady Caroline’s] Backstory of the day because I thought I had two years to think about what happened to her and who she is.
“I thought we’d better be on the same page on this, and if he doesn’t agree with me, let him say it now or keep his peace forever. We need to be on the same side for this bit. ”
Walter confirmed that she will return Succession‘s third season for “probably only in one episode”. We can hardly wait.
Talking Heads starts on Sunday October 18th at 8:30 p.m. on BBC First on Foxtel and Fetch
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* Foxtel is majority-owned by News Corp, publisher of news.com.au.
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