AE: Why do you think British television is so far ahead of the U.S. when it comes to producing works with strong lesbian content?
ME: I don’t know, really. I do criticize British television for not being brave enough a lot of the time. But I don’t really know. It’s a shame. We could be doing so much more. Even in dramas where there is a lesbian or gay (character), Anne Lister wasn’t pretty pretty, you know what I mean? They could have gotten an Anne Lister who was some young girl but they didn’t, which I’m really pleased about. Because initially when they were talking about the project, they’d did said, "Oh, we think we might go younger with Anne Lister, and if we do go older, we’ll come back to Maxine." I was relieved about that.
AE: How has playing Lister changed you?
MP: One thing that I sort of regret about the shoot — we did it over 18 days so it was really quick — by the time I’d gotten to know Anne (Lister), she’d gone. It’d been one of the best-received dramas I’ve done. I think people who I wouldn’t have expected to watch it or would have felt a little uncomfortable watching it have watched it. I’m just hoping it makes people think a little bit about their prejudices. It’s made me more aware about how difficult it is has been to be a lesbian. It’s a universal story, so it shouldn’t be difficult, even in Western societies. It’s made me more aware of a situation of another people that have received less in history.
AE: Writer Jane English has said that with a 4 million-word journal that she has plenty of source material to write multiple movies. Would you return to the role if English were to pen another installment?
MP: Yeah, I’d love to. This should be a 10-part series, not just a one-off; it should be a long-running series. This is her life; it’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s a shame, (the movie) is just a bit of a teaser for what this woman was about. It would blow people’s minds if they knew what she got into with her love life and her sexuality, but also that she was a person who lived her life the way she wanted to, and the traveling she did. It wasn’t like today where you just jump on a plane; it was a real journey she went on. I just think her bravery and zest for life are just inspiring.