Frances Conroy sheds light on “The Dark Is Rising”


A couple of summers ago, when I was too poor for cable and too far out in the country to even get anything with my antenna except for PBS, I Netflixed the entire five seasons of Six Feet Under. That was a bipolar two months: The show’s vacillation between dark comedy and tragedy of the human condition had me in tears nearly once an episode. A large part of the show’s painful appeal for me was Ruth, played by Frances Conroy, who was a joy to watch.

And by joy, I mean so heart-wrenching that it made me want to call my mother. Ruth’s repressed resentments, buried anxieties, and lonely isolation reminded me so much of my own Midwestern Protestant upbringing that I could swear Alan Ball was the gay brother I never had.

This is all a preface to explain one of my possible movie destinations for the weekend, The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising. One of a few films in the teenage fantasy/sci-fi genre that seem to be vying to be the next Harry Potter franchise, this project shares a few similarities with the Potter books. It tells the story of a boy who discovers his powers, heritage and duty to fight evil, and it’s also based on an award-winning series penned — in the ’60s and ’70s, when people still sometimes composed with pens — by an award-winning British author, Susan Cooper.

Conroy will be playing Miss Greythorne, an Old One, part of a dwindling group of warrior wizards who guard the world against evil. Together with Ian McShane, she must help the young Will Stanton (Alexander Ludwig) come to terms with his warrior lineage and learn to use his powers to stem the Dark forces out to destroy the world. Here’s what she’ll look like:

I’m liking the shoes and the hat. And also a recent interview with, where she comes across as delightfully quirky as in the roles that she plays. This is her story of her experience filming in Romania:

Here we are in Romania and it has its own interesting things to deal with. I go around feeding dogs everywhere. I bring eight cans of food with me every day. I’m taking one home. I’m trying to take another one home. They’re very nice. They just need food. And the guidebooks call them pesky and I think that’s such a cheap way of putting it. They’re these beautiful dogs that need some food and water, thanks to Ceausescu bulldozing people’s houses down and people throwing their dogs out.

That’s right; the fate of the world rests on the shoulders of a dog lover. Take that, cat people! (Yeah, I forgot she was in that movie, too.)

In this film, she plays the action hero herself. That is, she takes on a few of the darker forces of nature: “I have a fantastic turn where I pull a sword out of my walking stick and slice a bird in half. It’s fun, and I have a coat that billows as I do this turn, and that turn.” She goes on to discuss the worst scene to film. It wasn’t this part:

“I had a snake around my neck. First, they put a big rubber one around my neck because it was a really real looking snake, and then they put the real 30-foot python around my neck. The little tail was going like this and I had to sort of hold it on, and the main snake handler was off to the side holding the head like this, so the snakes were interesting. There were thousands of them and below me, around my feet were most of them in a circle and then they took up little barriers and they were crawling a little bit.”

Giant pythons, pshaw. The worst was having to slog through a little bit of water:

“I didn’t have to go under, but I was kind of moving through it and grabbing kids and trying to get out. I didn’t get dumped but I got pretty wet. I was so happy when our scene was over. It was disgusting. Your feet were wet within the plastic bags they put on your feet. It’s like ew.”

Here’s the trailer. You have to look quickly to spot Conroy, but she does have a voice-over, so you can hear her trot out her English accent for the film.

I’m a little put off by the whole adolescent boy coming-of-age metaphor; it’s a little heavy-handed in these clips. But I’m curious to hear from those of you who are familiar with The Dark Is Rising series. I’ve never heard of them. What are they like? How do they compare to Rowling’s books? Are you excited about the movie?

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