Gillian Anderson gives BBC One “Great Expectations” for the holidays


Gillian Anderson, where have you been?

Not in the U.S., obviously. And, come to think about it, that may be one reason our country is in such turmoil. The lovely presence of the actress formerly known as Dana Scully could certainly give our spirits a much-needed boost.

But, alas, we have to live vicariously through our U.K. sisters as they enjoy Ms. Anderson on their TV screens in BBC One’s three-part adaptation of Great Expectations, which premieres December 27. Anderson plays Miss Havisham in the series, which marks the beginning of a year of celebrating Charles Dickens: 2012 is the 200th anniversary of his birth. In fact, the BBC has a film version of the classic in production as well, with Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham.

Although Great Expectations is not exactly a cheery holiday story, Anderson fell in love with Sarah Phelps‘ adaptation of the Dickens classic. She told TV Choice that she had never really wanted to play the part until she read the script.

“As much as I’m familiar with the book it’s not in my mind as one of my favourites as it is for a lot of people. But this was a time when I was as excited by the adaptation, if not more so, than the book. I felt I might have a way in to the character and I fell in love with the script.”

As she got into the part, Anderson said in a BBC interview, she was fascinated by Miss Havisham’s affect on people.

“Miss Havisham is an iconic character that kind of pervades our world in various forms. I was kind of interested in what it was that was so appealing about her, why she seems to get under people’s skin, a woman who is deeply, almost psychotically manipulative and potentially really psychologically damaging to the two children that we see her have this direct impact on, and so there was a curiosity there for me,” Anderson said.

She also trusted the BBC to do a spectacular production and knew that she would be working with some of the best costume, hair and make-up pros in the country.

“It didn’t actually take that long to get into hair and make-up every day,” Anderson explained. “There were two different wigs but three different stages of deterioration for the wigs, and I think four-and-half stages of deterioration for the costumes, so it was mostly about getting that right. The last wig we had to put a bald cap on because she’s lost so much of hair that you actually see through to her scalp. So that took a little longer, I think it was still under two hours.”

Anderson won critical acclaim for her portrayal of Lady Dedlock in the BBC One production of Bleak House in 2007, so she understands the challenge in winning over viewers who have their own idea of well-known characters.

“That’s the trouble of getting involved in adaptations of books that people love. People get so passionate. A book I liked recently has been made into a movie and I keep seeing the trailer and I have such a negative feeling about it just based on the trailer, you can’t help it. I just had to jump into this with both feet and hope for the best, hope people like it.”

I have a hunch they will — very much. I only hope that we eventually get to see Anderson’s Miss Havisham on this side of the pond.

Does Great Expectations sound like a good fit for Gillian Anderson? Will those of you who get BBC One be watching?

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