Interview with MASTERPIECE Executive Producer Rebecca Eaton
Behind every successful television production is a team of hard working, talented people. For the past twenty (plus) years, the woman at helm of WGBH Boston Masterpiece has been Executive Producer, Rebecca Eaton. BookBuffet caught up with Rebecca on her recent visit to California and we've podcast and transcribed our interview for you here. Listen to Rebecca tell us what she loves about her job, what's it's been like to nurture and grow the Masterpiece brand and to work with the incredible actors, writers and directors at the BBC with whom she has collaborated, and subsequently been awarded a bookcase full of Emmy, Peabody and Golden Glob Awards as recognition for excellence from her peers. Then register with the Masterpiece Book to Film Group and be entered to win one of several promotional give-a-ways: re-issued Penguin classic editions of the four Dickens novels adapted for Masterpiece with stunning new covers, and DVD's of the Masterpiece miniseries showing on network TV and for a limited time online during the series run.
January 16, 2009 —
Podcast Below: This Just In...
Browse the Masterpiece Website www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece.
Check out the excellent resources:
- Watch Online Starting Jan. 19th, view full episodes of Wuthering Heights or select favorite chapters.
- Behind-the-Scenes Video
Pouring rain, bug infestations and wind-burned actors – bringing Wuthering Heights to life on the windswept moors.
Explore the world of Wuthering Heights — meet the main characters, and find out about the actors who portray them.
- Book Giveaway
Sign up for a chance to win copies of Wuthering Heights and Tess of the d'Urbervilles, and subscribe to the Masterpiece e-Newsletter.
Join The Book & Film Club
Here's how to join BookBuffet's own "Masterpiece Book To Film Group."
On the BookBuffet website home page, click: JOIN
Select: "Invited to join an existing group."
Type: Masterpiece Book To Film Group
Then type your own member details. That's it!
You will see the "current book" posted on the group calendar, as well as the dates the series airs on television. You'll be on the member list and receive email updates on new content such as podcasts and WGBH material. You'll also be able to chat on the online forum for this group. JOIN TODAY
How To Listen To Our Podcasts
Our podcasts are in .mp3 format and are Apple ITunes compatible. There are two ways listeners can access them: first, via our RSS XML podcast feed or second, via a direct link to the actual .mp3 file. We recommend the former as the RSS XML feed provides access to all the bookbuffet.com podcasts as well as additional information about the episodes. Firefox 2.X, Apple's Safari and Internet Explorer 7, as well as Apple iTunes all support RSS XML aggregation. The URL for our RSS XML feed is: http://www.bookbuffet.com/audio/feeds/xml/podcasts.xml
Or simply click the links below to listen via QuickTime. (NB:Wait for post Jan 17th)
PART I: Rebecca Defines Her Role, Her Passion
PART II: Masterpiece Hosts: From Alistair Cooke to Laura Linney
PART III: The Timeless Nature of Dickens Novels
PART IV: Actors, Writers, Directors: The Cornerstones of Masterpiece
BookBuffet: This is Paula Shackleton podcasting for BookBuffet.com Today I am speaking with Executive Producer, Rebecca Eaton of WGBH Boston, Masterpiece formerly known as Masterpiece Theatre.
Since taking over the helm of the PBS series MASTERPIECE THEATRE and MYSTERY! in 1985, Ms Eaton has been responsible for such high-profile titles as Prime Suspect, Bleak House, The Lost Prince, Inspector Morse, Miss Marple, The Complete Jane Austen, Cranford, and Tony Hillerman’s Skinwalkers, Coyote Waits, and A Thief of Time. She has accrued a bookcase of accolades, including twenty-one Primetime Emmy Awards, sixteen Peabody Awards, a Golden Globe, and two Academy Award nominations for the MASTERPIECE co-production, Mrs. Brown. In 2008, she oversaw the launch of the new MASTERPIECE, with new scheduling (Classic, Mystery!, and Contemporary), new hosts, and a new look. The revamped series has drawn a new generation of drama fans, and at the same time increased the size of the series’ core audience.
BB: Masterpiece Theatre or Masterpiece as it is now called, has a long tradition of excellence in drama, and Rebecca you have been at the helm of the series for over 20 years. In all those years what part of your work brings you the most satisfaction?
Rebecca Eaton: The actors! I have to say I have a real weakness for actors. My mother was an actress. I actually grew up in California, and she had been on the stage in the East, in New York and then she was in some movies. This is a long time ago. But it was in the air in our house, drama and books. So this is such the perfect job for me I can hardly believe it.
She would take us to the theatre when we were on the East Coast and I used to go to the movies with my father every single Sunday, a matinee, after church. My mother would, besides being an actress and all the ups and downs of that, because they are made differently from the rest of us, the way they approach life.
She taught me how to appreciate good acting and recognize bad acting.
So I think now, the thing I enjoy most is watching the performances. And then, the unbelievable added benefit of getting to meet, and in some cases getting to know and love some of the actors on Masterpiece.
BB:There are many different kinds of producers. What is the critical role of the executive producer?
Rebecca Eaton: I came onto Masterpiece when it was fifteen years old. It was well and truly launched and had a devoted core audience, and I was one of them. I was a fan long before I was the captain of the ship. And I consider my job to make sure that on my watch the ship does not go off course, or God forbid, go down. My job is to protect the franchise, and to enhance it, and to use an expression that we use all too much, to grow the franchise: to make sure that we are bringing new viewers in all the time.
But what I do day-to-day, I would say the most important thing I do as Producer is to choose the programs. They are, as you know made primarily for the BBC and for I-TV, which is the commercial network in England. We are co-producers of over half the Masterpiece mysteries that you see. We co-produce, which means we come in before they’re made. I make my decisions based on scripts and meeting with the Producers and hearing them tell me how wonderful the shows are going to be. Then I negotiate the deals to license the programs and decide how much money we’re going to spend. Then as a co-producer I am involved in casting. In other words I they send me, (I’m not in London because I work in Boston) they send me audition tapes and we talk about various possibilities for cast, and script notes, working with writers. Then when the show is finally shot, they send us various cuts to look at and give editing notes.
I don’t go on location very much, I used to do that more often, and unless you are directly working hands-on on a production, a film set or a television set can be one of the most boring places in the world to be. As well as freezing cold or burning hot, or dusty or…
Actually these programs are made by our partners in England, and they certainly know how to do them far better than any advice that I could give them so I give them a respectful distance, and then add my voice into the process as someone coming at various points with sort of a fresh eye. And then the last thing I do, well not the last thing but another important part of what I do is to make sure when the shows are made that they are scheduled properly on Masterpiece. That they get the right attention, we have a team of publicists, we have relations with the stations with PBS, and underlying all of this is making sure we have the money from PBS to do all this.
BB:Well that certainly is an all-encompassing job you've got there! It's wearing me out just hearing about it.
Now given that you have been doubly successful in producing multi-award winning
television series for Masterpiece over the years as well as Academy Award nominated feature films, Persuasion and Mrs. Brown (staring Dame Judy Dench) what is the difference between producing a film series for television and a feature film for theatre?
Rebecca Eaton: Well they say, and I don’t know that much about feature film production. We are just co-producing our third feature film, and I should get a little plug in here for that. It is called “End Game” and it stars William Hurt, and it is the story of the end of Apartheid, the secret negotiations between some Afrikaners in South Africa and the National African Congress. This is at the time Mandela was in prison and these men took great risks—and they were all men—took great risks to find a way to keep their country from completely killing itself.
We’ve just finished that film; it will be shown at the Sundance Film Festival this month, it’s premiering at Sundance. It will be in theatres within the next year, and then it will be on Masterpiece Contemporary in the fall of 2010, which sounds like a million years off, but…
BB: It’s not that far away!
RE: It’s not that far away. So the difference between feature films and television drama, as I understand it, is that feature films are very much a Director’s medium. And television is more of a Producer’s medium. That’s the going wisdom. In other words, Directors are given much more authority, power, leeway, or creative license to make his or her movie. There are many degrees of this going all the way from small independent films to great big Hollywood films. There is much variety in there.
Television drama is put together a little differently. A project will be developed whether it’s internally at the BBC or an independent company in England. Scripts might be written and brought along, and then a Director will be hired.
And then, of course, the project is turned over to the Director to shoot, because there can be only one driver of a car at a time, but I would say it is more, because there’s just more volume, it’s less expensive (television drama is than feature films) it’s more of a business in that sense than each little independent creative piece of Masterpiece films.
BB: It’s an incredibly collaborative process, film making, and if we’re comparing it to books, novelists always say that if they want to control the end-product they write a novel, if they want to have something completely taken out of the their hands and turned into something else, they write a screenplay.
RE: Exactly. The more money that is riding on something, the more people who are going to be involved in it, and the more nervous everyone gets.
RE: In television everyone gets incredibly nervous too, but it’s all done…. [Laughs]
MASTERPIECE HOSTS: FROM ALISTAIR COOKE TO LAURA LINNEY
BB:Through all the years I’ve been watching Masterpiece, one of the highlights has been the introduction and synopses provided each week by the host. It just seems to set the tone. That is when family members in our house, upon hearing the trumpets of the opening theme music, scurry Pavlov-style into the living room to settle down for the hour. From the beloved journalist, Alistair Cooke who personified that role for 22 years to renowned actors Diana Rigg, Vincent Price, Gillian Anderson among others, and now Laura Linney. Laura Linney is splendidly suited for this position – wouldn’t’ you agree? [One cannot help but associate her fine acting, (Kinsey, The Whale and the Squid, The Savages) and personal poise with the high standards and production values of the series.]
Rebecca Eaton: RE: The other person we absolutely must talk about is Russell Baker who was the Presenter for Masterpiece Theatre, as it used to be called, for ten years.
BB: That’s correct. And he was also a journalist, my understanding is.
RE: Yes. In many ways he was the American equivalent of Alistair Cooke.
BB: Right. And so we have a transition here, going from print journalism to actors. Would that be a transition of how movies and television have taken over from print sources, when people listened to radio for example?
RE: Of course we have three new hosts on Masterpiece, to be very clear: Laura Linney will be the Presenter for Masterpiece Classic, which begins, or is on the air now January to May. And the wonderful actor Alan Cummings is our presenter fir Masterpiece Mystery, and I love Alan, he’s like an Edward Gory character.
When Russell Baker started, and even Diana Rigg back in the day, there were sometimes two minutes; two and half minutes. Now it is a minute, if not less. And as Russell Baker famously said to me as he was struggling to do one of these essays in under a minute, he said, “Rebecca, it’s like doing a ballet in a phone booth!”
It seemed a terrific waste of talent to have a thoughtful man like Russell Baker—another Alistair Cooke---although there could never be another Alistair Cooke, say something in that little time. What we really want is someone to create a feeling. Set a tone. Kind of invite you in to the drama. And we have an excellent writer named Kathleen Cahill who is now writing the introductions.
My feeling is that an actor is a signature and any frosting of the cake on these excellent dramas, can only help. I think people may tune into watch Laura Linney as much as to watch “Wuthering Heights”.
BB: Well you’re right! It’s actually sort of a hook, isn’t it?
RE: A hook and another way of, as we say, branding the series.
RE: I would love them all to stay forever. Alistair, interestingly, only ever had a year contract at a time. Every year he would renew it. He never signed up for more than a year. And we are working, kind of in that vein, with all of the actors partly because everything is so uncertain in the world of television entertainment. And also their lives are uncertain in terms of other projects. If they are offered a big juicy feature film that has them away, it wouldn’t be fair for them to have to turn that down just when we needed them because they had already signed up with us. So we’re kind of going along in an adhoc manner. But, I love this team, the three of them, who of course, may never meet because we do them at separate times!
BB:As well, BBC and Masterpiece have attracted extraordinary casts, screenwriters, production teams and directors. And the Dickens series February to May certainly continues in that vein with the wonderful Maggie Smith, Sir Derek Jacoby, Timothy Spall, all the way down to young Daniel Radcliff (of Harry Potter fame.) Can you tell us about some of the people involved and why they keep coming back to Masterpiece?
RE: Well they’re actors and they like to work!
BB: But following along with the brand principle, there really is a sort of characteristic or quality in their acting that really does fit the signature of the Masterpiece series.
RE: Our conversation is all revolving around actors but they are the heart and soul of what we do. Yes, it is the books, because your topic is today “from book to screen”. I mean, let’s talk about the tales of Charles Dickens.
Last year we did the complete Jane Austen, with great success. We slightly got lucky with this because as someone who works in my office said, “Wait a minute, Jane Austen wrote six books. Why don’t we do all of them?” We’d never done the complete works of anyone before. We would do a little here, a little there and as it happened we were already co-producing three new adaptations: Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, and Sense and Sensibility. So we got the rights or re-upped the rights to three of her other books and put them all together and it was a marvellous concept for the viewer, because if you like Jane Austen, you just want to snuggle-in and watch Jane Austen.
And so continuing this year we had some Charles Dickens in the pipeline and we said, “Let’s do it again.” However, we couldn’t do the complete Charles Dickens because it would go on for years. So when we knew we were going to be co-producing “Little Dorrit”, “The Old Curiosity Shop” and “Oliver Twist”, new productions of all of them, we said well let’s reach back and re-up as we say, re-run “David Copperfield”, which we did a few years ago with Daniel Radcliff. This was just to give you a sense of how it all came together.
We thought a good time to do this would be, kind of in the dead of winter into spring, because that’s when you read Charles Dickens anyway.
BB: Yes, the classics are winter reads. That’s true.
RE: And we will start with Oliver Twist, which will be on the air in February 15th for two weeks, and Timothy Spall plays Fagan, and Sophie Ochanado plays Nancy, and Tom Hardy plays Bill. And the little boy who plays Oliver Twist is a complete find, as much as Daniel Radcliff ever was for David Copperfield those years ago. He’s just a magical little boy.
I think the attraction of so much of this drama to British actors is the quality, because British television honours the writer. Not just Charles Dickens, but the adaptor of Charles Dickens. And they do intelligent, thoughtful, emotionally rewarding scripts. And what actor wouldn’t want to do that if he or she had the time and could? Anyone, from Maggie Smith to Diana Rigg to Emma Thompson to Kenneth Branagh? They’ve all done this work.
BB: And they’re part of a whole larger tradition, in a sense.
RE: And in London, most of them live in and around London, and they are working actors and work equally comfortably in live theatre, television, film and radio. They do a tremendous amount of radio drama. They just like to work.
THE TIMELESS NATURE OF DICKENS NOVELS
BB:So let's move on to the actual making of the series as well. Each production in the Dickens series is a different length: Oliver Twist and David Copperfield are both 3-hr miniseries, Little Dorrit is an 8-hr miniseries, and The Old Curiosity Shop is a concise 90 minutes. This may be a question best suited to your screenwriter, but how do you determine the finished length of a TV series? I notice you have a partnership with Barnes and Noble this January where your Masterpiece Tess of the D’Urbervilles screenwriter, David Nicholls was available online to answer questions. How did that go and will Alan Bleasdale be doing this?)
Rebecca Eaton: It’s very interesting. Well, first of all “Little Dorrit” was a massive book, as was “Bleak House” and it gives itself to be a longer miniseries. Everybody knows Charles Dickens wrote all of his books, I think, or most of his books, in magazine installments. They are very episodic. Actually “Little Dorrit” aired as “Bleak House” did on the BBC in half hour segments every night during the week. Then there would be a round up of the episodes on the weekend. So it aired over sixteen nights, if you can imagine that. We can’t do that; we don’t have that kind of airtime.
“Old Curiosity Shop” is a slighter book. “Oliver Twists” is kind of medium-sized.
BB: So it is totally within proportion?
Rebecca Eaton: Well, not totally, not totally, pretty much. However, the other wide card is the adaptor. Now the adaptor of “Little Dorrit” is Andrew Davis who has done everything wonderful that we have ever aired on Masterpiece Classic, including “Bleak House”. He did “Pride and Prejudice,” he did Elizabeth Gaskell's "Wives and Daughters”, he did “Moll Flanders”- he’s done everything! And nobody is better at it. It’s almost, “What Andrew wants, Andrew gets.” If Andrew says, “This has to be done in eight hours,” it will be done in eight hours, even though there might be a dark thought at the BBC that it should be done in six or ten. And that is different than in this country. That is what I mean; writers are very well respected [in the UK] and given a lot of powers. Some writers are.
BB: Well I notice you have a partnership with Barnes and Noble this January where your Masterpiece Tess of the D’Urbervilles screenwriter, David Nicholls was available online to answer questions. Is this going to continue?)
Rebecca Eaton: Interestingly we did this last summer with Masterpiece Mystery with the writer Elizabeth George who does the Inspector Lindley book. It was “The Last of Lindley”. Nathaniel Parker hung up his spurs? His what? What does a detective hang up?
BB: His badge, his holster?
Rebecca Eaton: His badge, and there were no more Lindleys. So Elizabeth George was very willing to come on and do an online chat and Andrew Davies has been very generous with his time to talk about his work and his adaptations. You know now with the whole ways that people can communicate online directly with celebrities, actors, performers---I think we’ll be doing much more of that.
BB: Exactly, these are ways that book groups and myself as a book group moderator look for all of these wonderful opportunities to enrich our reading and to enrich our viewing. In that line your website is a delight to browse…
In that light, your website is a delight to browse.
Rebecca Eaton: Oh good.
BB: There are many resources there that readers and viewers can access to augment their experience and that serve to tie the two disciplines – of reading and viewing together. As a book group moderator and a long-standing member of book groups this sort of resource is very much appreciated. Tell us about your partnership with Penguin Books, the iconic publisher with a backlist of so many wonderful classics.
Rebecca Eaton: Well thank you for saying that because it is a completely new website and we’ve completely revamped it last year when we did our makeover, and I will pass your compliments on to the Producer who did that.
BB: Well I know that you also have a partnership with Penguin Books because we're going to be giving away some of the Penguin novels in promotion, and of course Penguin is an iconic publisher to me with a backlist. How do you foresee that developing?
Rebecca Eaton:We have an excellent relationship with Penguin. Masterpiece and Penguin, in my mind, just go together like, oil and vinegar, is that a good analogy?
BB: Bread and butter!
RE: Bread and butter, love and marriage. I hope we can continue to do this in the future because it’s mutually beneficial. When we air something they sell more books. If they sell books that have our name on them, people think, “Oh, I should watch that series.”
BB: Or even a re-issue of the cover with the actors on.
RE: We’re doing much more of that. People will say, “Who’s that, she’s beautiful,” and it will be a photograph rather than an old fashioned painting the way that Penguin classics often were. So I think we’ll be happily continuing to do that with them.
BB:One of the things, getting back to your website that I love is streaming video application, because in our family we watch a lot of PBS television programing and the wonderful thing is you can do is run a cable from your laptop to your flat panel television screen and get the version and sit there and watch it effortlessly, and if you're not able to make the programming schedule you've got the ability to do it at your own timeframe. But I did notice that the Masterpiece series isn't available in Canada. Can you tell me when viewers can expect to be able to access this?
Rebecca Eaton: Oh gosh. I have no idea? It’s probably geo-locked, which means when we broadcast, let’s say “Little Dorrit” we only have the right to broadcast it in this territory, in the US. Canada is an entirely separate market. The streaming rights would be licensed by whoever in Canada is broadcasting it. So I believe that is the problem. I should warn your audience that while we have streaming video and while we encourage people to make use of it if they need to catch-up if you miss an episode, don’t panic, go and get it. But it is only up for a week after the series ends.
BB: BB: Oh, that’s good to know.
RE: Yes, so don’t assume. Some shows are there forever.
BB: Right, like Frontline and Charlie Rose interviews.
RE: Yes. That has to do with the fact that they own the streaming rights forever and we own the streaming rights for Masterpiece, as a minor co-producer, we only license the rights for a while.
BB: Yes, it’s very tricky. All of the new technology coming down the pike are very territorial.
Now getting back to Oliver Twist, which is viewing here on February 15th and February 22nd. There have been many film adaptations of Oliver Twist starting as far back as the silent film era in 1909. I counted 16 different films, several plays and other treatments (if you can believe the accuracy of the wikipedia entry.) Masterpiece last did a version in 2000-2001. Oliver Twist is a story about poverty and social class and the child labour laws of Victorian England. How is this version of "Twist" going to differ from the previous Masterpiece miniseries? What do you think of William Miller’s portrail of Oliver Twist?
Rebecca Eaton: Well, I think the challenge with any Oliver Twist is the musical version of Oliver Twist, because that and the songs from it, that is the one either theatrical or the movie version that people think of, which is kind of a happy story. And yes, there is a happy ending to Oliver Twist but it is not that easy a story to watch or to tell. If you come at thinking it’s a story about a little boy and things aren’t very good and all of a sudden they’re fine – because of course Dickens was a tremendous social critic.
So I would say this Oliver Twist is very real, and very modern. Some of the modernity has to do with the cutting of it, with the music; there is a really interesting use of music. In the casting Sophie Okonedo is an Anglo-African woman and Tom Hardy who plays Bill Sikes is an Englishman, and that’s not in the book. So it suddenly puts it front and centre, it could be today. They could be a couple today.
Tim Spall playing Fagan, plays him… there’s a darker element to him than the singing and dancing Fagan that we all know. But he has a crisis of conscience and does the right thing. So I think it’s a very modern take. You sort of look at this, as you do in so much of Dickens and you think he’s writing about something that goes on now.
If you want to call it child neglect, if you want to call it domestic violence, it’s there. Now the fact that the kid that plays Oliver Twist is so charming and [the story] has a happy ending is of course a leavener in the batter, the thing that keeps it lighter.
I would say it’s an edgier Oliver. It’s the timeliness of Charles Dickens. We’re calling it “The Tales of Charles Dickens” but we’re also saying, “The Best of Times? The Worst of Times?” because the similarities, particularly now in the credit markets, and the discrepancy between the haves and have-nots is extraordinary.
Now “Little Dorrit” is particularly right up this street, and I don’t want to give away the plot of Little Dorrit, which by the way, airs on March 29th. It is at its heart a love story, and that’s what everyone should know, but Charles Dickens doesn’t every only do one thing. It’s a love story and a mystery and basically a drama about debt. It’s about credit and debt.
BB: That’s so timely.
RE: We couldn’t have been luckier. I’d like to say that we knew this was all coming and we put this into production back in 2002 so that it would come out at the same time as Bernie Madoff. However, that’s not entirely true.
BB: Well in Canada we just had the Massey lectures delivered by Margaret Atwood and her entire thesis was on debt and her latest book is [the printing of that, titled “Payback and Debt”]. So you’ve got a primed audience in that one.
RE: There’s debt, and the debt theme of Little Dorrit. Oliver Twist is also about the world from a child’s point of view, and that is something – he was the first to do it, but there is so much more of that in our culture, in Western culture now than there ever was.
The Old Curiosity Shop, which airs May 3rd with, by the way, Derek Jacoby in it, from I Claudius, and it’s about addictive behaviour. Grandfather, Derek Jacoby, is a compulsive gambler. And David Copperfield, which is the most autobiographical of Dickens’ books, is really about self-improvement and going from nothing to something through hard work. So they’re oddly timely.
BB: They’re very timely, yes.
RE: All of it. Maybe it’s timeless; probably that’s a better descriptor.
BB: Well this is the enduring quality of the classics. Yes. In speaking about David Copperfield you have Daniel Radcliff who plays David. And then Dickens of course did work in a factory pasting labels on jars, and more autobiographical aspects, he also did become a law clerk, then a reporter and finally a successful novelist. And I am told he had a pretty photographic memory for people in his life [who ultimately become the characters] and uses that explicitly in his novels.
RE: He must have.
BB: Even to the point of using some names of people who he knew in life, he readjusted them and used them as characters, which is done by other authors, modern day authors as well.
RE: Yes. If you take the four titles that we’re doing and put them together, it is sort of the essential Dickens, because some of them are lighter than others, some of them are heavier, longer, shorter, children, adults, but in each of them there is an element taken from Dickens own life, some portion of his life. For instance in Little Dorrit much of it is set in Marshallese Prison, a debtors prison, something we don’t quite understand any more because we don’t have them. But people would live for years in a debtor’s prison, and Dickens father did. And Dickens was little Dorrit as he was the one who went out from the prison to find work. And I think that experience, obviously, set Dickens on a course for life. To write about these things, to be entertaining, but to make sure that everyone knew what was going on in these institutions.
BB: I’m glad you mentioned that, because it was very interesting to me when I was studying Dickens and reading the novels earlier on in life and revisiting them again for this series that you’re doing, that even though Dickens grew up in a family that was actually fairly alright, financially, they did fine, when his father ran into difficulties financially through his own mismanagement of their family finances and of course at the time when you went to prison your whole family went to prison. Dickens being outside and trying to support the family and work off this debt, as well as support himself, only experienced that for four months, and yet the experience was so pronounced that it led him onto this path of writing about social injustices and I guess it begs the question, “What if he had never experienced that?” We would never have gotten all of these wonderful novels, I suppose.
RE: I think he must have been an incredible child, because what he saw and experienced and felt as a child, never left him. I think that it leaves most of us – other things come in and we quickly become adults, but he kept going back to it, because most of his books have a child at the heart, or certainly young people, and he just must have been completely present as a small person.
BB: Lovely. Rebecca I think I’ve covered all of the questions I had for you. One other point I had to make is when you travel in England and you read novels [set there] the added benefit is that you can actually o to the places where these writers lived and scenes of their books are set, and so for example in going to the London School of Economics last summer, it is located right around the corner from the Old Curiosity Shop, and its always interesting when you’re travelling abroad to go to some of the places that are encapsulated in literary history.
RE: Yes, and I’ll tell you a secret. One of the stars of any Masterpiece drama are the locations, are the houses. And I remember back in the day before I was working on the project just loving to look at England and some of the stately homes. And then, in the making of these films, it turns out that there are several houses, beautiful stately homes, which are routinely used in all kinds of different period dramas. They just shoot them from different angles and decorate them differently.
BB: Yes, right!
RE: So at some point we should probably assemble a reel of one of these houses with all the different angles taken of them. I wish I could tell you where Wuthering Heights is shot, because as you know we have Wuthering Heights coming up on January 18th.
RE: And they did find a fairly grim house. And then of course with computer generated effects they can enhance the gloominess of any place, but this Wuthering Heights, I would really recommend it. We’re not all about Dickens this season. We’re finishing “Tests” this coming Sunday, which is the 11th of January, I believe, and then a week later, Wuthering Heights starts in two parts, with Charlotte Riley playing Cathy and Tom Hardy, again, playing Heathcliff. (Tom Hardy plays Bill Sikes and Heathcliff.)
BB: Hmmm. I’m looking forward to that, yes!
RE: We have to end of an actor note, and by the way this Wuthering Heights is the entire book, not just the part in the Lawrence Olivier movie. That’s only one segment of the Bronte book. It’s a several generation story. But we’re repeating Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility” on February 1st for two weeks and your audience might remember Charity Wakefield who played Maryanne, the sensibility sister, and Patty Moorhen played the sensible sister, but Charity was the emotional one. She has just been cast in an NBC legal drama to be made by David Kelly, famous creator of L.A. Law, among others, and she will be staring in something called Legally Mad. It’s a comedy drama, the way David Kelly makes these.
BB: Right, right. Oh that sounds like it’s going to be fun. When I was interviewing Julian Fellows, who as you know is an Academy Award winning screenwriter and novelist and everything…
RE: Gosford Park
BB: Gosford Park, we were talking about the whole issue of the stately homes Britain -- being the museums – these are the museums, and when I was looking at your website speaking about re—using locations, and so on, it even mentioned that some of the costumes that are being worn in the upcoming series were used in previous series and worn by other actresses, and so it must be quite a thrill for them to put on something that was worn by one of their possible…
RE: Well, this reminds me of a little mystery, Masterpiece Mystery. Coming this summer we have a new Miss Marpole, Julia Mackenzie plays Miss Marpole, and she’s fabulous. And when she went for her wardrobe fitting, they said, “Here Julia try this jacket,” and she put it on and she loved it, and she said, “Is this new?” and they said “Oh no, it’s been around for years. Dame Peggy Ashcroft wore it in 'Jewel and the Crown,'" and Julia said she could hardly breath because Peggy Ashcroft was one of her idles. Here she was in the very jacket that had covered Peggy Ashcroft.
BB: Well, what a wonderful way to end our discussion here because we’re talking about Masterpiece being all about a sense of tradition…
RE: … and actors!
BB: Well thank you very much Rebecca, I’ve really enjoyed speaking with you today, and I look forward to watching the series, Masterpiece Classic.
RE: Great! Well thank you Paula. It’s been a delight to talk to you!
BB: Thank you!
See the full list of Podcast Interviews here.
The URL for our RSS XML feed is:
Questions or comments about our site? E-mail: info @ bookbuffet.com