PASADENA, Calif. -- Actress Miranda Richardson used to pretend she was a terrible actress. For a woman who went on to earn two Academy Award nominations, that may seem weird. But the determined Brit had good reason.
"I remember going to what they called 'elocution' classes. I think my mom was terrified that I would pick up her very broad accent because of where we were living and because I was a mimic," she says.
She found she was good at reciting poems and stories in front of the class. "The only thing I wondered about was everybody else was playing outside because we had to do these classes in the lunch hour," she recalls.
"And I was really cross about that. I tried to get out of it. I tried to do acting badly to get out of it, and the teacher got so annoyed with me because she knew I was pretending to be BAD. I remember her taking me aside and giving me a sort of mental shake saying, 'Stop it! Stop it now.' Because I was just being perverse.
"I just thought, 'I don't want to do this anymore. It's stupid. I want to be out in the sunshine.' It probably saved my skin, choosing elocution. I won loads of exams and medals and stuff like that, but to what end?"
The end, it turns out, is a lifetime of memorable performances with Richardson playing everything from England's last executed murderess to the "fake news" journalist in two "Harry Potter" films.
Not only is she known for her dramatic performances in films like "The Crying Game" and "Tom & Viv," she's also keen on comedy. Her latest, "Girlfriends," lodges Richardson with Phyllis Logan and Zoe Wanamaker as three pals who suffer mid-life crises when they encounter life-altering dilemmas. Richardson's character not only loses her job and her marriage, but she faces the most shattering experience of all -- another birthday. The six-part dramedy begins streaming on AcornTV today, with weekly episodes on Mondays.
It wasn't until secondary school that Richardson began to warm to performing. Because she attended a girls' school, she found herself playing all the guys' parts in the Shakespeare they were studying. In fact, she played both Antony AND Cleopatra in one of the school productions.
In spite of her success, the blonde actress admits she prefers the road less traveled. "Sometimes I will choose the underdog rather than the heroic kind of thing because I'm more interested in what makes that person tick than somebody else," says Richardson.
Still, she often vacillates about choices and wishes she didn't. "I would like to not be so watchful. I would like to be less of an observer, even though it's necessary for the job. I'd be more 'get in there and do it.' And I think that the choices I've made so far may look like that's what I do -- get in there and get on with it -- and I do do it, to an extent. But I'd like less mental havering. People can lose courage. If they have a great idea, I think the accentuate-the-positive is not a bad thing. I can be too analytical about that," she says.
Richardson never married and won't say if she has a sweetheart. But she does feel she would not have been good "wife" material. "I don't think for me it would have worked. I wasn't very motivated to have kids, and that's OK. There's too many of us.
"And if it had happened to me somehow I don't think I would've been good at it. I'd feel so bad about being away. It's bad enough with my animals. I took so long to have any animals in my life. Because I was worried, 'What happens when I go? And what's in place?'" she says.
"When you get to a certain place and can afford to have the people who they're familiar with look after them when you're not there, and all that, it's still a wrench. It's a huge wrench," she says.
She owns two German pointers, a 19-year-old rescue cat and a fish pond. And while her animals and her garden give her solace, it's her friends that bolster her when she's down, she says.
"I see it as a positive thing that I feel like I'm changing and developing all the time and I think that's when your friends come into play," she says, "because you get to a point where you think, 'I'm just driving myself mad asking whatever the questions.' And then you have to go to a friend and you just say, 'Put me back on the straight-and-narrow here.' And they do, if they're good friends. They go, 'It's rubbish what you're thinking, talking, doing -- is rubbish. You're fine.' Or, 'This is what you need to do.'"
SPIN-OFF STAYS IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
ABC's spin-off of "Grey's Anatomy" is at last titled "Station 19" and features a gang of heroic firefighters, say the producers of the new series. But the show won't venture far from the original. According to executive producer Paris Barclay, "We're in the neighborhood. We're, as it says, three blocks down. So it should feel like 'Grey's Anatomy,' certainly, when we're on those 'Grey's Anatomy' sets. It's just a high quality look. But as we went to the fire station, we tried some more things. We tried to make the fires more involving. We tried to put you in the fire with the firefighters and make that a little bit more active," he says.
"We definitely had some conversations about how to differentiate it (from "Grey's Anatomy"), but it's slight. We want the 'Grey's Anatomy' fans to love this show the way they love 'Grey's.' We want them to be comfortable. It's like having dinner at your uncle's, but your mother's still cooking." The show premieres on March 22, falling into its regular timeslot on March 29.
'THE GILDED AGE' AFFORDS A SECOND LOOK
PBS' "American Experience" will imprint its brand on "The Gilded Age" Tuesday. The so-called "Gilded Age" marked the period between the 1870s and the 1920s when America's economy was skyrocketing and wealth beyond compare was being made by people like Andrew Carnegie and Cornelius Vanderbilt. The documentary features some films and photographs unseen before. According to Mark Samels, executive producer of "American Experience," most of the credit goes to the researchers.
"A lot of the imagery you see in this film is not the low-hanging fruit. It's stuff that the producers have really dug deep to find, to dig out these stories," he says. "A lot of these stories are not very well known, neither are these characters. Carnegie of course is. Vanderbilt is. But a number of the other characters are unknown to most history books."
'NEW GIRL' GETS THE PINK SLIP
Fox's "New Girl" will be its "Old Girl" May 15 when the last episode of the sitcom airs on the network. The seventh season will return for its last hurrah on April 10. Star Zooey Deschanel thinks her years on the show have been life-changing.
"It's such a treat to get to work with amazing people for seven years," she says. "That is so rare. And all of my professional experiences had been limited to the run of a movie. So it had been a lot of different movies but no more than probably six months at a time. And I've gotten to work with all of these people through so many life changes and through ... watching everyone grow as people and as actors and as writers. I've gotten to know everyone so well. And it's kind of like high school, but longer."
(Luaine Lee is a California-based correspondent who covers entertainment for Tribune News Service.)
(c)2018 Luaine Lee
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