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Sarah Gadon on Becoming the Next Margaret Atwood Heroine

Sarah Gadon’s latest project was at once the hardest thing she’s ever done and a “mind f–k all the time” at that. Luckily for the actress, the shoot schedule in her native Toronto meant both the comforts of her own bed to crash into each night and, of course, some help from mom.

“I don’t think I would’ve made it through the project if I didn’t get to sleep in my own bed and have my mom help me out,” she says.

Gadon is the lead character Grace Marks in “Alias Grace,” the TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel, which comes to Netflix on Nov. 3 on the heels of the Emmy-winning success of the Atwood-adaptation “Handmaid’s Tale,” done for Hulu.

The series tells the true story of Marks, a Northern Irish immigrant who worked as a housemaid in Upper Canada and was convicted of a double murder and imprisoned at the age of 16.

“The trial was totally sensationalized in the media — it was that generation’s version of the OJ Simpson trial. She was made infamous because she was this young working class girl who murdered above her station,” Gadon says.

That quest for her true identity is entirely what drew the actress to the project.
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Toronto Life Q&A with Sarah Gadon

In the new CBC/Netflix series Alias Grace, Sarah Gadon plays Grace Marks, a real-life 19th-century housemaid who was convicted of murdering her employer and his mistress, spent almost three decades in the Kingston Penitentiary and eventually received a pardon. The six-part series is based on the 1997 historical novel by Margaret Atwood (maybe you’ve heard of her) and came together under producer Sarah Polley, who also wrote the screenplay. We spoke to Gadon—a former TIFF Rising Star and unofficial David Cronenberg muse—about what it was like to play an infamous murderess, how she handles selfie-seeking fans and why Margaret Atwood doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to sex.

How did you get involved with the project?
My agent sent me the script. When I saw it was a Sarah Polley project, I flipped out. Growing up in Toronto, I had always looked up to her as an actress, and I’ve watched her evolve into a director, producer and writer. I’ve always carried around a secret dream that maybe one day I might get to work with her. When I read the script, I instantly knew this was going to be really special and smart because Sarah is those two things.

Did you have to audition?
Yes. I met Sarah and Mary [Harron, the director,] the next day for lunch. Sarah told me how she had read the book when she was 17 and how it was the most important piece of literature in her life. She said, “I feel like this book has informed everything I have done since I read it.” And I thought, Oh God.
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Sarah Gadon on ‘Alias Grace’ Role

Alias Grace dives into the true story of Grace Marks (played in the miniseries by Canadian Sarah Gadon): a poor, young Irish immigrant and domestic servant who finds herself accused and convicted of murdering her wealthy employer and his housekeeper.

Though the story is set in the 1800s, Gadon also considers the miniseries timely.

“It’s where we’ve come from, at a time when we are re-examining — and we should be re-examining — things like immigration,” she told CBC News on Wednesday, “how we are treating immigrants coming to Canada and what are the things that we should be changing and aware of … for women and where we are at right now with women.”

Gadon’s role is a daunting one: she portrays Marks from age 16 to 40, as the character struggles with an identity crisis and people’s changing perceptions and expectations of her.

“Playing such a complicated character is a huge gift from Sarah and Margaret,” said the Toronto actress, calling the role the most challenging she’s ever taken on.

Read the full article on CBC News.