I meet Sarah Gadon at the Drake Hotel. The first thing I ask the Alias Grace star after we pick a table and order some snacks: “Have you Googled Grace Marks?”
She shoots me an amused “Well, duh” look. Of course she’s Googled the 19th-century Irish-Canadian maid convicted of murder, sparking fierce debate regarding her innocence and pardoned after being incarcerated for nearly three decades.
Google was the basic first step in Gadon’s extensive research on her Alias Grace character, which included reading and re-reading the Margaret Atwood novel that the miniseries is based on; learning how to perform tasks like cooking, cleaning and sewing in the exacting ways a 19th-century housemaid would have performed them; and practicing a Northern Irish accent to the point that it gave her migraines because the “tight-jawed” dialect worked muscles in ways most of us never have to.
Gadon spent many sleepless nights preparing for the role, and would sometimes have to go for a run just to sweat off the anxiety.
But what I meant was: Has she Googled Grace Marks recently?
Gadon whips out her phone and there at the top of the search is the Wikipedia entry for Marks, with an accompanying picture. But the image is not a likeness of a 19th-century Irish maid. Instead, it’s a glamour shot of Gadon with flowing platinum-blond curls.
As far as the Interweb is concerned, Gadon is now the face of Grace Marks, the historical figure consumed by the actor interpreting her in the 21st century. According to Gadon, Grace consumed her, too.
“This role has kind of taken over my life,” says Gadon, who wrapped post-production on the series just a month before our mid-July meeting.
Continue reading The wonder women behind Alias Grace’s TV adaptation
The multi-faceted Sarah Gadon tells Randi Bergman how she tackled a uniquely complex role in the latest Margaret Atwood screen adaptation.
As a Canadian woman, it’s hard not to worship at the altar of Margaret Atwood. But lately, her pre-digital prose has felt like sustenance for a new generation of feminists persisting in a precarious era for women’s rights. Hulu’s television adaption of Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale has struck a chord, inspiring new dialogue and even protests with its dystopian depiction of womanhood under theocratic rule. The forthcoming Alias Grace, a CBC and Netflix miniseries based on Atwood’s novel of the same name, feels equally timely.
Alias Grace tells the story of a 19th-century maid, Grace Marks, who was convicted and then later pardoned for the double murder of her employer and his mistress. Through Atwood’s interpretation of real-life events, Marks becomes an enigmatic mix of murderer and metaphor for the female experience. Written and produced by Sarah Polley, the series represents a shift for the CBC, whose earlier portrayals of Canadian Victorian life (à la Polley’s pastoral debut in Road to Avonlea) could be considered reductive. Alias Grace, on the other hand, is more nuanced. Case-in-point, its protagonist’s plea in the opening episode: “I’d rather be a murderess than a murderer, if those are the only choices.”
The narrative of a complicated woman seems just what the world needs right now, and actor Sarah Gadon, who portrays Grace Marks in the six-part series that debuts on the CBC on Sept. 25, is ready for the challenge. I meet the 30-year-old on a discreet café patio in Toronto’s Summerhill neighbourhood on a summer Sunday afternoon. Fresh faced and with her hair pulled back, Gadon’s striking, Hollywood-ready beauty explains why she was plucked from relative obscurity to star in an Armani Beauty campaign in 2015. She’s magnetic, inquisitive and palpably excited about Alias Grace and, as she describes it, “the task of trying to crack Grace.”
“I got so wrapped up in whether she did [commit murder] or not and the various layers of preparation, that I’d wind myself up into this ball of anxiety that I would just need to go for a run,” she says of preparing for the role.
Continue reading The Globe and Mail: Alias Sarah
Sarahâ€™s initial interest in being a part of A Royal Night Out was sparked after reading the script. “I knew that it was a lovely story and it was just charming,” she says. “It was a charming romance.”
After accepting her leading role as the young Princess Elizabeth, researching it further and “really discovering Elizabeth; who she was, what the family had gone through during the war”, she realised a deeper connection. She says: “My grandmother is British and she fought in the womenâ€™s Auxiliary Air Force during World War Two. She met my grandfather during the war, because he was sailing for the British Navy, and they married and immigrated to Canada after World War Two. So there was also that personal connection to the story that made me really want to be a part of this film, to recreate that moment in time that they were both a part of.”
This isnâ€™t the first time that Sarah has portrayed a real person – she also played Emma Jung in A Dangerous Method and Lady Elizabeth Murray in Belle. She believes that by portraying a real person, an actor takes on a lot of responsibility: “You want to do justice to their memory, to their character, to who they were, or who they are in this case. I think you feel this tremendous responsibility to do them justice and I know that really inspired me to work as hard as I could.”
Read the full article here on The National Student.