Georgia On Her Mind
ITV’s The Widow starts this week and here’s one of its stars, Kate Beckinsale, talking about the show…
Q: What appealed to you about The Widow and the role of Georgia?
“In the first couple of scripts Georgia appeared to be this rather mysterious and fairly tortured figure. You could tell she was both fragile but also displayed strength and courage. And you didn’t fully understand how all of that fitted together. I found that very intriguing – to see where the writers Harry and Jack Williams would take that person.”
Q: Georgia has suffered loss in her life. Has that changed her as a person?
“It has definitely changed her. At the start of the story she is a woman reeling from bereavement after her husband was killed in a plane crash. She hasn’t quite found her place in the world since then. Or really processed any of that. Georgia has lost her husband and is in a difficult place.”
Q: What sort of world does The Widow investigate?
“It deals with a woman’s grief and her picking her way out of that. It also looks at deception in a lot of forms. Trying to uncover physical and emotional truths. Also a big character in The Widow is Africa itself. So there’s quite a lot about what is happening politically in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Along with the role of the child militia. One of our characters is a little girl who has been taken away from her family by the militia.
“There are many strands to the story. That was very much what the Williams brothers wanted. Harry and Jack picked directors Sam Donovan and Olly Blackburn who shared their vision for The Widow.”
Q: What was it like filming in South Africa?
“We had quite the gamut of experience in Africa. We arrived in January when it was incredibly hot. One of the things you heard a lot on this project was, ‘Cape Town has five different types of weather a day.’ Which you think is just a cute saying. But it’s actually true.
“I fainted one day from being too hot. And then by the end of the African shoot, which was in their winter, we had thermals on. Which was quite odd. I don’t think I’d ever really thought of Africa as being somewhere that you would require thermals for.
“It seemed impossible to imagine at the beginning when you’re an English person panicking about how hot it was. Then to suddenly find you had three coats on and a hot water bottle at the end.
“We filmed a scene at a township in Cape Town which was a pretty extraordinary experience. Most of the people in the scene who weren’t principal characters were people who lived there. I spent most of my time with eight or nine kids who were incredible.
“I had never seen anywhere like that in person before so it was extraordinary. I think they have done a really good job of capturing how overwhelming it is in there.
“It was quite a tough few days. It happened to be a time when an awful lot of the crew had a stomach bug. That was a bit tricky because the bathroom situation wasn’t amazing. Cape Town was also experiencing a drought at that time so everybody was being extremely careful about water, flushing loos and all of that.”
Q: Did you get much time off in Africa?
“We were really lucky because at weekends we were able to go and see quite a lot of things you don’t see every day in London or LA. There was a wonderful place called Cheetah Outreach where they rescue all sorts of animals, not just cheetahs, from big game hunters and people who are breeding them to be shot for sport.
“I’m usually a bit nervous of things that feel like a zoo. But this really wasn’t at all like that. We got to hang out with young cheetah cubs who are like big lovely cats. And then we met some adult cheetahs. We met meerkats and we also went somewhere where they had lions and baboons. It really was amazing on the days off we had.”
Q: You speak fluent French. Did that help when filming in Africa?
“That was one of the things I didn’t anticipate about going to Africa. I probably spent a solid 40 per cent of my time there speaking French to one person or another. We had a very international cast. Jacky Ido, who plays Emanuel, and I spoke exclusively French. And also with a lovely actress called Mathilde Warnier.
“It’s quite common for people in various parts of Africa to have French as their first language. So I spoke French at least every day and sometimes all day. That was great. Which I hadn’t expected to do.”
Q: What was it like filming scenes of Georgia’s remote cottage in Wales?
“We were snowed in a couple of times in Wales. It was a bit of a shock after filming in Africa. A different sort of packing. We also filmed a couple of days at Heathrow Airport which is quite familiar to me.”
Q: Could you live that lifestyle as a recluse?
“I could easily live that life as a recluse. I was an only child until I was about nine and then I got step-brothers and sisters. But I was always somebody who would get shouted at on playdates at other people’s houses for raiding their book shelves and reading. So as long as I had enough books I could easily find myself becoming a bit of a Howard Hughes.
“Having said that, we did all that remote stuff in Wales and then I realised I was really near to Michael’s (Sheen) parents and went on a nice trip to see them. So I did break up my reclusiveness with my ex-in laws.”
Q: Your Instagram account has over two million followers. Does social media allow you to show who you really are as a person?
“When I first started posting on Instagram it was in support of a movie I was very proud of called Love & Friendship. I had always resisted social media. As an English person I like to reserve the right to complain about as many things as I possibly can when I’m chuntering away to my family.
“But I don’t feel like I’m able to complain about lack of privacy if I’m constantly posting pictures of myself having a boiled egg or going to the shops and things like that. So I had no interest or any sense of that social media world at all.
“Then I was asked very nicely if I could just do it for the movie. And it was interesting because I’ve been working since I was probably 16 or 17 and I had only ever known things I’d said going through a filter of a journalist. Who might not necessarily quote it in the tone that I felt it was.
“It’s quite frustrating to find this kind of patchwork image of yourself has been built up through a few thousand people who don’t know you speaking on your behalf. So one of the things I did find quite liberating was that social media really is the only area that is completely undiluted.
“Whether people like it or not, I think it’s much better to be liked or loathed for what you are actually like than some hybrid version that isn’t you. That feels a bit peculiar. I’ve actually really enjoyed it.
“I’ve been very lucky. My followers, on the whole, seem to be people who like a laugh and want to say funny things. Everyone seems rather protective and sweet with each other on my Instagram. So I’ve found it a very good experience. But if it started to feel oppressive, I wouldn’t have a problem not doing it.”
Q: Georgia tells another character not to worry. What do you worry about?
“There’s quite a lot to be worried about in the world at the moment. There is an awful lot of instability everywhere and an awful lot of frustration. Those two things together can feel quite dangerous. So I do worry about that.
“Anyone who has got a child of any age is a bit more of a worrier than they were before. Especially given what the world is like at the moment. So I mostly worry about things like that. And also just, where’s my phone?”
Q: Another character tells her: ‘We can never hide who we are.’ Do you agree?
“I think some people are quite good at hiding who they are. For a while. They can do it for long periods of time. But ultimately it tends to come out.”
Q: Your mother has kept memorabilia from your life. What are some of your favourite items?
“My mum keeps everything. Not just about my career. I’m much more interested in the fact she’s got all of my Oxford essays and all my exercise books from primary school and secondary school. And diaries. Things like that which give you a little bit of a window into who you were. It’s fascinating.
“She has letters from my best friend who used to go to America every single summer and we would write these incredibly long letters back and forth to each other. So those are things where I love to go home and have a rummage about in.
“She has my father Richard Beckinsale’s This Is Your Life book from his appearance on the show with Eamonn Andrews in 1977 which is really cool. That’s a lovely thing to have. We also have like a million old video tapes which we can’t watch unless we find a video player. She’s a pretty good custodian of all of that stuff.
“It’s also nice to show some of it to my daughter Lily. Funny, embarrassing things which have been nice to show her over the years.”
Q: Your daughter Lily has an ambition to become an actress. Would she like to work with her mother?
“I think I would be fairly low on her list of people to work with. She would be more interested to work with somebody she hasn’t met.”
Q: Living in Los Angeles do you get to see much British television?
“I make sure I get to watch it. I actively seek out very silly English television in a way I never would if I was living in England. It’s one of those odds things about when you’re away from home. You miss things you probably wouldn’t think about if you were in England. There’s a very low chance of me eating a Bird’s trifle at home. And yet if I go to the English shop in LA and see it sitting there I’m highly likely to buy it.
“Obviously everyone has access to the really great British dramas and all of that and comedies. But I do find myself looking out for Loose Women and things like that which make me feel kind of cosy.”
Q: Which comedies do you like?
“The sitcoms my dad was in are, of course, extremely important to me. But aside from them I loved Only Fools and Horses, like everybody. While the naughty boy side of me, which there is one, likes The Inbetweeners and Bad Education. Things like that. I’m quite up for naughty behaviour in a school.”
Q: Aside from paid employment, what has your choice of profession given you?
“It’s always difficult when actors talk about what acting means to them or has given them. But it is a real privilege to – as an adult – be asked to learn something you’d never considered doing before. Whether it’s singing or fighting or going underwater.
“If you’re good at something it’s quite easy to just only do that. So one of the things I like about this job is you’re constantly being faced with things you might be terrible at. As a child you have that all of the time. Whether it’s physical education things that you’re rubbish at or school subjects. I think it builds a certain resilience in people to have to keep coming up against things and possibly fail multiple times before getting the hang of it.
“As adults we’re not put in that position very often. Once you’ve passed your driving test and got a job you’re only really doing very badly in your relationship. But for us, as actors, we get to walk in and they go, ‘Right. Are you any good at gymnastics?’ And you go, ‘Oh no…’ But you have to have a go.
“I do think there’s something psychologically quite good about having always to be ready to go, ‘I know nothing.’ The older you get the more you realise that’s the case. But it’s quite a good thing to keep having that happen.”