Q&A CHARLOTTE RILEY, WUTHERING HEIGHTS
Looking for a passionate love story for your Sunday evening? This adaptation of Wuthering Heights just might do the trick. Guy Davis spoke with its star, Charlotte Riley.
One of the most intense and enthralling love stories in English literature has returned to the screen with a new two-part adaptation of Emily Brontë’s classic novel Wuthering Heights.
The tale of soul mates Heathcliff and Cathy is brought passionately to life in this two-part miniseries, fi lmed amid the stark beauty of the Yorkshire countryside and featuring rising stars Tom Hardy as Heathcliff and Charlotte Riley as Cathy. I’d been waiting ages and ages for a phone call from my agent. I was rehearsing a stage production of The Cherry Orchard and doing a really fast costume change, and I was getting back in my corset when I noticed a missed call on my phone. When I rang back, they said ‘ You got it.’ I was like ‘ Oh my God’, while everyone was saying ‘ Charlotte, you’ve got to go back on stage!’ [ Laughs] It was a really magical day – my fi rst big role – so you celebrate for about 24 hours and then you think ‘ Oh no, I’ve got to actually do it now. This is one of the most iconic characters ever’. So you have a bit of a panic and then you’ve got to get over yourself and say ‘ Get a grip, it’s just acting and it’s only a TV show and it’ll be OK’.
How much did you know about Wuthering Heights prior to getting the role?
It’s very daunting; it’s like playing Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. But you have to just go with your instinct on it and know that you can’t please everyone. This is an adaptation, so you have to have confi dence that you’re creating the story that the director and the writer want and that they are moving in a defi nite direction with it. You’re not trying necessarily to recreate the book. You’ve just got to believe that you’re hopefully going to bring something to the role that many people will like.
What was your reaction upon learning you’d won the role of Cathy?
Although I was aware of the story, I hadn’t actually read the book. When I found out that I would be playing Cathy, I read the book three times. The fi rst time I read it, I was on holiday in Spain before fi lming began. I remember being on a boat in the glorious sunshine but feeling as though I was somewhere else completely.
As you said, Cathy is a pretty iconic character. Is there a way to put your own stamp on the role, so to speak? This miniseries was fi lmed in the north of England, where the book is set. Did it help in adding atmosphere?
There is something very specifi c and unique about the Yorkshire moors and how the
How do you think your interpretation of Cathy diff ers from others seen in the past?
I wanted my portrayal of Cathy to have an earthy feel about her. From memory, no one seems to have played Cathy as a northerner, so I felt I could explore this aspect of her character. I did watch a lot of the other adaptations, and from my experience she’s either been American or French or very English, so I felt that was relatively untapped. I wanted to bring more of a tomboyish quality to Cathy, especially when she’s younger. She’s not corsets and tea. She’s snotty-nosed and grubby! landscape makes you who you are, especially for Cathy and Heathcliff , who live in complete isolation. The director, Coky Giedroyc, was very inspired by westerns, drawing upon their vast bleak landscapes. You’ve got to use that in this case because it’s integral to their relationship and why they are the way they are and why you have to love like that. You can love like that because it’s so massive you can be huge and demonstrative – there’s no one to stop you.
What was it like working with Tom Hardy as Heathcliff ?
He’s very inspiring to work with because he brings so much energy to a set and injects so much life into everything. If you’re playing opposite someone like that, you have to give as much as you’re getting. I knew there was going to be no holding back with his Heathcliff . I remember the fi rst rehearsal that we did – we were rehearsing a scene in which he has to grab hold of me. He obviously checked with me fi rst and then he properly just grabbed hold of my hair. He’s like that. He doesn’t just bulldozer in but if he’s there he’s doing it and he’s doing it properly. And it’s brilliant because it gives you something to play against. You have to have that with Cathy and Heathcliff : no holds barred.