PRO­FILE Frances O’Con­nor

How did the Perth-raised ac­tor re­search the role of Harry Selfridge’s wife Rose? She went shop­ping, of course, writes Deb­bie Schipp.

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - TV Guide - - CELEBRITY - MR SELFRIDGE

FRANCES O’Con­nor plays the part of the cuck­olded wife to perfection in Mr Selfridge, but in real life, she’d show a phi­lan­der­ing man the door.

‘‘Ha! He’d drive me crazy,’’ the English-born, Perth-raised ac­tor laughs, when asked whether she would turn a blind eye to the un­faith­ful ways of Harry (Jeremy Piven) as her char­ac­ter Rose Selfridge does in the pe­riod drama about Harry Gor­don Selfridge and his Lon­don depart­ment store, Sel­fridges & Co.

‘‘I think he’d be out the door. It was harder for women then. They weren’t in­de­pen­dently wealthy. They couldn’t just say, ‘Enough, that’s it, I want my own life’.

‘‘Mar­riage was viewed dif­fer­ently then, too. Now it’s all about fall­ing in love and find­ing the right per­son, back then it was a very es­tab­lished way of do­ing things.’’

Be­ing mar­ried to Harry is any­thing but a bed of roses for O’Con­nor’s Rose, who has to deal with her ex­u­ber­ant hus­band get­ting up close and per­sonal with women as he aims to make Sel­fridges the most talked about shop in the world.

For O’Con­nor, 46, spend­ing time in Lon­don to film the drama was a bit like re­turn­ing home.

She worked in the UK for about 10 years do­ing theatre, film and TV, be­fore she moved to Los An­ge­les with her ac­tor part­ner Ger­ald Lep­kowski and son Luka in 2008.

‘‘Dur­ing shoot­ing I was com­pletely com­fort­able. I have a place in Lon­don, and I have friends in Lon­don,’’ she says.

‘‘But when I ini­tially went to Eng­land my ex­pe­ri­ence was ex­actly like Rose’s – I was the new girl.’’

O’Con­nor re­searched her role by shop­ping.

‘‘Over the years I’ve done plenty of that. I am a Sel­fridges girl and have been for a long time,’’ she laughs.

She warns Rose has lay­ers be­yond the ini­tial im­pres­sion of du­ti­ful wife.

‘‘You only get a taste of her in the first episode, an imprint of who she is. As it de­vel­ops you get a lot of dif­fer­ent in­for­ma­tion,’’ she says.

‘‘She’s not down­trod­den. She knows what she’s get­ting into with him. She’s used to him hav­ing a wan­der­ing eye, but I think he is just so out of con­trol in Lon­don that their re­la­tion­ship does kind of do her head in, be­cause she can’t ig­nore it.

‘‘Ini­tially she feels very iso­lated in Lon­don be­cause she’s an Amer­i­can and she doesn’t re­ally know the rules of the so­ci­ety. And Bri­tish so­ci­ety at that time had a very spe­cific and rigid set of rules.’’

O’Con­nor ap­pre­ci­ates there will be com­par­isons to Down­ton Abbey, which paved the way for re­newed in­ter­est in pe­riod dra­mas.

She be­lieves the resur­gence has a lot to do with things be­ing a lot more black and white back then.

‘‘I hear peo­ple say that it’s nice to look back into an era where things were just what they were,’’ she says. ‘‘Life was slower and men and women had clearly de­fined roles.

‘‘Now there’s so much un­cer­tainty in this world, but tech­nol­ogy means there’s no real mys­tery to the work­ings of things. So I un­der­stand why peo­ple look back. It’s com­fort­ing, it’s nos­tal­gic.’’

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