The bicentenary of Pride and Prejudice may have come and gone, but here at Hypable we are still celebrating Jane Austen through out love of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Hypable writer Marama Whyte recently spoke with Mary Kate Wiles, who stars in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (and spin-off The Lydia Bennet) as Lydia Bennet, to discuss her thoughts on Lydia’s journey, her experiences in the intense Lizzie Bennet Diaries fandom, and much more.
Following on from controversial episode 87, we can now present the unabridged transcript of our interview with Mary Kate in two parts.
Hypable: How would you describe your version of Lydia?
Mary Kate Wiles: My Lydia is very different from the Lydia of the book. I think my Lydia is very loyal to her sisters and loves her family. I think Lydia loves fiercely, as [Lizzie] says in the show, she doesn’t do “anything by halfsies.” She’s very energetic and sometimes loud, but everything she does comes from a desire to be valued by her sisters and her family.
What’s different about Lizzie Bennet is that there’s only three sisters, instead of five in the book, which just creates an entirely different dynamic. Because in the book, Lydia has Kitty following her around and letting her be the leader in that dynamic, and in our show Lydia doesn’t have that. She feels like the annoying younger sister. Obviously Lizzie and Jane love her but I think it’s been clear as the show has gone on that there’s this kind of dynamic where Lydia feels left out and not really understood by her sisters.
Did you imagine when you were cast that Lydia would become the breakout character that she has?
No. I never had any inkling. I honestly didn’t know what I was doing for a while, I was just like “This Lydia is a party girl, so I guess that means I talk like this and I have this crazy energy, and I hope this is funny.” Obviously as time went on, and even from the first rehearsal, Bernie was like “We need to always have a reason that Lydia acts the way she does, or she’s not going to make any sense”, so that was always clear to me.
But I didn’t ever imagine that we would get to delve into it as deeply as we have. Especially with her own vlogs, I never knew that that was going to be a thing, and I cannot tell you how glad I am. I never thought that Lydia Bennet would be a character that, as it turns out, I’m so proud of and so happy to play. I feel like we’ve been able to collectively make a Lydia that a lot of people are able to relate to, and respond to in ways that they never expected. And me too – I’m one of those people.
I never thought that her story would mean as much to me as it does, but I’m finding as time has gone on that I have found a lot of myself in her, when originally I thought that me and her were nothing alike. So it’s been really cool, and something that I think I’ll always remember as this amazing thing that I got to do.
When did you find out that Lydia would be having a spin-off series of vlogs?
I can’t remember exactly when it was. Bernie [Su, head writer, executive producer, director and co-creator] had mentioned off-the-cuff pretty early on that if we had other characters vlogging Lydia would obviously be the main proponent to do that, just because of her personality. As we got closer to Lizzie and Jane leaving for Netherfield Bernie was like “We’re going to do this and see how it goes” and I checked yesterday and Lydia has 72,000 subscribers, which is not as many as Lizzie, but that’s awesome.
It’s interesting that you’ve mentioned that. Obviously not everyone who subscribed to Lizzie subscribes to Lydia, and then those people don’t necessarily follow Lydia on twitter. How do you think their perception of Lydia would be different if they have only seen her pop up in Lizzie’s videos, rather than following this separate character trajectory that people who have been watching her vlogs have experienced?
Well you don’t have to watch them. You’ll still get the story either way, and I know that a lot of Austen purists have been not wanting to watch Lydia because it’s not her story, it’s Lizzie’s story. But as time has gone on it has become clear that Lydia acts a very different way with her own viewers than she does with Lizzie.
And again, all of these things that I never realized would become so important. That’s a huge part of the story now, that Lydia has not been herself with her sister, but she’s been herself with all of these thousands of viewers. So I don’t think you’re going to understand my Lydia if you don’t watch the vlogs, because how could I?
And twitter too, especially with all of the Wickham stuff, there have been some really intense things on twitter, that I personally think is just the coolest thing. It’s so cool to experience a character from these many different sides, and has really challenged me to make sure that all of those weave together and make sense. For a little while I felt disconnected, like “I feel weird, because Lydia is this way on her vlogs, and this way on Lizzie’s”, until I thought “You idiot, that’s why.”
That’s the whole point.
Yeah. So I hope that people watch her vlogs and like them because, again, this Lydia is just not a Lydia that happens in any other Pride and Prejudice adaptation and I don’t mean that to credit myself at all. It’s just really cool that the writers have been able to take her in this direction, and trusted that with me. I just feel really lucky and excited about it, and obviously now in this last arc, if the last time that you saw Lydia was before she went to Vegas and then you didn’t see her again until she just found out about the sex tape, those are two very different Lydias.
I think people would be really confused, and some of them are, because a lot happened in between. And that’s how Lizzie was, and if you want you can have that experience that Lizzie does.
I think this arc, more than any of the others would prompt a viewer to go back and watch Lydia’s videos to try and work out what had happened there, because there’s obviously a disconnect and it is very intentional.
It’s a weird experience. I understand how the Austen purists can have a hard time with the way that thing have gone with our adaptation, but it’s an adaptation – it’s not the same story. It’s based on it, but there are definitely different things, and if it’s going to be modern, there’s no way that things can’t change. It’s funny watching Pride and Prejudice again since we’ve done the show, I’ve been like “Oh wow, I look at this completely differently now.”
I think it’s really cool that we have created this whole world for fans to delve into, and it’s been really neat to see people have really well thought out, indepth conversations and discussions about Lydia’s character and actions – which is kind of cool and kind of crazy.