Despite a lot of the changes that you have made, a lot of so called ‘Austen purists’ have maybe been more appreciative of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries as opposed to the 2005 film, or even the BBC adaptation. That while this seems drastically different, it’s almost more in line with the original book, it has gone back to what Austen originally wrote. What do you think about that?
Well, I think that it’s so fascinating when people say that. I would never presume to say, “Oh, we’re closer to what Jane Austen really intended,” though I have read some people say that. I honestly don’t know if I would completely agree with that. I think the closest thing to what Austen intended was what she wrote, and also we don’t know what she intended. We really don’t. She’s not around to ask and to my knowledge there aren’t diaries describing “What I mean when I write this.” She let her work stand on its own, even in her lifetime.
But I’m getting off question. I think there’s a freedom in the fact that we are not period, we are not doing something where you would expect to hear dialogue from the book. A lot of people’s frustration with the 2005 adaptation – I hear a lot about the proposal scene. He doesn’t say his beautiful speech, he just goes, “I love you,” which is much less eloquent. But in 2012/2013, you wouldn’t expect all of that, so there’s a freedom.
There are times when we have quoted the book, but you don’t expect it, so you’re not looking for it to be this perfect vision of the Jane Austen novel, the way that people look to especially the ’95 miniseries, or the 2005 movie. There’s a different expectation put on it. So I think it’s very flattering and lovely when people say that we’re more what Austen intended, but who knows what Austen would have written if she was alive now. It’s really hard to say.
So we’re very much inspired by her, we very much look to her for the core of motivations and character, but we’re definitely our own thing, and especially in the last month or two, we’ve really taken our own departures – especially with the Lydia plotline, and the relationship that she has with Lizzie. We’ve really expanded on that, and done things – like there’s no parallel in the book for Lizzie giving Lydia a birthday present that tells her to grow up, and Lydia reacting badly to that. That’s just us.
And Lizzie’s relationship with Caroline Lee, and the fact that they had that confrontation back at Collins and Collins, all of these things are not canon. And we don’t have to adhere to that, and I think as we barrel on towards the end, the longer we spend in this world, the less we’re concerned with translating Jane Austen to modern day letter-for-letter, but really to tell the story of these women that we’ve created, who are very much based on her books.
Which is not to say that all the things that you want to have happen romantically are not going to happen. What kind of adaptation would we be if, “Oh Lizzie just never really gets that into Darcy, we missed it, she left Pemberley and the end.” But we’re not so concerned with letter-for-letter at this point, I think we’re telling our story and we’re going to honour these characters and their story, and will end it with that in mind.
I’m curious while we’re talking about it – which adaptions of Pride and Prejudice have you seen?
I’ve seen the ’95 miniseries, well I own the ’95 miniseries and the 2005 version. And I have Bridget Jones’ Diary – although I don’t necessarily include that in an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. And I’ve also seen the 1980 with Elizabeth Garvie, I think that’s it, that’s all my P&P‘s.
No Bride and Prejudice?
Oh, I have seen Bride and Prejudice, I saw it in theatres though, so that was a long time ago. I did see that. But I’ve never seen Lost in Austen, people ask me that all the time. I never have, and once we got into this process I didn’t want to keep watching things. And I haven’t seen the Olivier version either, although I hear it’s very different.
It is different.
I’ve seen pictures of it that make it clear that it’s not set in 1812?
Yeah. It’s weird. But it’s in black and white, so everyone just doesn’t mind.
Like, “Oh, we set this in old time and we put them in whatever clothes we wanted to.” Okay. We’ll just put that on the shelf with the movie of Rebecca which also has very little to do with the book.
Let’s talk a little about expectations. Obviously Elizabeth Bennet is not only one of the most famous characters in literature, but probably a character that a young actress may grow up and think, “I would love to play.” How did you feel when you landed the role, and do you still feel any level of expectation, or have you come to terms with that?
I was ecstatic when I got the part, I was very excited. It was after the second audition that I was just so excited about the project that I went back and re-read the book for the first time since high school, and so when I got the part I had just finished reading the book and I was sort of buzzing. I was thrilled, of course. But people have asked me this before – I kind of forgot to get really stressed out about the fact that I was playing a version of one of the most famous heroines in literature.
I kind of forgot to freak out about that, and I’m really glad that I did. I never looked at it, until people started putting GIFs of my face with Jennifer Ehle and Keira Knightley, did I ever think, “Oh, people are going to start thinking of me as a person who has played Elizabeth Bennet.” I never thought about it that way, until we were several months into it and people starting pointing it out to me. I’m really glad that I missed that anxiety-filled part of the process, because it would have been probably very daunting for me if I had thought about it that way, but I didn’t.
I was really excited about the adaptation because I love Austen, and I have for a long time. I was really excited to see how we adapted certain elements, and it was a lot of fun doing it, it’s a really great group of people. I was focused on creating an Elizabeth Bennet who, while rooted in the novel, was contemporary and new and fresh, and a lot of that credit goes to the writers because I don’t come up with the words that Lizzie says most of the time.
So that’s not to say that I created her entirely. I really looked to my text when I was developing the character, much more than trying to go back. Bernie is very good at actor input, from the beginning he said “You’re going to know these characters better than I am, we want to hear if you think something is different.” And there has definitely been times when I have said, “I don’t think Lizzie would do that, based on the book, and also based on our contemporary version of Lizzie.”
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries fandom can be fairly full on.
Yes, absolutely. I would also say that there was kind of a shift in the fandom when we started doing serious things, around episode 73/74, when Lizzie and Lydia had their fight. There was a real shift in fandom. It’s funny, there are a couple interviews with me that came out last week that happened at the end of 2012, and in both of them I say, “There’s been just no negative feedback from fans, no one has been mean to me.”
And in 2013, that has very much changed, which is not to say that I get a lot of hate mail or anything, but I’ve gotten a few cranky people. Which is also a strange thing to send to me, “I don’t like the way you’re adapting this!”, “..I didn’t do it, I don’t write the show.” But for me, most of our fans are incredibly positive. The fact that there are people who are so passionate about the show that they want to have these discussions is fantastic. I get a little worried when I see fans attacking each other, because I never want to see that.
But 90% of the people who would really include themselves in ‘The Fandom’, which is a really active, enthusiastic group, are very kind with each other and very intelligent, and they’re hotly debating things and I think it’s fantastic. I also think it’s fantastic that people don’t like some of the things that we’ve done, because it means that they are thinking and they’re analyzing – and also because it is impossible to please everyone.
There are never going to be things than 100% of people like, so I don’t worry about everyone loving the way that we’ve adapted these characters, I don’t worry about everyone loving Lizzie, or everyone loving my acting or any of those things, because that’s impossible. We just do the best that we can. We’re all telling a story that we are proud of. I’m very proud to be a part of it.
I think episodes 87 and 88 are going to be incredibly controversial. I’m just waiting to see how that goes, but I think that there are very important things dealt with in those episodes, and I’m very proud to be a part of something that was not afraid to go there. I’m a little afraid of the response, but I’m very proud that we weren’t afraid to make them.