Let’s talk about episode 99, which is the penultimate episode of the series.
There are certain parts of the story where we can’t do the same thing as Pride and Prejudice, because it’s an adaptation. So, people don’t get married immediately any more, not in the circumstances at least of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. If you were to take that and put it in now, it just wouldn’t make sense, it wouldn’t be viable in the world of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. So clearly we had to make a different choice that was going to work for our story.
But I think what you’re seeing in the episode is two people who finally are getting each other. And the reason they’re getting each other is that they’ve both made this change of seeing from other peoples points of view, of empathizing, of looking from outside of yourself from another point of view, and that enriching your experience and making you a more open person. So Lizzie and Darcy have finally made some of those changes that they so desperately needed to make at the beginning of the story.
I recently started rewatching it from the beginning, and Ashley’s character has changed so much, it’s crazy. There’s certain things we needed to wrap up and as usual, a lot of them happen off screen, but we find ways of bringing the events and bringing all of that back on screen so that we can include it in the adaptation.
How would you describe your Darcy?
I think one of the most important elements of Darcy that everyone who has played him has to deal with first is the class thing. There are certain behaviours and cultural and character things that you have to incorporate from that class. And even though we don’t have exactly the same dichotomy of class that they did in the original time it was written, it’s still something that is very real, and one of the first things that you have to deal with.
It’s funny because I’ve done a number of interviews and no one has asked me specifically to describe him. As Darcy, I’m reserved, I keep my true feelings and my emotions guarded, especially from those I don’t know well, and I think that makes it such that people I don’t know well are suspicious of me, or think that I’m judgemental, when really there’s an appearance of callousness that is there to guard something that is very vulnerable.
I think the hipster thing got thrown around a lot, just because there were some references to it before I got involved in the show. My only nod to that was to true to find it in the physical, in the visual style, in the costuming. But really, I don’t think he’s a hipster. People have alluded to him being kind of Aspergian, and I actually don’t think that’s terribly far off. There are certain descriptions of him in Pride and Prejudice, which are like, he doesn’t understand the social manners of other people, there’s a disconnect between himself and how others work.
Did you feel a lot of pressure coming in to play such an iconic character? Recently we had the Pride and Prejudice bicentenary, and you featured on polls of favourite Darcys (including Hypable’s) – how did that feel?
Somehow I didn’t feel a tremendous amount of pressure. I felt good about what I did, I felt like I understood what was required to play the role of Darcy for me. I understood kind of instictively, and so I came in there and I made my choices in all of the auditions unabashedly. Ultimately I felt, though there was some nervousness about “Oh, are they gonna like me or not?” really I felt like it was on Bernie, it was on the team whether it was successful.
They had a lot of people to choose from and they chose me, so in that way I felt like, “I’m not the one who’s choosing who’s playing Darcy, that’s you, so if you made the wrong choice for your project, then that’s your fault.” But I never felt like, “Oh I hope I rise to occasion,” because I knew I was doing what I wanted to do, at least. It’s funny, because people assume that some of the choices we’re making as actors are choices we’re making to illicit something from the fans.
There’s a lot of guessing about, “Did you do this because you knew the fans would like it?” and we don’t work that way. We make our choices all based on the story, and so those behaviours that resonate with people come from us paying a lot of attention to the story. It’s funny, because my focus isn’t on how do I appear to people, it’s on what my character is doing, so when I’m compared to Colin Firth or Laurence Olivier, or these people who have played Darcy, it’s just so weird to me.
That the perception of me playing this role compares with those people who are such legendary actors, I don’t have much to say about it except thank you, wow. But I’m just working. I’m glad it’s resonating with you. Every time a new poll like that came out I was like, “Wow. Okay.”