2:00 pm EST, February 11, 2013

Exclusive interview: Mary Kate Wiles talks ‘Lizzie Bennet Diaries’ sex tape controversy and more [part 1]

Speaking of the fandom, how different is it to work on a project where instead of having to wait months or years after shooting something, you see an immediate reaction?

It’s weird. It’s been a completely new experience for everybody, I’ve never experienced anything like this, even with my other web show Squaresville. First of all, I love doing web because the turn around is pretty fast and that’s really great as an actor, to just have stuff that you can have out there. and have your fan-base growing and see feedback. But even with Squaresville we shot all of the season all at once, and now it’ll come out for the next six months. Whereas with Lizzie, we shoot every month and so we really are living out the timeline as it goes.

It’s weird and it’s good. In some ways I have really enjoyed it, in terms of my own process just to keep everything Lydia is feeling alive and real – it’s not hard because those things are happening in front of me. Or I get on twitter, and I see George tweeting at Lydia, and it does to me what it is doing to her. Of course I still am a little bit ahead of where everybody is at, and it was weird to know what was going to happen with that and not be able to say anything.

But there’s also – I don’t want to call it a downside, I love interacting with the fans and seeing the things that they make, and the fan art, and the wonderful intelligent posts that they write. But then you also see people that don’t like the direction that you went, or don’t love Lydia’s character at all, and it’s hard for me to not take those things personally.

I know that’s a fault of my own and it’s really been a good learning experience to take everything with a grain of salt. It’s hard though, when you care about something so much, and I really have put a lot of my heart and soul into this story and it’s a really vulnerable place to put yourself in when you’re reading peoples knee-jerk reactions to things.

A lot of the fans also relate you and Lydia very closely, so a criticism of her, especially because this sort of characterization hasn’t been seen before, is almost inherently a criticism of you. How do you switch off and keep your sanity?

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I don’t know that I do. I do have to take everything with a grain of salt. It’s been an evolving experience, because obviously at the beginning there were people like “Lydia is so annoying,” and I had to be like “Okay, that means I’m doing my job, that means I’m being the character that I’m supposed to be,” which is why I have a lot of sympathy for Wes in this situation.

But then as time goes on and people actually grew to love her and care more about her, then they got so mad at her for being so awful to Lizzie. I just want to be like, “Guys, it’s a story and it’s not done yet, so just wait!” But I can’t. That’s not my job. Ultimately what it comes down to is that I got cast in this part for reasons and I am this character, and that I need to take care of myself as an actor and as a human being.

I definitely haven’t been perfect in it, and I get very excited to talk about it with people and have maybe said more than I should, but it’s been a great learning experience and overall it hasn’t tainted anything.

Let’s talk about the sex-tape. There has obviously been a lot of discussion about this in the community, some fans have taken issue with it because they didn’t want it to be a sex-related scandal. Why do you think that this was the right way to go?

Obviously it wasn’t my decision – not that I’m saying I don’t support it, because I do completely and whole-heartedly. But I think that no matter what we decided, it would be controversial because the nature of it is controversial.

I actually walked into rehearsal on my first day and Ashley was sitting down and she goes, “Do you wanna know what the scandal’s gonna be?” and I was like “..Okay”, and she said “A sex tape!” And my stomach dropped. I genuinely in that moment was like, “Nobody warned me about this!” and it was a thing that I actually kind of dreaded for a long time, I didn’t know how it was going to play out and I was really nervous about it, because I come from a conservative background, and that’s a little more racy than some of the things I’ve done.

But as time went on, and again with the Lydia vlogs, how we built all of this up, I realized how it was going to happen. I realized that it was going to be a really heartbreaking thing for her, and it became so important to me because I think a lot of girls have been through similar experiences, where she is pressured into doing something she doesn’t want to because of a guy. And I just realized that this story was a lot bigger than me and than Lydia, and that was really cool to me.

I think that it’s something that a lot of people can relate to, and I think it’s really important for girls to look at and realize this is not how I want a guy to treat me. And that means a lot to me, so it has changed from being something I am really scared about – although I still am, that day that the site went up I was literally sitting here on my couch shaking, because, it’s a sex tape! I didn’t know what people were going to think, and I knew that people were going to be mad and shocked.

So I’m still scared about it, but I never thought that it would mean as much to me as it does. I can see where fans are coming from, with it being about sex, but that’s what it was about in the book, and to me it was really important to look at Lydia, who’s perceived as “a slut” through this lens – but this was actually something that meant so much to her and it all came crashing down, and it’s really sad to see her experience that.

By the time this comes out we will know the answer, but in the preview to Monday’s video, Lydia looks pissed. Is there anything you can say about that?

Everybody thinks that Lydia is pissed, but I have seen no one guess who she’s angry at correctly. I don’t know why they chose that part because it’s not very indicative of the whole episode. It’s funny to watch everyone guess what it means by the preview.

I like when they try and do the lip-reading.

It’s amazing when they get it right! I know that it will be a controversial episode for a lot of people, but when I read it, it rang to true to me in the way that I dealt with my first heartbreak. I really related to how Lydia is handling it so much. And it just became so important to me.

The first time that Lizzie ever hugs Lydia is in this episode, ever, in the entire show. And that to me is so cool and so important, and when I realized that it was going to be then – that Lizzie has never once hugged Lydia, Lydia always hugs her first, and I knew it was going to happen in this episode when Lydia is devastatingly heartbroken, and it’s really special.

It’s been really special for me and Ashley and I hope that people, whether or not they disagree with the way the plot is going, I hope that there’s something they can relate to and I’m very excited to hopefully mend Lizzie and Lydia’s relationship through it.

Well I’m excited.

I hope you like it.

Stay tuned for part 2 of our interview with Mary Kate Wiles

Images: Tumblr, Marykatewiles.com

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