Do it like Dickens
Posted at 1:15 PM (PDT) on Thursday, August 4, 2005

August 2, 2005

BLEAK HOUSE: Do it like Dickens

Sets and costumes are nothing if you don't have the right actors to fill them, and Stafford-Clark confesses casting Bleak House was, well, a Dickensian struggle. The actors needed to appeal to a wide audience. "We didn't want people to go, 'Oh, it's those great British thespians again.' They needed to be there, but they needed to be mixed with people from different backgrounds." So along with Charles Dance and Alun Armstrong, there's Alistair McGowan and Johnny Vegas. There's also Gillian Anderson as Lady Dedlock, a real coup for the production. "We'd seen her in The House of Mirth and she was so brilliant in period. But we didn't think we stood the slightest chance," recalls Stafford-Clark, "but she's been such a supporter of the show."

Despite the drawn-out shoot, actors needed little encouragement to commit, which Stafford-Clark puts down to the material. "These parts are so attractive, they're so well-written. You don't have to ask in favours, even with the small parts."

And that meant getting the right faces for the roles was that much easier. "We never cast people just for their name," insists Mackie. "If people switch off after an episode and a half because the 'names' aren't appropriate to the parts, then we're in trouble," says Stafford- Clark. "Everyone cast had to be able to play the part they were cast in."

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