Olivia Colman almost turned down Great Expectations because of Gillian Anderson and Helena Bonham Carter

The three actors appeared together in ‘The Crown’

Louis Chilton
Tuesday 21 March 2023 09:15 GMT
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Olivia Colman pranks Paul Rudd during radio show phone-in

Olivia Colman has claimed that she almost turned down starring in Great Expectations due to her friendships with Gillian Anderson and Helena Bonham Carter.

The Oscar-winning actor plays Miss Havisham in the forthcoming BBC adaptation of Charles Dickens’ timeless novel.

Miss Havisham, the bitter, reclusive old heiress who interferes in the life of Pip, has been played by a number of acclaimed actors in past adaptations of the book, including Martita Hunt (in David Lean’s 1946 version), Jean Simmons, Charlotte Rampling, Anderson, and Bonham Carter.

Speaking to BBC News ahead of the new adaptation’s premiere, Colman referred to her friendship with former The Crown co-stars Anderson and Bonham Carter, and was reluctant to take on a role that they had both already tackled.

“I really did struggle with the idea of being compared with my mates,” she said.

“[But] I did want to play [Miss Havisham] so I thought, ‘well, it’s what happens with all actors. You all end up playing the same parts sometimes, and that’s okay.’

“So hopefully Gillian and Helly don’t think I’m doing a terrible job of this!”

Speaking about the character, Colman suggested that the Dickensian villain would have benefitted from modern-day therapy.

“It’s terrible what happens to Miss Havisham,” she said. “If only she’d had a therapist or a really good friend to chat to, she might be in a much better place.”

In the US, the series will be available to watch on FX.

Colman also described the source material as “extraordinarily relevant” and “really poignant” thanks to its takes on class and wealth in British society.

“Inthe UK and in many other places, it depends where a baby is born as to potentially where they will end up. And I find that depressing and upsetting and shocking,” she said.

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“There’s marginally more chance, maybe, that you can escape if you want to, but it’s up against you if you’re born on the wrong side of the tracks. It’s just not fair.”

Great Expectations premieres on BBC One at 9pm on Sunday 26 March.

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