Rebecca Hall on ‘Parade’s End’, the Difficulty of Finding Challenging Roles and the “Gift” of “Doing 5 Hours of Drama”

Parades-End-rebecca-hallYou know you’re looking at a talented actress when you’ve seen them in an English period piece and a blockbuster superhero movie in the same year.

Rebecca Hall is proving to be an eclectic talent with her role as Sylvia in the new HBO miniseries, Parade’s End, followed by an appearance in Iron Man 3 (out on May 3.)  But when choosing parts, she’s still pretty selective.

“I think it’s probably instinct coupled with something to do with the unknown.  There are unknown variables.  If the character rings true to me and I believe that it’s a fully-rounded person, or I could make her a full-rounded person, but I don’t really understand why, then that attracts me because I know there will be room to work out why she does what she does,” Hall said in an interview with  “Sylvia is a good example of that because, on the page, she was so mysterious.  It was like, ‘Why on earth are you behaving like this?’  The work the actor gets to do is trying to find that out.  So, I suppose it’s an element of mystery and ambiguity and contradiction.  I always look for contradiction in a character.”

She certainly found a complicated person to portray in Sylvia, a woman who has given birth to a child that may not be her husband’s (played by Sherlock’s Benedict Cumberbatch.)  After such a juicy part, Hall was worried she’d never find a role quite as fulfilling again. “You play somebody like Sylvia and you think, ‘Well that’s once in a lifetime.  What am I going to do now?!’  It’s sad!  It shouldn’t be like that,” she admitted.  “Men get those roles, all the time.  It’s difficult.  It’s a small pool.  I think it’s getting bigger, but it is tough.  When you get to play something that is just really different and really makes you think, ‘This is why I do it!’  I’m interested in exploring human behavior, and here is someone who is so unique and says a lot about certain ways of behaving.  Sylvias do exist.  These narcissistic, damaged, lovable psychos do exist, but people don’t write about them with a grace and level of profundity that Tom Stoppard coupled with Ford Maddox Ford, who wrote the novel, do.  It is one in a million, really.”

In the meantime, Hall is truly appreciative of the time she was able to spend creating the character.

“One of the gifts of doing five hours of drama, as opposed to what I’m used to doing, which is like an hour and a half film format, is that you can afford to really make a long journey,” the actress said.  “You can give 100% of the extreme of whatever characterization you’re doing because you know you’ve got time and evolution to turn it on its head again.  I was really aware of that.  It’s very much my feeling with Sylvia that you should hate her, after Episode 1.  You should think she’s completely unsympathetic and a nightmare.  And then, somewhere around Episode 3 or 4, you should love her.  That was definitely my intention, and if I’ve done that, then I’m happy.  That’s what was interesting about the format of having the time to do that.”

Parade’s End airs on HBO, Tuesday, February 26, through Thursday, February 28, at 9 p.m.

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