Skip to main content
Advertising

Originally published Wednesday, July 30, 2014 at 12:55 PM

  • Share:
             
  • Comments
  • Print

Maggie Gyllenhaal digs deep for ‘The Honorable Woman’

The actress and creator Hugo Blick talk about the drama, premiering Thursday, July 31, on SundanceTV. Gyllenhaal plays an Anglo-Israeli businesswoman who wants to span a raging divide with communication cables laid between Israel and the West Bank.


AP Television Writer

Watch It

‘The Honorable Woman’

Miniseries premiere 10 p.m. Thursday, July 31, on SundanceTV.

advertising

LOS ANGELES — “The Honorable Woman” is a meditative thriller that investigates a woman’s inner life and a global hot spot. Poised between dream-state and tough reality, it exposes timeless truths while remaining as current as the next Israeli-Palestinian clash.

An eight-hour miniseries premiering Thursday at 10 p.m. on SundanceTV, “The Honorable Woman” is a virtuoso effort by Hugo Blick, who wrote and directed it.

And in the lead role of Baroness Nessa Stein, an Anglo-Israeli businesswoman who wants to span a raging divide with communication cables laid between Israel and the West Bank, Maggie Gyllenhaal delivers the most nuanced yet full-bodied performance you could hope to see.

The film was shot during five months in London and Morocco, with Andrew Buchan co-starring as Nessa’s brother and business partner; Janet McTeer (“Damages”) as head of the British spy agency MI6, pressing its own geopolitical agenda for the region; and Stephen Rea (“The Crying Game”), who’s especially splendid as the outgoing head of MI6’s Middle East desk.

Politically charged, laden with foreign intrigue and family secrets, the series is, in short, magnificent.

“I was really intrigued with exploring the psychology of a woman within the chassis of a thriller,” said Blick, a 49-year-old filmmaker who claims such British series as “The Shadow Line” and “Sensitive Skin” among his credits. “The issue of intractable polarity, but with the chance of reconciliation, is what the story is engaged in.”

But what happens when the conflict exists not only in the outside world, but also, for Nessa, lodged deep within her soul and her indelible past?

“It’s often the case that when people stand on the world stage it’s a diversionary technique from dealing with the very vacuum that’s inside themselves that they feel their role in public life can help them fill,” said Blick with a wry grin and a blistering laugh.

Seated beside him for this recent interview at a Los Angeles hotel, Gyllenhaal was training her saucer-size blue eyes on him, listening and nodding thoughtfully as if none of what he voiced she’d ever heard before.

Maybe she hadn’t.

“Hugo and I didn’t talk very much when we were working,” she said. “I don’t like to have conversations like this when I’m working.”

The 36-year-old actress, whose films include “Sherrybaby,” “Crazy Heart,” “World Trade Center” and “The Dark Knight,” explained that on “The Honorable Woman,” she and Blick related on a level beyond words.

“Hugo was the most trusting director I’ve ever worked with in my life,” said Gyllenhaal as she unwittingly invoked a key question — “Who do you trust?” — that serves as the first sentence her character utters.

“And I’ve never, ever played a character who was more fully, wholly, truly formed than this one,” she went on. “Hugo had written all eight episodes before we began, but so many things about her surprised me! So I would kind of walk into each scene knowing what I knew about Nessa, then see how it expressed itself. And then I would think, ‘OK, that scene happened. Now, where are we?’”

“Maggie knew EXACTLY where the character was traveling towards,” argued Blick with a smile. “Essentially all I had to do was go, ‘OK, I’ll put the camera here, because that’s the best place to witness her delivering this character.’”

“It is much more interesting to watch an actor actually learning something,” Gyllenhaal persisted, “rather than watch someone PRETEND like they’re learning something. You can set up a situation for yourself that includes your own issues, terrors, strengths, and then put yourself in that situation, and when you do the scene you can learn many things. That was always what I was trying to accomplish.

“Nessa has to go through this journey,” said Gyllenhaal, who clearly puts a premium on trust, “and I went through it, too.”



Free 4-week trial, then $99 a year for unlimited seattletimes.com access. Try it now!

Also in Entertainment

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon

Autos news and research

New 3-wheelers merge fun and safety

New 3-wheelers merge fun and safety


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►