Marilla Wex, an actor, stand-up comedian and website builder, recently performed in the Grand Theatre’s (London, Ontario) production of Pride and Prejudice as Charlotte Lucas. The 40-year-old, born in Stratford-On-Avon, UK, said that: “Being an actor was all I ever wanted to be from the age of four when I played Mary in the Nativity play in junior kindergarten and apparently bossed all of the shepherds around. I was in every school play I could wheedle my way into from then on.”
(Marilla as Charlotte, and Alden as Mr. Collins)
Married to writer and columnist Michael Wex (who has a really amusing Yiddish-orientated blog that you can read here), with a fifteen-year-old step daughter, an addiction to knitting, “and a three and a half pound Chihuahua” (who is ridiculously cute, called Farfl and, as Marilla has advised me, has her own website here!) there is a definite sense of humour and wit in her life, that I think Austen herself would have approved of.
From a young age, Marilla was enthralled by Theatre. “When I was a teenager I ended up baby-sitting for the wigs and make-up mistress at the Royal Shakespeare Company and got free tickets for all the shows at the theatre which simply fuelled my passion.” From ages 16 to 19 she was a member of the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain “which was an incredible opportunity to act in professionally-directed plays in the West End of London every summer.”
Marilla studied at Bristol University, taking a degree in Television, Theatre and Film studies and then completed a course as a Post-Grad student at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. From there she moved to Canada in ’04. “Since then I’ve done mostly voice work [Ed- in commercials and even recently in cartoons!], tv and film up until this year when I was cast as Charlotte Lucas.”
The Pride and Prejudice production itself ran this year from March 10th to April 3rd and received rave reviews, being called “quite simply a little gem” over at the beat. So, without much further ado, here is what Marilla herself had to say about being on the inside of the production, acting, Pride and Prejudice and a whole bunch of other stuff that I just had to ask.
Are you a fan of Pride and Prejudice?
Yes. Absolutely. I first read it when I was 15 years old for my English “O” level exam and remember throwing the book across the room when I got to the part where Charlotte Lucas marries Mr. Collins. I was really cross with her. In real life I’m much more of a Lizzy.
Do you think that Charlotte Lucas is a misunderstood character?
Perhaps by people who don’t read the book properly or don’t appreciate the time at which it was written. Charlotte is very much of her time and makes a sensible choice for a woman of 27 (considered an old maid which affects her younger sister’s marriage chances). She’s a great contrast to Elizabeth who is a much more romantic, progressive character. From a post-modern perspective you could read into the text that Charlotte is a lesbian (“I never thought very highly of men, nor of matrimony…”) but I think that’s pushing it too far.
How did you go about preparing for this role?
I read the book and compared it to the script to see the differences in the stories as they are told in each medium. With an adaptation it’s important to make sure you’re telling the story as it works in the script – there are bound to be places where the story has been contracted so you have to make choices about which are the most important moments to hit to make it work. This was all done as an ensemble with the director.
What roles have you played in the past?
You can see my full CV here. Mostly comedy maids and prostitutes. Oh, and a crack whore in a movie recently. That was fun. Charlotte is probably the nicest, kindest, most sensible character I’ve ever played.
Was the production true to the book?
Yes, I think so, and we had a lot of feedback from “Janeites” who really loved the adaptation and this production in particular, which was nice.
What was your favourite part of the experience?
Probably the kudos of playing a 27-year old at the age of 40! For me acting is 50% dressing up and 50% social life. It’s not brain surgery – it’s being allowed to play pretend as a grown-up. We’re just like big kids, really. I’m not saying you shouldn’t take the work seriously, just don’t take yourself seriously.
What was the audition process like and how did you find out about it?
It was fairly painless. Like most professional actors I got a call from my agent saying that the director wanted to see me for the role. I went in, read for it, had a bit of a chat and that was it. Got cast very quickly.
Were any parts of your role challenging for you?
Having to not be totally in love with Alden Adair who played Mr. Collins was pretty hard. He is absolutely hilarious but of course Charlotte’s supposed to find him pretty loathsome so it was hard not to laugh at him because he was so funny.
Have you had any responses from your audience?
What would your dream role be?
One of those hot English scientists in a recurring role on a crime show or sci-fi series. I came very close once with an international co-production called Ice Planet. I was short-listed for the role of the British youngest nobel prize winning astro-physicist who was to be Michael Ironside’s love interest. I screen-tested with him and everything. The show was never made. I was gutted. I had visions of legions of nerd fans across the world following my every move on my blog.
Ed- You can read Marilla’s blog via This Link, it’s funny and tells a bit more about the Pride and Prejudice production.
Do you think you’re like Charlotte?
What sort of books do you like to read?
What are your aims for the future?
Do you have any advice for wannabe stage actors?
So there you have it! If you’re interested in reading Marilla’s blog, then I highly recommend it, particularly if you’re interested in acting yourself as she “started blogging because I’ve often been asked about what it’s like to be an actor”. You can also check out her Tweets.