ALL HAIL HELEN MIRREN
It was great to see Helen Mirren making the rounds during the Awards Season leading up to Oscar night. Her performance as Elizabeth II in The Queen is certainly praiseworthy, but it’s been her television work to date that has shown off her supreme acting talents. British movie stars don’t spurn television projects as do their American counterparts, so Mirren’s best work was actually seen on PBS and HBO this past year.
On HBO, Mirren—a Dame of the British Empire—played the title role in Elizabeth I, for which she received a Golden Globe. But despite her royal roles, she’s not a frequent visitor to Buckingham Palace. “I did go there to get my damehood, but I’ve never been part of the socially invited guests, so it’s not likely it would happen in the future.” That may be due to her leftist leanings, she reveals. “I have always been a bit of a lefty, less so now than in the 60’s. But, I’ve never joined a political party.” Married to American director Taylor Hackford (Ray, An Officer and a Gentleman), Mirren spends a lot of time in America now.
On PBS’ Masterpiece Theatre this Fall, Mirren gave her farewell performance as the tough-as-nails London cop, Detective Superintendent Jane Tennison, in Prime Suspect: The Final Act. On her role, says Mirren: “It was pretty rare to have a female character drive the story. That is a great gift. But, I wanted Prime Suspect to reflect the world we live in. And in the real world, police don’t go on forever, so it seemed the right thing to do.” She said good bye to someone she considered “an old friend,” after playing Tennison in seven Prime Suspect miniseries since 1992.
It’s been one of her favorite roles, Mirren adds, saying that she admires the fictional police woman’s knowledge, her job expertise. And if they had lunch together, “I would ask her about crimes that she had solved and stories from within her world. And, I think she’d be funny, because she’s got that dry humor. And she’s sophisticated, because she’s seen a lot of the world. A lot of the dark side.” This “dark side” is something that fascinates Mirren, who admits she watches the reality show Cops, and finds it “absolutely mesmerizing.”
Mirren notes that she enjoys American television in general: “Cable, and obviously PBS has been consistently wonderful. I think a lot of network shows are extraordinarily good. I’m a fan of Criminal Minds. Of course I would be, wouldn’t I?”