From ‘Alice & Jack’ to ‘The Regime,’ Andrea Riseborough Strives to Be a ‘Blank Slate’

If you look through some of the boldest, most ambitious works of the past few years, chances are you’ll find Andrea Riseborough on the call sheet.

The English actress has been involved in everything from Alejandro González Iñárritu’s dark comedy “Birdman” and Tom Ford’s neo-noir psychological thriller “Nocturnal Animals” to Panos Cosmatos’ action horror “Mandy” and Will Tracy’s bizarre political dramedy “The Regime.”

All of these memorable performances start with Oscar-nominated Riseborough’s dedication to keeping “an open mind.”

“I have no idea what’s good for me or what I should explore next. But when it’s in front of you, you know it,” Riseborough told TheWrap at the Television Critics Association’s 2024 winter tour. “It’s far better to not to force something into existence, if you know what I mean, because even if it comes to fruition, it lacks authenticity. I think it’s important to be actively open. A blank slate.”

That openness has now led the actress to “Alice & Jack,” a Channel 4 miniseries that is set to premiere on PBS on Sunday as part of the network’s Masterpiece collection.

Starring Riseborough and Domhnall Gleeson, the miniseries follows the lives of its two central characters for a decade and a half. After spending one night together, a high-strung loner (Riseborough) and a gentle scientist (Gleeson) keep returning to each other despite the trials of their own personal lives.

Because Riseborough had to channel Alice over the course of 15 years, the actress called on “so many parts” of herself. “I always think about the process you go through when telling a story. It’s actually quite deeply personal. It’s not something that’s easy to ignore,” Riseborough said.

The BAFTA-nominated actress felt a “weight of responsibility” around ensuring she was true to series creator Victor Levin’s vision. Since the romantic drama already aired in the United Kingdom in February, people have thanked Riseborough for portraying a love story “that’s not linear.”

“We all know love involves estrangement — it can involve a lot of estrangement. It’s a very painful process for lots of us and [involves] many different chapters of life,” Riseborough said. “In telling the story that was so personal to Vic, he bravely shared the reality of how hysterically painful love can be.”

Though the actress is best known for her film work, her recent appearance in two buzzy TV miniseries is not necessarily by design.

“Especially, for those of us who identify as women, characters in film are really quite extraordinary. With something that is episodic, as somebody from the film and theatre, it makes sense to me that there’s a sort of finality to a miniseries,” Riseborough said. “It’s like getting the play at the beginning. You understand the difference, the journey, and it’s something that feels familiar. There’s a great deal of opportunity to work with wonderful directors in film and in miniseries, so that’s exciting. But truly, the character is absolutely the driving force that compels me to engage with something.”

New episodes of “Alice & Jack” premiere Sundays at 10 p.m. EST on PBS.

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