Gwendoline Christie was walking through a field when she got the text saying Tim Burton wanted to meet with her about Netflix's new series Wednesday. If that weren't enough of a shock, Burton later offered her the part of Principal Larissa Weems. And he'd give her the freedom to help create the character.
"He said, 'You can do whatever you like with the character, feel free to make it whatever you want and we'll keep talking about it,'" Christie recalls to EW. "And that was an unbelievable opportunity from this great cinematic master."
Vlad Cioplea/Netflix Gwendoline Christie in 'Wednesday'
Working with Burton and costume designer Colleen Atwood, Christie started to imagine who this character might be. As the leader of Nevermore Academy, Weems is in charge of protecting a school full of outcasts, including the titular Wednesday Addams (Jenna Ortega).
"This idea kept coming to me of Larissa Weems being someone who was an outcast, who went to a school for outcasts, that was always second best and was always in Morticia's [Catherine Zeta-Jones] shadow," Christie says. "What kept coming to me was this idea of this Hitchcock-style heroin, this screen siren, that maybe that young woman would look to our mystic portal, the cinema, to be an incarnation of her fantasies. And weirdly, Tim had exactly the same idea and so did Colleen Atwood."
Notably, there were two heroins that Christie and company referenced most. "We were looking at Tippi Hedren and Kim Novak," Christie says. "I wanted to push that idea. I like to transform into characters and people that are very far away from myself and I would never be cast as this part. It was an opportunity to create that and to inhabit that sort of impenetrable, imperious character with that classic idea of femininity. But whereas Hitchcock heroins tend to have all sorts of trauma being exacted upon them, for this to be a woman who was in charge of her own fate, who was ruthlessly ambitious and who was willingly putting herself into dangerous and extreme situations, was exciting to me."
Christie gives a lot of credit to the series' hair and makeup department for helping with the transformation. "It is the first time I've ever felt beautiful on screen," Christie says. "I cannot express my extreme gratitude more heartily to Tim and Colleen and our hair and makeup team. Colleen Atwood is rightfully a legend, and what she does is close to witchcraft in terms of transformation. It is an honor of my life to work with Colleen and to work with Tim."
Speaking specifically about working with Atwood, Christie says, "The brilliance of Colleen is she is supremely talented. She's also hugely experienced. That experience cannot be underlined enough because she is able to look at your body and emphasize different elements, emphasize your strong points. The way she made me feel was my body felt celebrated and beautiful. Never once did I feel like there was something to hide or something to be ashamed of. She made me feel incredible. She was also enormously collaborative and wanted to know what I thought, which I was quite nervous initially to show her any references, but she welcomed them and she loved them."
Furthermore, Christie says she watched a bunch of Hitchcock films to prepare for the role, "to examine a different way of moving, of poise, elegance, and a more balletic stance," she says. "Women in those movies would hold themselves with confidence and grace." And the same can be said of Principal Weems.
Wednesday is available now on Netflix.
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