A modern-day version of Lewis Carroll’s classic fantasy tales, Alice stars Caterina Scorsone as the eponymous heroine, who finds herself unexpectedly entering a very dark and different Wonderland. Written and directed by Nick Willing (who previously helmed 2007’s Tin Man), the two-part mini-series aired on Syfy December 6/7 2009 and is coming to DVD/Blu-Ray on March 2, 2010.
In a recent interview, Scorsone discusses her role in Alice and shares some of her favorite memories from the project…
What first attracted you to the role of Alice?
Well, the attractions were manifold. Alice in Wonderland is a classic piece of literature and most of us have either read it or seen various adaptations, so that’s a huge draw initially.
And then I was sent Nick [Willing]’s script and it was incredible. Not only does it have all of the classic characters and many of the themes of the book in it, but it’s been re-imagined into this fantastic adventure and a journey of self-discovery for the character.
That was pretty hard to resist for an actor, so yes, it was attractive all the way around. And then I met Nick and he’s so irresistible. I think everyone in the cast will agree: once you meet Nick, you’re like, ‘Where do I sign?’ So that was not a tough decision.
Can you talk about some of the acting challenges once you stepped into the character?
We met in Vancouver before we started shooting and had an extensive rehearsal period where all of the challenges were brought up and explored in this safe environment. We had a lot of discussions about what we wanted to pull out of the characters and the script, so the biggest challenge was covering everything in the script.
There was this rainbow of emotions that we were playing with every day, while at the same time doing gigantic action sequences, fight scenes, horseback riding, CGI; it was quite a 360-degree workout.
What was really great about this script that Nick wrote- which is different from Lewis Carroll’s book- is that Alice in this story has a real emotional journey of her own, whereas in the book, she’s this wide-eyed young girl who’s walking through this fascinating land.
But she herself isn’t terribly fascinating. And in this version, the fascinations of the land in some ways almost act as a metaphor for the fascinations inside her personality. So there was a lot to grab onto and explore as an actor. Once you read the script, I think every actor involved was pretty thrilled to be asked to be involved.
You know, Matt Frewer and I talked about it; he’s playing the White Knight and everything is there for him. He’s funny and he’s sad and heroic and tragic. There was just so much. And with Andrew Lee Potts’ character, Hatter; every character was kind of there in the initial presentation. But as we journey through Wonderland, all of these layers start to be revealed about how they got this way and who they are and why.
When you’re working with the caliber of actors on this project, do you find yourself working that much harder to bring your performance up to a certain level?
I think so. In particular on this project, we were working with some of the best actors, whose capacity to explore humanity we’ve all witnessed over the decades. Their personas as actors are almost archetypal parts of our unconscious, at least for someone of my age.
I grew up watching Kathy Bates play these incredibly strong, multidimensional female characters, so if I was thinking about the Queen of Hearts, in my head I would ask Kathy Bates. The fact that we were working with Matt Frewer, Tim Curry, Kathy Bates who are such icons and skilled performers, I would say I walked into that situation knowing that if I kept my eyes and ears open, I would have a great deal to learn.
So yes, you absolutely show up for those days prepared, rationing your coffee and making sure that you’re on your A-Game. It’s both so that you can keep up and also so that you can learn. Because it’s so exciting to play with your craft with somebody that skilled and talented.
Are there any particular stories that you remember from the set?
Oh gosh, there were really ‘pinch me’ moments the whole time. I remember a day when we were in the woods and someone had somehow brought a barbecue into the woods. They were barbecuing hamburgers off the side of the set because it was so far to get food.
We were in the water in a 1970s James Bond speedboat with the sun setting, or riding horses across a desert with a thunderstorm going on. There was a difficult moment in the casino when we were shooting in a barn; it got to be about 150 degrees and people were dropping like flies.
But probably the favorite moment for the boys was this sexy burlesque dancer, when things sort of ground to a halt. You looked around and these fantastically talented burlesque dancers were doing this very involved routine on a mirrored stage. They were wearing feathers and sparkly things in all the right places, so if you looked around in 360 degrees, every male member of the cast and crew had their mouths open and their jaws had dropped.
It’s one of those odd, magical projects where everybody gets together and you might actually have chosen these people to hang out with in your life. It was incredibly ego-less on the set, and everyone was super-excited to get to work and play with the material. It wasn’t about the personalities; it was about the characters and story. And we had a blast.
It’s like going on a long camping trip. When you’re facing all of those tasks together, you bond in a way that’s special. And I think we had a really lucky group to do that with.