Death Comes to Pemberley's Jenna Coleman: "It's been very liberating to escape Doctor Who"

The actress reveals the joys of playing hysterical Lydia Wickham, dressing up in period costume and why her grandma will be happy on Christmas Day

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Death Comes to Pemberley's Jenna Coleman: "It's been very liberating to escape Doctor Who"
Written By
Susanna Lazarus

Jenna Coleman is set to dominate the television schedules this Christmas. Not only is she a headline act in Doctor Who's festive special (and Matt Smith's swansong), but she's also taking on the iconic role of Lydia Wickham in BBC1's big-budget adaptation of PD James's Death Comes to Pemberley.

"I'm going to be annoying a lot of people come Christmas," she laughs, "but my grandma will be very happy on Christmas Day." So, how has she found her first major dramatic role since Doctor Who and Clara Oswald catapulted her into the media spotlight? "It's been very liberating. It's a completely different period and the first day I got to scream very loudly. I've been hysterical for quite a while, it's great fun." 

Death Comes to Pemberley picks up six years after Pride and Prejudice left off, with a "hysterical" Lydia turning up unannounced at the Darcy's home after fleeing the scene of a murder. Her wayward husband - Wickham - is the prime suspect as James injects a dose of crime into Jane Austen's 19th century social politics.

Needless to say, the Wickhams bear all their familiar flaws, with their reappearance at Pemberley driving a wedge between the seemingly impenetrable Darcys. But, according to Coleman, Lizzie's frivolous sister shares a stronger bond with her husband than Austen readers may think. "They're quite each other's equals in lots of ways. They like to gamble and travel and party together and they live this loud, outrageous lifestyle. 

"What is nice in this script in particular is they do have their moments of tenderness. It's not a completely dysfunctional relationship, although Wickham, I'm sure, gets quite tired of Lydia and her hysteria. I think she's besotted with him. It's 'dear Wickham'. He cannot do anything wrong in her eyes."

Playing Wickham is Matthew Goode - who Coleman starred opposite earlier this year in Stephen Poliakoff's jazzy drama Dancing on the Edge. "I've risen in the levels from assistant to wife," jokes Coleman. "More clothes on!" adds her co-star, with a cheeky grin. 

And while Clara Oswald does her fair share of time travelling, Coleman is relishing the opportunity to dress the part in Pemberley. "I absolutely love it. I've been in my element. Lydia likes to shop so I've had an extraordinary amount of costume changes and great hats." 

Death Comes to Pemberley begins on Boxing Day at 8:15pm on BBC1


 


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