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More British Imports

By Alyssa Rosenberg

"More British Imports"

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S. Epatha Merkerson getting cast in a new television show post Law & Order is good news. Learning that Jennifer Ehle will be co-starring in that same series is better news of a whole different magnitude (Although her character is going to be, um, dead. Which is not entirely satisfactory.). It’s not that I’m indifferent to Merkerson’s continued employment: I think she’s a marvelous actress, and I wonder what her career would have been like had she not invested so much of it in Law & Order. But Ehle’s just astonishing, and she’s never really gotten the attention she so richly deserves on this side of the pond.

She’s probably best known for her performance as Elizabeth Bennet in the miniseries adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. I know some people who find her a bit too controlled and not quite playful enough for the role here, but I think she’s very convincingly of another time while remaining relatable and compelling to contemporary audiences.

But the role I might like her best in is Posession, where she plays a passionate bisexual poet:

She’s sexually compelling in the movie while never losing an ounce of her intellectual and artistic seriousness. And we all know how incredibly difficult it is for a Hollywood movie to pull that off.

My mother actually complained about how frumpy she was made to look in The King’s Speech:

It’s not that she’s not good in the role, she is, but she’s definitely a retiring British lady, she’s meant to illustrate the nation’s attitude towards the monarchy, rather than to be a person.

All of which is to say I think she’s magnificent, and I hope that being cast as Patrick Wilson’s wife gives her a chance to use her full range. I’d hate for her to be just a doctor’s spouse in the background. Wilson deserves a good foil. Ehle can challenge him, maybe even outact him.

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