‘Flowers in the Attic: The Origin’ Cast Members Jemima Rooper, Max Irons Call Olivia, Malcolm ‘Monsters’

The new Lifetime series Flowers in the Attic: The Origin will explain how Olivia Winfield became the woman Ellen Burstyn played in the V.C. Andrews movies. Based on the book Garden of Shadows, the prequel depicts young Olivia (Jemima Rooper)’s marriage to Malcolm Foxworth (Max Irons). Irons and Rooper agree their characters are monsters, but it’s a little more complicated. 

'Flowers in the Attic: The Origin' - Max Irons stands behind Jemima Rooper in the rain as they play monsters
Jemima Rooper and Max Irons | Lifetime

Rooper and Irons were on a Television Critics Association panel to discuss Flowers in the Attic: The Origin on Feb. 2. Flowers in the Attic: The Origin premieres July 9 at 9 p.m. on Lifetime. 

Who is Olivia Winfield in the ‘Flowers in the Attic’ family?

In the present, Olivia takes in her grandchildren (Kiernan Shipka, Mason Dye) when their father dies. Their mother, Corinne (Heather Graham), leaves the children with Olivia, who locks them in the attic. Rooper acknowledged the monstrous act, but said Flowers in the Attic: The Origin would explain how Olivia got that way. 

“I then read Flowers in the Attic before we started shooting to try and get an idea,” Rooper said. “And I love our project. I love that we get to find out a little bit why this woman has ended up so extreme. And I think it’s a sort of brilliant and believable explanation as to what makes a monster or someone to behave monstrously. It’s not black and white and that’s really interesting. The part is a total gift. So I only have amazing things to say about Olivia Winfield.”

Malcolm Foxworth turned Olivia Winfield to the dark side

Fans who read Garden of Shadows know how marrying into the Foxworth family corrupted Olivia. Irons acknowledged Malcolm’s evil.

“The sort of morbid curiosity in me, it drew me in,” Irons said. “And I think that that’s what a lot of people feel about V.C. Andrews and these books. As for playing these characters, okay, Malcolm is a bit of a monster. He’s a megalomaniac, he’s a narcissist, he’s psychopathic at moments. But it’s my job not to judge him. It’s to ask why he is the way he is, why he responds to the world the way he does. And that for an actor is an interesting question.”

‘Flowers in the Attic: The Origin’ makes Olivia and Malcolm sympathetic 

At least early in Flowers in the Attic: The Origin, Olivia has not become a monster yet. 

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“From the scripts as they are, I don’t see the monster,” Rooper said. “I see she’s just misunderstood. I completely sort of sympathize with Olivia up until maybe the last episode possibly. It’s maybe different for you, Max, than for me. Probably Max, you had a harder journey because there wasn’t as much that was easy to see at first that was a way to sympathize with. But certainly from my point of view with Olivia, there’s quite the backstory and there’s a lot that happens to her, which you can see keeps pushing her down this dark path.”

Irons conceded Malcolm is still a monster, but still had a little compassion for his Flowers in the Attic: The Origin character. 

Like I said earlier, Malcolm is a monster. But it’s my job to look at Garden of Shadows, talk to [series creator] Paul [Sciarrotta], gather as much information about where this man comes from — and he is a human being after all — and discover how he’s ended up like this. His father was very absent. His mother, who was overly present during his formative years, completely suddenly abandoned him. And this was a time where therapy wasn’t a thing, that a young man would’ve been abandoned with these confusing feelings and understandings of the world around him, and to draw his own conclusion. While Malcolm is a monster, he is dealing with the world on the world’s terms from his perspective. And I think that’s how we have to look at it as an actor.

Max Irons, Television Critics Association panel, 2/2/22

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