Maggie Gyllenhaal Sparks Political Intrigue in ‘Honourable Woman’
Maggie Gyllenhaal is sporting a British accent and taking over London as the protagonist in new television series The Honourable Woman. In the just-released trailer for BBC Two’s eight-part miniseries, the actress plays Nessa Stein, a businesswoman whose appointment to a high-profile position in the British House of Lords stirs up all kinds of political controversy and is made even more complicated by her past.
Stein’s father was a Zion arms procurer, and as a child, she and her brother witnessed his assassination. When she gets older, she inherits the multimillion-pound company and decides to take it in a new direction, using it to try to broker peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Her work toward reconciliation earns her an exclusive spot on the House of Lords, but the position causes political turmoil. The trailer doesn’t show very many details of the complicated plot, focusing mainly on a dramatic monologue from Gyllenhaal that gives viewers a sneak peek at both her new character and hew new accent.
Hugo Blick (The Shadow Line) writes and directs the series. The show, the first episode of which premiered in the U.K. last week, also features Stephen Rea, Janet McTeer, Broadchurch‘s Andrew Buchan, Episodes’ Genevieve O’Reilly, and The IT Crowd‘s Katherine Parkinson. It is set to air in the United States on Sundance TV on July 31 (minus the “u” in the title), and given the already glowing reviews from overseas, fans of political and international thrillers like Homeland may want to tune in — or at the very least, set their DVRs.
Critics have already acclaimed the show’s production design and suspenseful and engaging storyline. But the biggest praise has been for Gyllenhaal herself. While some American actors have had a more difficult time portraying a believable British actor, particularly when it comes to adopting the accent (a la Anne Hathaway in the film One Day), or vice versa, Gyllenhaal seems to have made the transition seamlessly, with reviewers lauding her “faultless British accent” and overall voice as the character of Stein.
It’s not entirely surprising, given Gyllenhaal’s long list of critical successes in the past. Her breakout role in the 2002 black comedy Secretary was highly praised and won the actress her first Golden Globe nomination. She followed that up by playing a supporting role to Julia Roberts in 2003’s Mona Lisa Smile and appeared in 2008’s The Black Knight. But Gyllenhaal is at her best in indie films like 2006 drama Sherrybaby, in which she played a recovering heroin addict, as well as 2009’s Crazy Heart, in which her performance as a young journalist in a relationship with an aging country singer (Jeff Bridges) earned her an Oscar nomination.
This is her first role on a television series, though, and it’s noteworthy that she chose a British show, particularly as she’s not the only actress as of late to head to the U.K. to make a mark on the small screen. As Deadline points out, Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss earned critical praise last year for her participation in the miniseries Top of the Lake and Gillian Anderson starred in British crime drama The Fall in 2013. But Gyllenhaal could be the one to take her U.K. experience to the next level.
In fact, she’s already lined up another gig in which she’ll again be displaying her British accent, this time opposite Ewan McGregor in her Broadway debut in the play The Real Thing. She’s also reportedly gunning for a role on Downton Abbey – an offer that may turn out to be very appealing to the brains behind the show, should they catch sight of The Honourable Woman trailer.