Ruth Wilson Portrayed Her Real-Life Grandmother in ‘Mrs. Wilson’

When you think about it, celebrities playing their relatives in major films isn’t too surprising since no one knows them better or looks more like them in most cases. After all, there’s no better setup in the industry, really. What you don’t hear about are the challenges behind playing someone you’re so close to, living their lives prior to your own. For Ruth Wilson, this was the case.

She took on the role of her real-life grandmother in Mrs. Wilson and bringing her family’s story to life. 

Ruth Wilson made her acting debut as Jane Eyre

Ruth Wilson
Ruth Wilson | Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

Wilson is a three-time award-winning actress widely known for her more recent roles as Alice Morgan in Luther and Alison Bailey in The Affair. However, it was her role as Jane Eyre in a TV mini-series of the same name that debuted her talent and started her career. 

From there, she took on roles like Katrina in Locke, Margaret Goff in Saving Mr. Banks, and of course, Allison Wilson in Mrs. Wilson.

That’s not it for this talented actress, though. She also has three projects in the works, with The Book of Ruth in pre-production, True Things About Me in post-production, and an untitled murder mystery in post-production.

‘Mrs. Wilson’ and her role in it

Since the premiere of Mrs. Wilson, Wilson has always been very open about growing up without any mention of her grandfather and the story behind his secret polygamy — no one ever talked about the story behind it.

That was until the cat was out of the bag with her first and second memoir, detailing the heartbreak and challenge of finding out her husband had another wife and children — an emotional distress that was only ever brought to peace through her strong faith.

In the film Mrs. Wilson, however, Wilson played her grandmother, Allison Wilson — including scenes where she found out about two more wives and more children despite them not coming out until after her death. Ruth saw this as a great way to showcase her grandmother’s strength and courage in the film as she battled the truth or lack thereof from her husband. 

“I suppose my name, my work was getting recognized elsewhere, so I wanted to put something on in making this a reality,” Wilson told Entertainment Weekly. “Then me playing it, well… it felt like that was just the most obvious way to go, that I’d end up doing it through my grandmother’s eyes. I felt the only way I could protect her was by playing her in some way.”

She jokes she has ‘to go to therapy’ after playing her grandmother

There’s no denying the challenge that lies in playing a relative in a film, especially when that relative was your grandmother who was wrapped up in a marriage that proved to be one of four her husband was a part of. Talk about emotional turmoil at its finest.

Nonetheless, Wilson got the job done with much grace and talent. It was incredible how well she could bring her family’s story to life for viewers in a way that honestly didn’t paint her grandfather in a terribly bad light but highlighted the bravery of her grandmother and the other wives.

The biggest challenge of all? According to Deadline Hollywood, Ruth Wilson said the biggest challenges of portraying her grandmother were “giving birth to my own dad” and “kissing my granddad… I need to go to therapy now.” She joked that it must’ve been worse for her dad to watch, though.

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