Lansbury, 92, who plays crusty Aunt March in PBS’ new adaptation of “Little Women,” advised newcomers to learn everything possible about the character they’re playing and “don’t just go out there and spout words.”
Actors who fail to approach their work thoughtfully will end up “a flash in the pan,” Lansbury said during a Q&A session with TV critics Tuesday.
“It’s terribly important to get out of yourself and into that character. Leave yourself at home,” she said.
The two-part version of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel, debuting May 13 on PBS’ “Masterpiece” showcase, stars Maya Hawke, daughter of Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, in her screen debut. She plays aspiring writer Jo March.
Hawke called it a “huge gift and a huge honor” to work with Lansbury and Emily Watson, who plays Jo’s mother, Marmee.
Lansbury knows what it’s like to be a novice amid big names: She was on the brink of turning 18 when she began working on her debut film, “Gaslight” (1944) with Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer and directed by George Cukor.
The stars were generous with their advice, while Cukor provided another kind of learning experience.
Lansbury said she was late coming back from a lunch break to be confronted by Cukor.
“‘How dare you be late? How dare you keep this casting waiting?'” Lansbury recalled him asking. “I hadn’t realized the strict rules of the road.”
“Gaslight” earned her the first of three Oscar nominations, and she received an honorary trophy in 2014. Her long-running role in TV’s “Murder, She Wrote,” earned her multiple Emmy nods.
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