Tag Archives: The Fall

Women who walk the global stage

Gillian Anderson in The Fall
Gillian Anderson in The Fall

Ever since she first portrayed Agent Dana Scully in The X-Files, Gillian Anderson has been one of the world’s best-loved and most accomplished TV actresses.

Equally at home in costume dramas (Great Expectations, War & Peace) and contemporary thrillers (Hannibal), Anderson always turns in good performances and attracts strong ratings. Right now, she is winning yet more acclaim for her performance as DSI Stella Gibson in BBC drama The Fall. Next year, she will feature in Starz’ adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel American Gods.

One of the most notable characteristics of Anderson’s career is her appeal to audiences around the world. So this week, to celebrate Anderson’s latest outing, we look at a group of TV actresses who have broken through internationally – or are about to do so.

Maslany-orphan-black-orphan-blackTatiana Maslany is a Canadian actress who has came to prominence with clone drama Orphan Black, which will end in 2017 after five seasons. This year, she took home an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. One of the most exciting things about Maslany’s work in Orphan Black is that she has had to play multiple characters with distinctive personalities and traits – thus proving her versatility. Her next two projects are movies, one of which, Stronger, is about the Boston Marathon bombing. She has also expressed a desire to do more theatre. But when she returns to TV it will inevitably be something special.

perroni-la-gataMaite Perroni is a telenovela star with more than three million Twitter followers. She shot to stardom a decade ago when she featured in Rebelde, the Mexican remake of Argentine telenovela Rebelde Way. By 2009, she had been named the new queen of telenovelas by Univision and continues to perform at the top of her game. Perroni has now starred in seven telenovelas, including acclaimed series La Gata. More recently she has starred in Televisa’s hit series Antes Muerta Que Lichita (I’d Rather Be Dead than Plain), for which she won a high-profile Best Lead Actress Award.

sofiegrabolSofie Grabol’s breakthrough in Denmark came courtesy of series like Taxa and Nikolai and Julie. But her status as one of the world’s top TV actresses was confirmed when she played Detective Sarah Lund in The Killing (Forbrydelsen). Over the course of three seasons (2007-2012), she was a major factor in the success of Nordic noir around the world. Illness took her off TV in 2013 but she made a welcome return in 2014 as Hildur Odegard in English-language drama Fortitude. She will be back for season two of Fortitude, which is due to air on Sky Atlantic soon.

miriam-leone-non-uccidere-replicaMiriam Leone was crowned Miss Italia in 2008. But since then, the Sicilian actress has gone on to become one of Italy’s best-known TV actresses. Key credits include Distretto Di Polizia, The Veiled Lady, 1992 and Non Uccidere, in which she plays female detective Valeria Ferro. Leone also appears in one episode of the forthcoming drama epic Medici: Masters of Florence, a production that will introduce her to the wider world of TV.

Happy-ValleySarah Lancashire must surely qualify for the “national treasure” status that has previously been bestowed on British actresses such as Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith and Judi Dench. Her electrifying performance in the BBC crime drama Happy Valley is the crowning achievement in a career that stretches back to the 1980s. Her first big role was as Raquel Wolstenhulme in Coronation Street – a part that displayed her comic genius. Subsequently, she has appeared in dozens of shows including Clocking Off, Rose & Maloney, The Paradise and Last Tango in Halifax. Although Happy Valley wasn’t set up to be an international series, its success in distribution proves Lancashire has a fanbase that extends well beyond the UK.

hellin-the-bridgeSofia Helin’s performance as Saga Noren in The Bridge is one of the most admired pieces of TV acting of recent years. The Swedish-Danish coproduction, which has been aired around the world, currently runs to three seasons and Helin will be back for a fourth (and probably final) outing. Prior to The Bridge, Helin’s main credits were series such as Arn: The Knight Templar and Svaleskar. Even if The Bridge is over, the good news is that Helin will be seen again in Oliver Hirschbiegel’s new drama The Same Sky, which is set in Berlin in the 1970s. She will also be seen in The Snowman, a British movie adaptation of Jo Nesbo’s classic Harry Hole novel.

Scandal-pic-season-2-pic-7WashingtonKerry Washington carved out a superb movie career (Ray, The Last King of Scotland, Django Unchained) before coming to prominence as a TV actress in the ABC drama Scandal. As political fixer Olivia Pope, she has been nominated for two Primetime Emmys and a Golden Globe. Washington’s versatility as an actress was further demonstrated when she played Anita Hill in HBO’s 2016 TV movie Confirmation. Again, she received an Emmy nomination. In April 2016, her production company Simpson Street signed an overall deal with ABC Studios, though there is no news yet on projects. “Kerry Washington is not only a great actress but a smart, creative producer, and we’re thrilled to have her production company Simpson Street as part of ABC Studios,” said Patrick Moran, executive VP of ABC Studios. “We’re looking forward to making great TV with Kerry in front of and behind the camera.”

rebeccagibneyRebecca Gibney is a New Zealand-born actress who has carved out a successful career on Australian TV over the last three decades. Key credits include The Flying Doctors, Halifax f.p., Packed to the Rafters and, most recently, Wanted. In Wanted, Gibney and co-star Geraldine Hakewill play two strangers from very different backgrounds who are caught up in a deadly carjacking. They’re then forced to rely on each other as they go on the run. The six-part series rated pretty well in February/March 2016 and has been picked up for a second season (also six parts).

The-Tunnel-Intro-02-16x9-1Clemence Poesy is still known to many as a cute French girl from the Harry Potter movies. But she proved her prowess as a serious actress when she starred in The Tunnel, the Anglo-French remake of The Bridge. Trying to compete with Sofia Helin’s performance was a tough ask, but Poesy pulls it off beautifully as Elise Wasserman. She reprised the role of Elise this year in a second series of The Tunnel. Next up are two movies, Final Portrait and Demain Tout Commence. There’s no news yet of future TV plans. Previous TV credits include Birdsong, an adaptation of Sebastian Faulks’ novel where she played opposite Eddie Redmayne.

ku_damm_56-michelsen-centreClaudia Michelsen is a well-known German actress who recently impressed in Ku’damm 56, a TV miniseries produced by UFA for ZDF. After attracting an audience in excess of six million, the 1950s set series has been recommissioned (Ku’damm 59). Michelsen (pictured centre) has been consistently busy since the late 1980s on both TV movies and series. For much of the last decade she featured in the popular crime drama series Tatort. More recent credits include Flemming, Block B Under Arrest and Crossing Lines. She also appears in the first episodes of new Epix drama Berlin Station.

pauleypPauley Perrette plays eccentric forensic scientist Abby Sciuto on CBS hit series NCIS, making appearances in its various franchises. Prior to NCIS, she played roles in shows like Dawson’s Creek and 24. Interestingly, Perrette is one of the most popular actresses in the US when measured by Q Scores (a measurement of the familiarity and appeal of brands and celebrities that is taken very seriously by the advertising and media community). Perrette is pretty modest about her popularity and has shown no desire to quit NCIS (in fact, she has signed on for seasons 14 and 15). But when she does decide to move on, she’ll be in heavy demand.

korelBerguzar Korel has been one of Turkey’s leading actresses for much of the last decade. Her big break came in 2006 with Valley of the Wolves: Iraq. After this she had major roles in 1001 Nights (Binbir Gece) and Endless Song (Bitmeyen Sarki). A guest appearance in Magnificent Century was then followed by another triumph with ATV’s hit series Karadayi. The latter series, which aired from 2012 to 2015, saw Korel pick up a number of best actress awards.

Choi-Ji-WooChoi Ji-woo is known around the world for acclaimed Korean dramas such as Beautiful Days (2001) and Winter Sonata (2002). But she is still very much in business, starring in recent series such as Twenty Again (2015) and Woman With a Suitcase (2016). In the latter, which started airing in September, she plays a woman who goes from being a disgraced manager at a law office to a great attorney. Like all the greats, Choi Ji-woo is very versatile, equally comfortable taking on serious, romantic or comedic roles.

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Women re-energise crime drama

Marcella
Anna Friel in ITV’s Marcella, which looks set to get a second season

In honour of ITV’s Brit noir series Marcella, DQ looks at some of the women detectives who have helped reinvigorate a genre that used to be the preserve of cantankerous middle-aged men.

When ITV launched the excellent Prime Suspect in 1991, female coppers were still a novelty on UK television. But these days it seems as though the entire police system is in the hands of no-nonsense women taking on a world of desensitised or deranged male bastards.

When they aren’t dealing with criminals, they generally have to contend with the fact that their husbands and colleagues are also a) psychotic, b) philanderers or c) perversely obstructive.

 Sergeant Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire) in Happy Valley
Sergeant Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire) in Happy Valley

For the most part, the female cop formula seems to be working, with little indication as yet that the UK audience is getting bored by it.

Despite its various structural flaws, ITV’s Marcella, starring Anna Friel, has just finished its eight-part run with a solid audience of around five million and looks like a decent bet for a season two renewal.

Other female cops who have secured a strong fanbase include DS Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) in Broadchurch, Sergeant Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire) in Happy Valley, DI Lindsay Denton (Keeley Hawes) in Line of Duty and Superintendent Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) in The Fall, which returns for a third season this year.

And it doesn’t end there. Other female crimefighters include the cast of Channel 4’s No Offence and Detectives Janet Scott and Rachel Bailey in ITV’s Scott & Bailey. The latter, which starred Lesley Sharp and Suranne Jones, finished this April.

Saga Noren (Sofia Helin) in Danish/Swedish drama The Bridge
Saga Noren (Sofia Helin) in Danish/Swedish drama The Bridge

Without exception, all of these shows have achieved good to great ratings. Sometimes this is down to the writing, but more often than not it feels as though the real secret of their success is the quality of the female leads. All of the above shows have been graced with exceptional acting performances that make you stay loyal even if the wider production starts to lose its direction.

Based on IMDb scores, Marcella doesn’t actually fare that well, scoring 7.1. This is probably a reflection of the gaps in the plot, which caused a lot of angst on social media platforms like Twitter. Much stronger are shows like Happy Valley, Broadchurch, The Fall and Line of Duty, which achieved scores in the 8.3 to 8.5 range.

Sandra Winckler (Marie Dompnier) in Witnesses
Sandra Winckler (Marie Dompnier) in France Télévisions’ Witnesses

With the general success of female cops, it’s no surprise that ITV is going back to its Prime Suspect franchise with Tennison. This show, from Lynda La Plante, imagines the central character, Jane Tennison, as a young woman starting out on her career. Set in Hackney in the 1970s, it recreates a world where women police constables are treated with suspicion by their male colleagues.

The female cop theme is not, of course, restricted to the UK. It has played a big part in the emergence of Nordic noir as a global force. Writer Hans Rosenfeldt, who gaves us Marcella, previously introduced us to Saga Noren (Sofia Helin) in his acclaimed Danish/Swedish copro The Bridge. And this then gave rise to UK/France copro The Tunnel, where viewers have been beguiled by feisty French cop Elise Wassermann (Clemence Poesy).

Equally important has been Danish broadcaster DR’s The Killing, which saw Sofie Grabol playing DI Sarah Lund. This was adapted for the US, where Grabol’s role was played by Mireille Enos as Sarah Linden.

Charlotte Lindholm in ARD’s long-running crime franchise Tatort, set in Hanover
Charlotte Lindholm in ARD’s long-running crime franchise Tatort, set in Hanover

In France, meanwhile, audiences on public broadcaster France Télévisions have recently been introduced to Sandra Winckler (Marie Dompnier) in Witnesses (Les Temoins). More mainstream is Candice Renoir, about a French police commandant, played by Cecile Bois, who solves crimes in the South of France. The show has also secured a number of sales around Europe.

The US, of course, has never been afraid to place female cops on the frontline – think back to Cagney & Lacey or Angie Dickinson as Sergeant ‘Pepper’ Anderson in Police Woman. More recently the mantle of number one tough female cop has been taken up by Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) in NBC’s long-running procedural Law & Order: SVU. The character of Benson has appeared in 385 episodes of the show and risen to become commanding officer of the SVU division.

Jennifer Lopez in Shades of Blue
Jennifer Lopez plays an single-mother NYPD cop in Shades of Blue

Angie Harmon, as Jane Rizzoli in TNT’s Rizzoli & Isles, is another who deserves to be given a medal for services to the TV industry. Among the new female cops is Harlee Santos, a single-mother NYPD detective played by Jennifer Lopez in Shades of Blue.

Countries where female cops are not so prominent include Germany and Italy, where the chaps still get to solve most crimes. But even here there are a few exceptions.

One is Charlotte Lindholm, a detective in the Hanover-set production of ARD’s long-running crime franchise Tatort. She has been played by Maria Furtwangler since 2002, making her something of a German TV icon. Italy, meanwhile, gave us Donna Detective, in which Detective Lisa Milani (played by Lucrezia Lante Della Rovere) requests a desk job in a small town outside of Rome in order to spend more time with her family. As luck would have it, she gets called back to assist with a major case and is placed in charge of an entire investigative squad in the capital.

The Fall Stella-Gibson
Gillian Anderson returns for a third season of The Fall this year

The clear message from all of the above is that female cops have reinvigorated the detective genre, creating a new kind of character-based complexity around ideas like work-family balance, competing in what is perceived to be a man’s world, tackling problems from a female perspective and demonstrating skill sets that run counter to traditional assumptions.

What’s missing, perhaps, is a black or Asian female lead. There have been fleeting sightings (in US shows like Southland, The Wire, Rogue and Deception). But as yet there is nothing comparable to the breakthrough made by Idris Elba in BBC hit series Luther.

Given the recent strength of British broadcasters in the female cop genre, this is an area where they should really bite the bullet.

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