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  M.   September 04, 2008

The BBC’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles website is now ‘live’ with content, including an interview with our girl Gemma.

Gemma Arterton plays Tess

Gemma Arterton brings to life Hardy’s beautiful, iconic heroine, Tess Durbeyfield, the eldest daughter of a poor rural working family; a fresh, pretty country girl with a good heart and a sensitive soul.

However, Gemma explains this isn’t her first foray into the world of Tess: “I played the character of Hope, Tess’s younger sister, in a school play.

“Coming to the drama again almost 10 years later is a very different experience. I was too young to really understand it first time around.

“Tess is a straightforward country girl, very pretty, but unaware of her beauty. Although people chip away at her life, she grows stronger, which is the incredible thing about her. I definitely didn’t want to play her as a victim.”

Clearly a wonderful part for any actress, Gemma explains what attracted her to the role.

“I was attracted to the role because stripped down, it’s such a basic story about love and missed opportunities, everyone can relate to it.

“If only Angel had asked Tess to dance with him. It’s also just brilliant, brilliant storytelling. Whether you’re into tragedy or not, it grips you, because you’re with Tess the whole time.”

In terms of how to approach the character of Tess, Gemma lent from her own experiences.

“I’m from a working class background and always felt, Tess would have had this awkwardness to her, particularly as she’s put in a situation, she’s not comfortable with. She’d have found it intimidating.

“What makes the story so intriguing is every character has its faults and there are different elements to Tess too, that’s why people like her, they can relate to her today.”

Gemma, who came to public attention last summer, when she was cast in Bond, Quantum Of Solace and also appeared in the recent update of the film comedy, St Trinian’s, says: “This is my first real period piece and the petticoats and hair extensions made me feel really girly and vulnerable.

“I love period features and researching the period is really interesting, feeling it’s all part of our history.”

The production filmed on location in Somerset, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Dorset, for three months earlier this year, with a large percentage of scenes filmed outside, reflecting Hardy’s love of nature and the seasons.

“The locations and views were stunning, my parents came to visit me on set and were like, ‘Wow! The scale of it’.

“The landscapes are characters in themselves and just as important as the time scales and time of the year, it has a sort of a feel of a Western to it.”

A city girl at heart, Gemma immersed herself in all things rural, by learning several new skills.

“I’m a complete city girl, but working with the animals was a real experience, I learnt to milk a cow and a goat, the woman on the farm thought I was a natural.

“Having the animals there is an effort when you’re filming, but it makes all the difference to the final look.

“Swede hacking was definitely the most gruelling. It brings home the tough conditions people had to work in then, it’s a sobering thought.

“Really strange things happened on set, the weather kept changing to suit the scene, a character would say ‘on a clear day you can see vales and great dairies’ and all of a sudden the mist would clear and the sun come out!

“All very weird but as we filmed so much outside, it was a dream.”

Along with strange weather conditions the production received a set back when an arson attack destroyed the majority of costumes.

“I hope everybody appreciates the amazing job the costume department did following the arson attack, they went to great efforts to produce new costumes, which they managed to turn around in a week, so we could continue filming.

“The costume designer, James Keast, should receive a special BAFTA award for resilience.”

Gemma concludes that this is a dream come true: “I’m really proud of it and it’s the best job I’ve ever done. Tess is such an iconic figure. You might love it or hate it but you can’t help but be moved by the drama.”

Source: BBC Press Office