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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 August 2006, 16:14 GMT 17:14 UK
Jane Eyre star's fast-rising fame
By Stephen Robb
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson in Jane Eyre
The new adaptation is "incredibly passionate", says Wilson
Ruth Wilson, who plays Jane Eyre in a forthcoming BBC One adaptation, says the realisation of landing the role fresh out of drama college is only just sinking in.

"I think only now is it starting to really hit what an amazing experience, and what a huge thing this might be," she says.

"During it and when I got the role, it was kind of, 'OK, get on with the job, another role. Let's do it.'

"It's suddenly hitting me now really, with all the publicity and everything like that. I am incredibly lucky to have landed this part."

The 24-year-old won the role late last year, having only graduated from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art in July.

At the time she had just one professional credit, as seductive Jewel Diamond in the Five sitcom Suburban Shootout.

And because most of the parts she was being put up for were similarly glamorous, she approached the Jane Eyre audition considering herself barely suitable for the role of the dowdy governess from Charlotte Bronte's 19th Century novel.

"But then I read the script and the script was amazing... so honest, natural and real," she says.

"It was kind of the first script that I felt really at ease with. When I was at the audition it just came so naturally to me."

I just felt really humble saying, 'I'm Ruth Wilson, I'm playing Jane Eyre'
She adds: "She's a complex, amazing character - it's a gift to be given really on your second job."

Wilson admits she was "a bit in shock" when she was told she would be joining a stellar cast including Toby Stephens, Francesca Annis, Pam Ferris and Tara Fitzgerald.

"I didn't quite believe it for a while. The first people I phoned up were my mum and dad, who were very chuffed and sort of screaming down the phone, more excited than I was."


Jane Eyre is written by Sandy Welch, who adapted the Bafta-winning version of Charles Dickens' Our Mutual Friend, and directed by Susanna White, who won for last year's Bleak House.

It was shot entirely on location in Derbyshire over 13 exhausting weeks, Wilson says.

The story is told from the point of view of the title character, meaning that apart from early sequences featuring Jane as a child, Wilson appears in every scene.

Ruth Wilson in Suburban Shootout (picture courtesy of Five)
Wilson says she wants to pursue film and theatre work
But the most nerve-wracking moment was when she first joined the rest of the cast and crew for the script read-through.

"It's everyone in this big room: BBC execs; casting directors; most of the crew; people who I've got no idea who they are. There's just 60, 70 people in a room.

"The worst thing was going round the room saying what you are doing - I just felt really humble saying, 'I'm Ruth Wilson, I'm playing Jane Eyre.'"

Just as she sensed that all eyes that day would be on the unknown actress in the starring role, Wilson is aware that critics' eyes will be too.

"They're not going to ignore me," she says.

"You wish for these roles, but you know that it's going to be judged on every level."

Star struck

With almost all her previous experience in the theatre, Wilson admits that she is still learning how to act for the screen.

"I really enjoyed the experience, I got so much out of it and I can only get better, I know I can.

"Whatever the critics say, they say - there's no point worrying too much about it."

Since completing filming in June, Wilson has immediately noticed the positive effect of the addition of Jane Eyre to her CV.

"I am going to better auditions," she says.

"People are starting to see me when they wouldn't have done before - suddenly you have done a big show and you have got a bit more standing."

She adds: "Suddenly I'm going to an audition and it's like, 'There's Tamsin Greig, I'm going to an audition with her,' and getting really star struck by people around me in the audition room."

Jane Eyre is due to be broadcast on BBC One, in four 60-minute episodes, from late September.

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