In Netflix’s “Anatomy of a Scandal,” Sienna Miller plays Sophie Whitehouse, a woman who sees her world fall away once her husband, Parliament Minister James Whitehouse (Rupert Friend), is publicly accused of assault. The legal case that threatens to destroy the couple’s reputations and lives also reveals the true aspects of their marriage and the privilege that has wrapped around them.
For Miller, there were some things she could relate to, having been in the public eye and faced her own intrusion by the UK press during the Murdoch newspaper phone hacking scandal. But there are also some similarities to her last major TV project, 2019’s “The Loudest Voice,” in which she played Beth Ailes, the wife of Fox news leader Roger Ailes.
“I’m interested in the political system in England and how privilege is sort of rewarded,” she says. “If you get that leg up in life, you’re kind of on a trajectory, that means that you will succeed. And how complicit are people within that sort of structure, and obviously dealing with rape and how difficult that is to prosecute – and who’s telling the truth and male entitlement. It just felt like it had every ingredient.
“It was a little bit meta for me, having dealt with public betrayal and press attention. There were there parts of it that were a little bit too close to the bone. But her reactions to those scenarios were so different to my own. I found that interesting in a way, the idea of being in someone else’s shoes in a kind of familiar scenario, but responding very differently. Because psychologically I’m obviously warped. I would like to put myself back into horrible moments in my life and explore them.
Last week, “Anatomy of a Scandal” ended “Bridgerton” Season 2’s reign as the No. 1 English-language TV series on Netflix. Created by David E. Kelley and Melissa James Gibson, “Anatomy of a Scandal” also stars “Downton Abbey” alum Michelle Dockery as the prosecuting barrister eager to take down James. SJ Clarkson, whose recent credits include “Jessica Jones” and “The Defenders,” directed all six one-hour episodes of the drama.
Miller spoke to the Variety Awards Circuit podcast about the impact of the real-life phone hacking scandal, as well as producing this show during COVID-19, doing TV, working on a David E. Kelley show, why perhaps she should be the next James Bond – “Jane Bond” – and more.
“Exploring Roger Ailes for me was really interesting, because I was also caught up in a Murdoch scandal,” she says. “I was part of the phone hacking in England. So it felt quite meta and interesting to be in the offices of News Corp., having my own relationship with that corporation. And the rise of Roger Ailes at that time felt fascinating with Trump. There is no Trump without Ailes. And we were in the midst of that presidency. And what a great thing to explore, Fox News and fake news and all of that stuff.
“In England is sort of there is this boys club, and you see it in our government… these things exist, and they’re ugly, in many ways. You know, ‘boys will be boys’ and different sets of rules for for different people. And in our government recently, during locked down, there was a party that happened, that the government were attending when no one else was allowed to leave their homes, and there is really no consequence to that behavior. You know, in a normal world, somebody would resign. People weren’t able to attend their parents funerals, but there was a party with wine and cheese in the middle of a lockdown. And that’s been swept under the table. I think it is time to look at the structure of things through the medium of film and television. ”
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