Tribeca Film Festival: Elizabeth McGovern on playing English matriarchs

Elizabeth-McGovern

Image Credit: Ferdaus Shamim/WireImage

In Cheerful Weather for the Wedding — the kind of fun, exceedingly British film where the humor is the only thing drier than the Sunday roast — Elizabeth McGovern plays the matriarch of an English estate during the early half of the 20th-century trying to make sure her daughter gets married to the right man. Now if that sounds familiar, that means you’re a fan of Downton Abbey, in which McGovern plays Lady Grantham, the show’s Made-in-the-USA queen of the castle.

“It’s definitely in a style, a riff, that’s reminiscent of Downton,” says McGovern, who sports an English accent in the film. “And it’s great if that’s what people think.”

But while we may be growing accustomed to seeing the actress in period dress — she even scored an Oscar nomination early in her career for the early 1900s-set Ragtime — McGovern says that’s never an issue when she’s considering projects. “I don’t actually really think about it one way or another,” she says. “For me it’s the story and the characters, and whether or not it’s period is secondary.”

She originally hails from America — like her Downton character — but McGovern has resided in the U.K. for the last two decades, living with her husband — My Week With Marilyn director Simon Curtis. The couple has two daughters, which McGovern says aids her when it comes to playing a mother. “It does help,” she says. “I’ve been rehearsing my looks of exasperation for 18 years.”

Cheerful Weather for the Wedding also stars Felicity Jones and Luke Treadaway and tells a story of secret romance, familial infighting, and two heaping helpings of quiet desperation. It’s kind of like methadone for Downton junkies who just can’t wait for the next season, which, coincidentally, McGovern is currently shooting.

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