A-list actress Liv Tyler is no stranger to the silver screen. Recently, she’s starred in hit fantasy series The Leftovers, as well as Gunpowder, created by Kit Harington. Now, she’s taking on the role of heiress Lady Fitzwilliam in the second season of Showmax’s daring period drama, Harlots.
Tell us about your character in Harlots. What can we expect from her?
I play Lady Fitzwilliam, a very sophisticated, high-society woman who lives with her brother. She and her brother have a complex, quite twisted relationship. Lady Fitz forms a friendship with Charlotte Wells, a harlot from an upmarket brothel, and they share a beautiful connection in a lot of ways. I think my character’s quite lonely because she’s been living in this very isolated world. She’s drawn to the brothel women because, even though they’re quite poor and don’t have many material things, they have a sense of freedom – they’re running their own lives. My character is trapped by her society and her status, so she can’t be herself.
What drove you to doing this role?
I moved to England with my fiancé and two young children [Sailor Gene, three, and Lula Rose, two] and for some reason, after I had Lula, I was feeling quite brave – I wanted to carry on working. After the birth of my first child, I didn’t really work for a year because I wanted to just be with him, but this time I thought, “No, I’m going to do everything. I’m going to be a mom and I’m going to work… in a wig, with an English accent!” It’s been really challenging and fun to be part of this project.
Your costumes are beautiful, but they look unwieldy. Is it difficult to move around in them?
My dresses are very grand, very big around the hips. I wear a metal cage underneath that makes it impossible to walk through doors in the normal fashion – I have to go through sideways, like a crab. It’s quite funny actually. When I get home and change into my tracksuit pants, I’m grateful for the freedoms of modern dressing.
How long did it take to transform yourself into Lady Fitz?
It was 90 minutes in hair and make-up, because the wig took a long time to do. Then, about 30 minutes to dress. It’s fun, because it’s all part of the process of becoming your character. You get used to it.
The show is written, produced and directed by women, with a mainly female cast. What was it like having that feminine perspective?
It was great – I was really excited to be part of this team. It’s wonderful to play a character that’s been written by a woman, because you really get to be inside her head and discover what she’s thinking. Often, in my career, I’ve been one of the only women in an ensemble piece, like Lord of the Rings or Armageddon.
So, what’s next?
I must say, I’d like to do something in my own accent! I’ve been wearing a corset and speaking with an English accent for a while now, which has been really fun, but I’m looking forward to finding a film where I can have my own voice.
Never watched Harlots before? Here’s what you need to know about the series…
- It’s set in London in the 18th Century.
- It follows the story of two rival brothel-owners, Margaret Wells [Samantha Morton] and Lydia Quigley [Lesley Manville] who’ll stop at nothing to protect their businesses and succeed in the sex industry.
- There are loads of plot twists and shocking revelations, all played out against the backdrop of Georgian-era Soho’s most lavish houses.
- The show’s creators took inspiration from Hallie Rubenhold’s 2005 book The Covent Garden Ladies, which essentially provides a guide to prostitutes working in London from 1757 to 1795 – fodder for someone looking for honest, female stories.
- Yes, it’s raunchy at times, but it’s really about female empowerment and freedom in a notoriously male-dominated era.
Liv stars in the second season of Harlots, streaming on Showmax from Monday 10 September.
Compiled by Features Editor, Stephanie van der Plank