“I’d never done a death scene. I didn’t really know where to begin,” reveals Lily Collins about her role as Fantine on “Les Miserables.” “It was my second day of filming,” the actress explains “Everyone was very respectful. I really appreciated the crew on this because there’s so many moments that Fantine goes through where I truly had to be the most vulnerable as an actor that I have ever been and just be completely in the moment with no sense of vanity. I was really nervous on my second day, so I got to work my way back to life.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Collins above.
The PBS Masterpiece co-production with the BBC has been a critical hit stateside, as a fresh re-telling of the iconic Victor Hugo novel, this time without the musical numbers made famous by the many previous musical iterations, including the Broadway smash and the recent Oscar winning film adaptation. The limited series also stars Dominic West as Valjean and David Oyelowo as Javert.
Collins was keen to take on the role of Fantine, who faces extreme adversity as a young woman desperate to make a living in post-revolution France to keep her illegitimate daughter Cosette well cared for. Her story is the spark that drives the hero of the story, former convict Valjean, to continue her legacy by looking after Cosette after Fantine’s untimely and tragic death.
“Even though she dies, her legacy and the spark she gives to Jean Valjean lives throughout the rest of the series,” Collins says in explaining why audiences often take to this character so profoundly. “It’s because of her love and passion and dedication to her daughter Cosette that Valjean is able to seek redemption in a way. Because of his contact with Fantine and what he views in her and how he entrusts himself to her to take care of Cosette, that relationship between him and Fantine really carries him throughout the rest of the story and what ultimately gives Cosette a better life.”
“It’s proof that even though you may not make the mark that you wish to see in the world or in your own life or in other people’s lives while you’re on the planet, you don’t know what your legacy will continue to do for others and it allows us to feel a sense of hope that when we’re not here anymore, our desires, our passions, our hopes and dreams can live on in other ways and we all want to associate with that,” she says. “She’s a ray of light even in the darkest times of the story and she’s the epitome of love and of hope and she’s an optimist and wants to see the best in people and I think that is something we all want to hold on to in our lives in this day and age, whether it’s with people that we love romantically, our family, our friends, I think it is something we can all relate to at some level. You just never know the impact you’re going to have on people.”
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