Ashley Clements and Julia Cho as Lizzie Bennet and Charlotte Lu…as Mr. & Mrs. Bennet..
I got a chance to ask Ashley Clements – aka Lizzie Bennet of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries – a few questions about acting, Austen, and adaptation. Stay tuned for our “Book Issue” this September to see the full piece, which also features actress Mary Kate Wiles (Lydia Bennet) and writer Rachel Kiley.
Cho, Clements, Wiles, and Laura Spencer as Charlotte, Lizzie, Lydia, and Jane.
Taylor Brogan: Lizzie Bennet Diaries is unlike any version of Pride & Prejudice ever produced—and unlike any other literary adaptation, to be sure. How do you feel about the multi-media format the project has taken-on? And how, if at all, do you think or hope this will impact the future of storytelling?
Ashley Clements: I think it’s fantastic and so much fun. I didn’t make the decision to present the story this way – credit for that goes to [series creators Hank Green and Bernie Su] – but I enjoy it as much as the fans. I love seeing conversations between Caroline and Darcy pop up in my Twitter feed, to see Jane’s fashion blogs, and of course I really love to see fans interacting directly with Lizzie. Transmedia is really hot right now, and you see a lot of big television shows and movies trying to jump onboard. I think The LBD is unique in that the entire experience is built around the web, and the transmedia aspects are meant to enhance the story experience, as opposed to create buzz about an upcoming project. I hope it’s something that inspires others to tell stories in interesting ways and utilize the web to create projects that might not otherwise get made.
(TB): LBD is (obviously) told primarily from Lizzie’s own perspective, but what goes into making sure the entire world of the Bennets and company is fleshed out? And do you feel like the show accomplishes that more so or less so than other adaptations?
(AC): The LBD has a great team of writers creating the transmedia aspects of the show, keeping characters alive even when you don’t see them on the vlogs. Through their Twitter accounts (primarily), Facebook and Tumblr, the characters remain active constantly, and Twitter accounts can exist before actors are even cast in those roles. (The case with Bing, Caroline, Darcy and Gigi.) It’s a way to show the audience what’s happening with characters who aren’t on Lizzie’s vlogs, and to offer their perspectives. One of the things that makes the show unique is that it’s told primarily from one character’s biased point of view, but I think that’s a really fun way to tell a well known story. In our version, the other characters get to offer their alternative views of events on twitter, by challenging Lizzie on camera (like Jane and Charlotte do) and occasionally by hijacking an episode, like Ep 15.
(AC): The show doesn’t retain everything from the book; it can’t. That’s the beauty of an adaptation. If you want the original, Jane Austen has written a really lovely, witty and hilarious book, and there are numerous films and miniseries to watch. The only way to make The Lizzie Bennet Diaries worthwhile is to offer something new. One of my favorite things about The LBD is how we adapt the story to work in the modern world, which is sometimes a little tongue-in-cheek, like @TheKittyBennet, and sometimes offers a fresh take, like Charlotte’s arc [which has yet to pan out]. From my earliest knowledge of the project I was eager to find out how some important plot elements would be updated, and so far I think the writers are doing a really wonderful job. I’m as excited as the viewers to see how certain iconic scenes will play out.
MK Wiles and Briana Cuoco as Lydia and Mary Bennet, with “Kitty” in tow.
(TB): As an actress, how much are you able to bring to Lizzie’s character, and how much is given to you? What sources have you drawn on to inform your acting decisions?
(AC): Great question. Lizzie is very well written, so on one hand, Lizzie is all on the page. But I saw the other actresses in the final casting considerations for Lizzie, and they had interpretations totally unlike mine. Once I was cast, dialogue that had been written was tweaked to fit me, and new episodes have all been written for me and my voice. I’m also in the really wonderful position of being listened to and trusted by Bernie, so sometimes we’ll talk about how Lizzie would react to things, or we’ll change a line I don’t like – which is not to take credit for anything the writers do. I am frequently overruled. The words are mostly the writers, and a lot of Lizzie is her words, but they could be said in many different ways, and the way I say them is the Lizzie you know. She could have been someone very different, but at this point, all of the writers and I have a real melding of the minds about Lizzie.
For the full interview with Ashley Clements, Mary Kate Wiles, and Rachel Kiley, check out our Book Issue – available now!
-Taylor Brogan, Contributing Editor