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29 October 2014
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Bleak House
Pauline Collins plays Miss Flite

Bleak House - press pack phase two Starts Thursday 27 October on BBC ONE

Pauline Collins plays Miss Flite


Miss Flite is a warm, engaging, sweet-natured woman; obsessed with the Jarndyce and Jarndyce case, and eager to meet the new wards Ada and Richard.


But there is no malice or personal gain in her interest. She simply wants to look out for them, guide them. The reason being that she was once a ward of court herself, explains Pauline Collins, who plays her.


"Despite her dishevelled appearance, she was once full of hope, youth and beauty like Ada and Richard. However, over the years the court case has worn her down; it's taken its toll on her and she's now bordering on dementia."


On first appearances, she seems to be simply a little old woman. A little eccentric, she has a large number of birds, all of which are named with words associated to the case (Hope, Joy, Youth).


She constantly twitters on at them and promises she will release them 'on the judgement day'.


"Her lovely little birds are what hold her together. I loved working with them, they were just wonderful. They always say you shouldn't work with animals, and I've worked with some very unruly ones in the past. But the birds were just so well trained, a real delight.


"There are two key scenes where you see her with the birds; at the start of series when she's naming them all and at the end when she sets them free."


It's clear, talking to Pauline, that she was very fond of her character.


"I love the fact she shows such a range of emotions - there's so much more to her than first meets the eye. She has great moments of lucidity. She's very wise and does find a way to warn the young wards about the perils of becoming too obsessed by the court case."


Pauline's look was very unique as well. She was almost unrecognisable, with her round glasses, wig of grey hair, and tattered dress and shawl.


But Pauline admits she loved her costume, despite having a few issues with the hem! "My costume was the creation of Andrea Galer, our fantastic costume designer.


"It was a pleasure to wear; however, because it was so flaky, torn and delicate I kept tripping over!


"I remember walking on to set for my first day and being bowled over by how atmospheric both the costumes and the set were.


"It was a night shoot, we were filming in a court yard in Luton Hoo, and I was surrounded by all these men playing lawyers, in stove pipe hats. You really felt like you were inhabiting another age.


"In fact it reminded me of the very first episode we shot of Upstairs, Downstairs.


"We had been working hard in a rehearsal room all day and then when were taken onto the set it was like we'd been transported back in time. It's a wonderful feeling."


Dickens was very much part of Pauline's childhood and it was partly due to her mother's love of him and her profession as a drama teacher that led Pauline to the stage.


"I was eight years old when I caught the acting bug. Mum used to run an amateur dramatics society and when one of her girls had to pull out because she was studying for her O-Levels, I stepped in. I starred in a Lancashire comedy called The Dear Departed. I loved it.


"Mum loved Dickens and often put on dramatisations of Dickens, in particular Nicolas Nickelby. She was very good at it. I guess that's where my love of his work started.


"Dickens created such fantastic characters, most of which he named in reflection of their interests, such as Miss Flite because of her love of birds. The characters are so well–rounded and so popular.


"I think it's partly the strength of the stories that is behind our love of classics and the constant need to revive them. Almost everyone can name, or knows of, a Dickens character.


"I think the period from Dickensian England up until the Second World War will always be of interest. We've all been told stories related to these times by our parents, grandparents; so it still feels like it was only yesterday. Well to some of us at least!


"I think that's why the BBC's decision to adapt Bleak House in half-hour episodes is such a brilliant, brave idea. Dickens wrote in bite-size chunks which were published twice–weekly in The Strand magazine.


"He wrote for the mass audience about social issues that everyone could relate to. And that was partly due to the fact he was a great political writer, too.


"The superb casting will also help bring people to this wonderful drama. There are so many young, attractive actors and actresses involved and there's the wonderful Johnny Vegas.


"I had a number of scenes with Johnny (he played my landlord, Krook). He's just the most adorable sweetheart."


Pauline is amused that her latest role also meant she had to don another period costume.


She has just finished filming on the set of Doctor Who, where she played Queen Victoria in an episode to be screened next spring.


It's not her first appearance in the classic series. Pauline played Samantha Briggs – almost-companion to Patrick Troughton's Doctor in 1967's The Faceless Ones.


"I can't divulge too much from the episode but it's a wonderful script and I had a wonderful time on set. There is a great atmosphere and the chemistry between David and Billie is terrific. You really can see they are great pals."



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