The 1979 novel Flow
As the siblings remained locked in an attic, their grandmother proves to be their greatest nemesis, treating them cruelly at ever turn.
Now, in a prequel to the novel, which has sold over forty million copies, spawned numerous sequels and two movies, the evolution of Olivia Winfield unfolds, outlining her journey from a young, innocent wife to becoming the aforementioned ghastly grandmother.
The four-part series Flowers in the Attic: The Origin delves into the early life of Olivia, who after marrying the handsome, charismatic Malcolm Foxworth, finds that what she thought would be an idyllic life is actually a nightmare.
In the series, Jemima Rooper plays Olivia with Max Irons as Malcolm. The cast also includes Kelsey Grammer, Harry Hamlin, Paul Wesley, Kate Mulgrew, Alana Boden, Hannah Dodd, T’Shan Williams, and Luke Fetherston.
Executive producer Paul Sciarrotta says that to ensure authenticity in the series he worked closely with writer Andrew Neiderman, who took over the book series after V.C. Andrews’ passing in 1986.
Sciarrotta says about Neiderman, “it’s been a valuable resource to have him on speed dial all the time, I would call him if I [was] ever unsure about a story point. He has his finger on the pulse of all things [in the V.C. world] so I was very lucky to have him be a part of the project.”
Rooper says that while she personally feels very far removed from the stone-hearted Olivia, the character was ‘so vivid on the page’ that she never had any questions as how to play her. She credits Sciarrotta’s writing for this.
She adds, “there’s something about playing Olivia that for me was incredibly empowering.”
While Rooper’s character shows a fair amount of naivete in the beginning of the series, Irons’ Malcolm, while suave and seemingly kind at the outset of the story, quite quickly transforms into someone with an extremely harsh personality.
To settle into playing such a cruel character, Irons says that he rationalized that, “when a person is evil, they don’t wander around thinking they’re evil.”
He further explains that his character suffer great trauma but received no help to cope. “Malcolm was just left to figure it out. And he didn’t figure it out. He didn’t do a good job, but he did so in a way that enabled him to survive. And that’s how I have to look at Malcolm.”
Irons admits that he took the job of playing such a heartless character a bit personally revealing, “There was a there was a picture of me in the production office. You know, all the actors have their faces up in the production office, and everyone else’s was lovely. In my picture, I look really smug. And then I thought, ‘oh shit, they’ve seen that now.’ Anyway, I spent a lot of time giving people cups of tea, that sort of thing, and trying not to be an asshole, trying to convince people that I wasn’t an asshole.”
Rooper is quick to jump in and say, “I’d like to add as well that I know probably a lot of male actors who would just approach it as is would wouldn’t struggle playing this sort of a role would probably quite enjoy it. Max is the opposite of Malcolm. He is a lovely person and for him to get to those places was a struggle and the struggle is what makes the character more interesting and more layered.”
Also, a bit of a struggle in the narrative is the depiction of sexual violence that’s a necessity to the story.
About this, Sciarrotta says, “It was a balancing act —trying to figure out just how much of that assault do we show and how do we show it in order to tell the story best. I hope we struck a good balance. We talked a lot about the intimacy coordinators and everyone else [and] I hope [the way we did it] helps tell Olivia’s story in a thoughtful, sensitive, and productive way.”
Rooper says that in telling Olivia’s story, “Paul really gave me the reins to build her from the ground up. I got to implement her story where it wasn’t there before. I thought her character was really interesting and layered. [She’s] the moral compass of the story for a lot of a lot of the episodes.”
Discussing what viewers can expect going forward in the series, Rooper says, “[The first episode] is very much the beginning, but from episode two, three, to four, the whole thing opens up. The whole saga expands.”
She says that this mirrors what it was like working on the set in Romania, as the numbers in the cast continually grew. “We suddenly got this injection of new minds and hearts, and despite, how dark some of it gets, it was always a very happy set. I think sometimes when you’re doing things that are a bit darker or a bit more serious, you find the fun so it’s more enjoyable. And we all just felt really happy to be working at this time. It definitely felt like a luxury.”
‘Flowers In The Attic: The Origin’ premieres Saturday, July 9th at 8/7c on Lifetime.