After Hulu’s success with The Handmaid’s Tale this spring, Netflix is offering its own Margaret Atwood adaptation about restricted women and the men who hold power over them with Alias Grace. The six-part miniseries follows a fictionalized version of the real-life Grace Marks, an Irish-Canadian maid was convicted of murder in 1843 and features Chuck star Zachary Levi as the fictional Jeremiah, a peddler-magician whose story intersects with hers.
“I think we ought to be doing more limited series,” Levi told EW. “Not every story necessitates a full series of many, many seasons, and some can’t just be squashed into an hour and a half of one movie, and so I think this limited series concept is just awesome, and particularly if it’s being done at a high level.”
The show, which takes place in Upper Canada, was filmed with a mostly Canadian cast and crew (“I think I was like the only American involved, which was very strange,” Levi said), and its 19th-century setting allowed the actor to flaunt a full beard and an “old-timey” accent.
“I was asking the director when we first started; I was like, ‘Hey, am I supposed to have an English accent? Like, what’s the situation?’ And per all of their research, what they found out was by the 1850s in North America, the English accent had greatly diminished to the point where it became what some call a Mid-Atlantic, a little bit between [American and English] so it gives it that old-timey feel because everything is still very pronounced and whatnot, but it hadn’t quite taken on a Canadian accent at that point, nor a Northeastern accent.
It kind of gives everyone this old-timey sheen which is fun. It definitely was really hard not to just go into an English accent, because when you’re speaking that pronounced, you just want to go have tea and crumpets and talk about the queen, and I couldn’t.”
Just one week ago, it was announced that Levi would be starring in the lead role of upcoming DC film Shazam, but the actor made a quick detour back to Marvel to (very briefly) reprise his role as Asgardian warrior, Fandral, in Thor: Ragnarok (in theaters now).
“I mean, look, to be perfectly honest, when it came back around that they wanted us to come in to do that, I was disappointed because I felt like the Warriors Three never got their moment in the sun in the Thor franchise. But I really wanted to work with Taika [Waititi]. I think Taika is fantastic,” Levi explained. “I haven’t seen the movie yet, but everything everyone is telling me is that it’s great. And you know, it was cool to go and catch up with folks like Chris [Hemsworth] and Tom [Hiddleston] for a few days and to take a little trip to Australia. It was a good little trip in my life. But again, it was a bit of a bummer. It’s why I didn’t tell anyone I was in the movie. Everyone kept saying, ‘Are you in Ragnarok?’ And I was like, ‘Well, no.’ I mean, I’m in it, but I didn’t want to get people’s hopes up and then all of a sudden they’d realize, ‘Oh, well, you’re in it, but you’re only in it for 30 seconds.’ That’s basically what happens.”
Fortunately, Alias Grace allowed Levi a little more screen time: In the show’s climax, Levi’s Jeremiah, (under the pseudonym Dr. Jerome Du Pont) hypnotizes Grace in an attempt to uncover the truth of the murders, with dramatic results. “That was probably the longest scene I’d ever had that I talked and nobody else said anything,” said Levi. “It was like four pages of me just taking” — which brings up his average dialogue for the weekend considerably.
Alias Grace is currently streaming on Netflix.