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Rebecca Hall: “I thought it was brilliant to play a scene holding a douche’”

"Parade's End," HBO's five-part costume drama makes "Downton Abbey" feel like a Cliffs Notes take on WWI-era England. Based on Ford Madox Ford four-novel series and adapted by Tom Stoppard, the dense, opaque, high-minded mini-series follows Christopher Tietjens (everyone's favorite Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch), a good man living by an increasingly outdated code of chivalry, as he navigates uppercrust society, the war, and, especially, his toxic, bitchy wife Sylvia, played by Rebecca Hall. Despite all her period-perfect costumes, Sylvia is a thoroughly modern creation, an ancestor to all the "unlikable" women so en vogue on television right now, psychologically deep and disturbed, a scene-stealing, scenery-chewing monster who tests, but occasionally inspires, the audience's sympathy. (Compared to Sylvia, "Downton's" imperious Lady Mary is a total teddy bear.) Hall's performance is one of the reasons to watch and rewatch "Parade's End," despite the difficulty of the material: As Hall points out in the following interview, "Parade's End" is not the sort of television you can watch half-paying attention. Hall, an accomplished Shakespearean actress, co-starred in Woody Allen's "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" and Ben Affleck's "The Town." She'll soon be appearing in "Iron Man 3." She spoke with me about the mini-series, her love of Bette Davis, the importance of unlikable female characters, and douchebags (the object — not the personality type).

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