'World Without End' Star Cynthia Nixon on Playing a Villain, Murdering on Screen and Mastering a British Accent (Q&A)

Cynthia Nixon World Without End - P 2012
Tandem Productions

Cynthia Nixon World Without End - P 2012

Cynthia Nixon's new role finds her worlds removed from level-headed Miranda, the Sex and the City attorney for whom she's best known.

The actress plays the evil and manipulative Petranilla in World Without End, a $46 million eight-hour miniseries adaptation of Ken Follett's best-selling novel.

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The mini is set 200 years after The Pillars of the Earth -- a previous adaptation of a Follett novel -- amid natural disaster, plague and war in 14th century England. Nixon's Petranilla bribes a government official, forces a relative into an abusive marriage and murders more than once -- and that's just in the first two hours of the mini, which also stars Miranda Richardson, Ben Chaplin, Peter FIrth, Charlotte Riley, Rupert Evans, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Megan Follows and Sarah Gadon.

Ahead of its premiere at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday on ReelzChannel (it encores at 10 p.m. ET and midnight ET), Nixon talked to The Hollywood Reporter about her role, mastering a British accent and playing a murderer.

The Hollywood Reporter: I've seen the first two hours of the miniseries, and it's seems safe to say that you're pretty evil in this.

Nixon (laughs): I am pretty evil, and I can tell you, I don't reform. I only get more and more evil; you haven't seen nothing yet.

THR: Why were you drawn to this project?

Nixon: I read the script by John Pielmeier [who also adapted The Pillars of the Earth], and I was struck by the quality of the writing, the scope of the story being told and the fact that there were something like 12-15 major characters and I was able to follow each of their stories without problem. Even though the story starts out so vast, the characters are so distinct from one another.

THR: What appealed to you about Petranilla?

Nixon: It's such a wonderfully juicy part and also such a departure. I've never played anything quite like this. I might have played a couple slightly villainous people in my time, but I've never playing anyone this evil yet seemingly sweet and helpless on top of it. I haven't murdered a lot of people in my roles -- and for her to be so feminine and helpless in one role -- she's terrible.

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THR: How difficult was it to master a British accent?

Nixon: I have had to do that before, but I've never had to do it surrounded by other people with real English accents. That was a challenge. We had a vocal coach who I worked with transatlantically before I arrived [for the shoot]. Before filming, [I worked on it] quite intensively. She was there every day watching filming, and if something was wrong to ear after a particular take, she'd jump right up and attack it.

THR: What was the most challenging thing about playing a villain?

Nixon: I would say the most challenging thing was making sure to plot carefully what was happening to Petranilla episode by episode and chart that out in my own mind. I had to make sure it would build, so all of the character of Petranilla would really evolve and change. I didn't want to be completely a dastardly person at the beginning.