Joely Richardson on "Progressive" Feeling of Working on Female-Centric Thriller 'The Rook'

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Joely Richardson, Emma Greenwell and Olivia Munn

The actress and co-stars Emma Greenwell and Olivia Munn premiered the Starz supernatural spy series at CanneSeries.

The Rook made its CanneSeries play with stars Emma Greenwell, Joely Richardson and Olivia Munn all hitting the pink carpet to premiere their new supernatural spy thriller. 

Much of the Starz show was shot against the backdrop of London, which allowed the British-American Greenwell the chance to film in her hometown for the first time, in grand locations like Somerset House and the Natural History Museum. "I felt like a kid again," she said.

But the location shoots were not without their own drama, Richardson revealed. The cast was shooting a pivotal scene on the River Thames near the Millennium Bridge when a man jumped. "It was a really big drama," she said. "They had lifeboats on standby for the shoot and they were able fish him out of the water and thankfully save his life."

That night was also Greenwell's introduction to filming and her first time being a lead in a show. Her character has had her memory wiped by an unknown enemy and wakes up near the river.

The series is notable, perhaps, for its three female leads as well as two female showrunners (Lisa Zwerling and Karyn Usher) and three of its four directors (Kari Skogland, China Moo-Young and Rebecca Johnson) being women. The crew was also roughly a 50-50 split. Greenwell said just having a female camera operator made for a comfortable shooting environment.

"It was amazing having so many female directors too and their different styles, and that was very exciting. I did feel given everything that was going on last year, which we all know about, there was something wonderful and progressive and we were leaping into a new era," said Richardson about filming the series during the #MeToo movement.

Richardson was also encouraged by the age of herself and her co-stars. "I felt for me and a couple of the other actresses to be 'women of a certain age' playing really nice roles, it was wonderful that people would still invest in you," she said. "I feel that in the last couple of years there has been a real change."

She let out a whoop to Jane Fonda covering the latest issue of Vogue: "I was like 'Yessss!' It's a really wonderful direction to go in."

For the younger Greenwell, the series was her first lead and learning experience. "I never understood the weight of it and how the audience is seeing the story through me," she said, adding that director Skogland, who directed several episodes of The Handmaid's Tale, took her under her wing. "And if you looked across the set you would see exactly who is in charge."

As for the supernatural premise of the show, Richardson said she believes science has proven there are things we don't understand, and she studied Stella Remington, the first woman who ran British spy agency MI-5, who divulged the ways she could get people to reveal information. "It's manipulation. There are all sorts of behaviors and techniques that we are unaware of," she said.

But Greenwell prefers a more popular thought leader: "As Justin Beiber said, 'Never say never.'"