BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL’s Lesley-Anne Down (Jackie) has had an illustrious career in TV and film. Soap Opera Weekly got the chance to dish one of her most memorable roles — that of Madeline in the epic 1985 Civil War miniseries NORTH AND SOUTH — and some Hollywood tricks of the trade, as well!
Soap Opera Weekly: I have to confess, I’ve been a fan of NORTH AND SOUTH for years, so I always associate you a bit with Madeline, that wonderful southern belle.
Lesley-Anne Down: When I read those scripts [executive producer] David Wolper sent me…he said, “Okay, I’m sending you this miniseries and want you to do it.” I said, “Okay, fine,” because I’ve known David for years. He asked me to do THE THORN BIRDS, which I couldn’t do because I was pregnant with my first child. And so he said, “Read [NORTH AND SOUTH] and tell me whom you want to play.” He gave me a choice. I could have played Kirstie Alley‘s part [Virgilia]. I read the first 10 pages and called him back. I said, “David, Madeline. Why would I not want to be Madeline? She is absolutely perfect in every way. I love her, I love her, I love her. Madeline.” It was nice. She was an interesting, sweet woman who epitomized many women [of her era]. She was a victim in so many ways, but became strong. So I was pleased for that. I’m glad you liked that series.
Weekly: What I still remember is the first time Patrick Swayze‘s character, Orry, sees Madeline in her overturned carriage.
Down: (laughs) That was the most horrible day of my life. That bloody pond! It was really disgusting water. If you can imagine, I had on a wet suit underneath that dress. And when I tried to get out of that pond with a wet suit on, and that dress, with all of those petticoats — I must have weighed about 300 pounds. If you look at it and you see me trying to get out of that pond, it’s really funny.
Weekly: It looked like there was a lot of dress.
Down: There was, [plus] a lot of petticoat. And then, of course, you had the wet suit, because it was freezing and we were in that pond for half a day, so, you know, it was interesting.
Weekly: But still, that shot of you is breathtaking, when Orry sees her face for the first time.
Down: Oh, yeah. It was meant to be like that. It’s all to do with the lighting. It truly is. It’s like all those things you see in the Enquirer and People. One day, somebody weighs 80 pounds and is beautiful, and the next day they’re chubby, walking on the beach with 20 tons of cellulite on their butt. It’s just ridiculous. It’s all to do with lighting.
Weekly: Surely it’s not all lighting. You have to have something there to begin with, too.
Down: No, no. It’s all to do with lighting. I mean, seven years before [NORTH AND SOUTH], I did a thing called THE ONE AND ONLY PHYLLIS DIXEY for British television, and I played a stripper. She was a real person. She was actually [an entertainer] in the second World War. I was 23 when I played her, from when she was 15 to when she died [at] 52. We did makeup tests and prosthetics to make me look older and [all the rest]. Finally, we threw it all away, because it looked fake and stupid, and I did it with wigs and contact lenses. I had very, very blue contact lenses when she was young and then went back to my regular eyes as she got older. We did it with lighting. Talk to light people…if the light is coming from above you — you can do this test yourself; I know you’ve been into restrooms and looked in the mirror and gone, “Oh, I look awful.” It’s top lights. Top light creates shadows, and that’s what makes you look old. If you have nice candlelight and you’re sitting at the dining table with one little candle shining at you, you look 2 and adorable. So, it’s all lighting, and that’s how we did it. They spent a lot of time lighting that shot [in NORTH AND SOUTH], I remember. A lot.
Weekly: Whether it’s something like N&S or B&B, I guess the average person has no idea what goes into creating the illusion, all the Hollywood magic.
Down: Oh, not at all. No, not in any way. Even if you’re in this industry, you don’t have any idea until you actually do the jobs or stick around and watch a particular craft being [done], and then you understand.