Janet McTeer on Gender Bending for 'Albert Nobbs'

Golden Globe nominee for her gender bending turn in Albert Nobbs, Janet McTeer spoke with The Wall Street Journal about her role as a 19th century woman living as a man to survive the era
By: Tracy E. Gilchrist
December 16 2011 7:58 PM

Golden Globe nominee for her gender bending turn in Albert Nobbs, Janet McTeer spoke with The Wall Street Journal about her role as a 19th century woman living as a man to survive the era.

A renowned British stage actress in iconic roles including Nora in A Doll’s House, McTeer landed an Oscar nomination for the 1999 film Tumbleweeds. She went on to star in Songcatcher, the 2000 film about a music professor researching the genesis of the British ballad in Appalachia.

Regarding her role in Albert Nobbs, which stars Glenn Close, who also plays a woman living as a man, McTeer told the Wall Street Journal:

“I always thought of Hubert as someone who considers herself not to be in a category, not in a pigeonhole, not with a label…. Yes, she ended up stealing her ex-husband's coat and getting a job and surviving [by passing as a man], but I am sure she did all of this without saying "I'm a gay woman." I am sure she had no idea what that concept even was. People didn't discuss it. And I imagine that she did it to feel safe and ended up feeling very comfortable.”

In response to the question about what sort of research she did for the role McTeer said: “Years ago I played [Sackville-West], and she wrote about this, saying she was always happier with girls but she got married because that's what one does. So when she had a relationship with her first girlfriend it was such a revelation that other people didn't feel the same way.”

She went on to say, “I think that if you were a gay man at that time, there was more of a circuit, as it were, than if you were a gay woman. There certainly were lesbians in Victorian London but I don't think Hubert would have been part of that scene. I think Hubert was somebody who ended up the way he did, and decided he was very happy the way he was.”

The thespian also chatted about her fast friendship with Close, who also produced Albert Nobbs.

“We rehearsed for 10 solid days, I think. We were in Ireland. We would go back to the hotel, have pints of Guinness and do jigsaw puzzles,” McTeer said.

Read the interview in full here.

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