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Selfridge's Seduction of shopping

Selfridge's seduction of shopping

July 30, 2013, 9:31 am SUE YEAP The West Australian

Early last century Rose Selfridge left Chicago with her four young children to help her husband Harry realise his dream of opening a grand department store in London.

Selfridge s Seduction of shopping
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Early last century Rose Selfridge left Chicago with her four young children to help her husband Harry realise his dream of opening a grand department store in London.

Three years after setting up home in Los Angeles, Perth-raised Frances O'Connor found herself moving back to London for six months last year to play Rose in lavish period drama Miss Selfridge, that has already had critical and ratings success in the UK and US.

It was somewhat amusing for the WAAPA graduate to find herself back in the country of her birth, only this time playing an American in a true story inspired by Lindy Woodhead's book Shopping, Seduction and Mr Selfridge.

"People were like 'Where are you from'," O'Connor laughed over peppermint tea at trendy vegan restaurant Cafe Gratitude in LA earlier this year.

"I flirt with being a vegan, if my family read that they would just laugh but I am thinking about it," she said of the choice of venue.

Mr Selfridge begins in 1909 with Harry, played by award-winning Entourage star Jeremy Piven, preparing for the grand opening of Selfridge's in London. It then flashes back to the turbulent lead-up, including the loss of a key financial backer and alliance with Lady Mae (Katherine Kelly).

With charismatic Harry hard at work and play around the clock, Rose is left at home in their stately mansion with her children and mother-in-law.

"I really liked the character, she is something I hadn't played really, she's quite a 'still waters run deep' kind of thing," said O'Connor of her reasons for taking on the role.

"Rose is quite a soft character in some ways and I really liked the way that contrasted with Jeremy's vivacious, brash qualities. I thought the mix of that would be quite good."

The lure of London was strong for O'Connor, who has worked on stage and screen there - Mansfield Park being her best known British film role - as was the fact the script was penned by Andrew Davies, whose many period drama credits include Vanity Fair, Bleak House and Sense and Sensibility.

The series explores the rise of the department store and the newfound freedom women had to shop as a pastime, an activity previously viewed as a chore for the servants to undertake.

Although Harry is clearly devoted to Rose, he's also a ladies' man with a roving eye captured early on by showgirl Evelyn Love (Zoe Tapper), who becomes the store owner's muse. "I think really that is her dilemma, she really loves Harry," O'Connor said.

"For so many powerful men, that is part of their make-up I think. So for Rose, how does she reconcile those two parts of Harry? And it goes right up to episode 10, really, in terms of that dilemma."

With time on her hands, Rose goes exploring and makes a new friend one senses Harry would not approve of.

"I meet this young artist at the National Gallery, which we shot there and was so fun, and he kind of introduces her to the bohemian world in London at that time.

"She kind of develops a friendship with him - but I don't want to give too much away."

O'Connor didn't need to spend much time in Selfridge's to research her role.

"I was a massive Selfridge's shopper from the moment I discovered it," she enthused. "I have always loved shopping there, I spent so much money in that shop it was nice to play Mrs Selfridge. I had a lifetime of research shopping, especially at that shop.

"We were all hoping if the series takes off we'd all get our own Selfridge's card but I really don't think that's going to happen."

O'Connor might not have landed a store card but she did get her wish of a second season of Mr Selfridge. But before shooting that she has worked in Connecticut with Dylan McDermott on the horror film Mercy, based on the Stephen King short story Gramma.

"It's not like straight horror it's more just scary, a Steven King sort of scary film about a single mother with two boys and one of them is a little bit psychic," she said.

"We go to look after our grandma because she has been kicked out of the old person's home and realise she has made a bargain with a demon character, as you do."

O'Connor describes herself as a gypsy but doesn't rule out one day returning to Australia with husband and fellow actor, Glasgow-born Gerry Lepkowski (they met at WAAPA) and their eight-year-old son Luka.

"I still feel like that would be our end game, to come back, but it's just a matter of when," she said.

"We never make a real plan. In our head and when we are back at Christmas, we're like 'It's so great here, why don't we live here'."

Mr Selfridge starts on Monday at 8.40pm on Seven/GWN7

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