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ANDIE MacDowell is a Hollywood actress who commands attention without realising it. After almost three decades in the industry, let’s face it, she has earned that respect and admiration.
The face of L’Oréal since 1986, MacDowell has been known to exude grace on the red carpet and, while she has an admirable sense of humour, won’t exploit it during her interviews. Rather, she sticks to pure professionalism.
In chatting to her, I realised that although she is a powerhouse actress, she hasn’t forsaken her humility.
Recently seen on the big screen in Footloose as well as Monte Carlo, MacDowell explains what it was that convinced her to accept the role of Gray Chandler Murray, a world-renowned fashion designer who, true to some of the industry’s real-life characters, is demanding and über-bitchy.
“Well, I had a really nice experience working with April Blair on Monte Carlo. So when they came to me with Jane by Design, I was happy to work on a character as dynamic as Gray. I thought the script was really well written. And I think the cast are amazing,” she says.
Jane by Design is centred on Gray’s relationship with Jane Quimby (Erica Dasher), her long-suffering assistant, who has been concealing her high school student status to keep her job.
Set against the backdrop of the fashion industry, there is an array of colourful and pretentious characters woven into the storyline.
Although the dramedy could easily be likened to Ugly Betty and The Devil Wears Prada, MacDowell says: “I think people use those comparisons as an easy way to explain to the public. I don’t think it is the same. There are differences in the format. I think it is completely original.”
On the anchor of the series, she says: “I have a 17-year- old daughter and she relates very well to the environment, especially in high school. From what I’m seeing of the people who are attracted to the story, it is the friendships at high school and work and having to deal with the work environment and her (Jane’s) sense of self they enjoy.
“Besides, I think it is always fun to have a villain or two.”
MacDowell expounds on the other show’s characters.
“And the exaggeration of characters, as with India Jourdain (India de Beaufort), is fun. Viewers love it when people go at each other’s throats,” she admits.
But how authentic are the characterisations and the script?
“I know from my experience in the fashion business (MacDowell modelled for Vogue and appeared in ad campaigns for Yves Saint Laurent, Armani, Anne Klein and Bill Blass) that it is a very honest depiction. There are a lot of exaggerated characters in the fashion business,” the actress says.
As for working with Dasher, MacDowell has nothing but praise.
“I have a lot of respect for Erica. She is amazing and worked really, really hard.
“Sometimes I would just hang out on set and watch her. I think she is captivating and extremely well cast. She never takes her star potential for granted. I’m in awe of her.
“You get these kids, they are fresh and they are on fire. They feed me. And it raises the bar of the show,” she continues.
On playing her character with conviction, MacDowell says she didn’t have to immerse herself fully in the memory of her earlier career.
“A lot of it is down to the writing. Yes, I can relate to the fashion business through my experience.
“But, for the show, I’m relying on the writing, which is very good. I never know what’s going to happen with the character until they give me the script. And I find that both exciting and fun.”
Now for the hyped-up bit – the wardrobe. Given MacDowell’s sexy silhouette, she looks like dynamite on camera.
The actress chuckles in agreement.
“That’s the big part for the public,” she concedes. “They love to admire beautiful clothes and to learn about fashion.
“I have really strong dresses – very high fashion. Our stylist Olivia is amazing.
“I never thought I would get into the whole platform shoe thing and now I enjoy them. And I’m really, really tall… like 1.8m.”
With Jane by Design being a new series, MacDowell didn’t want to jinx things by predicting its longevity.
“I don’t think it is healthy to predict,” she cautions. “I wouldn’t want to do it.
“I care about the kids and what it means for them, more than I do about myself. Also, because they are so very talented, I want everything to go well for them.”
Compassionate and captivating – what’s not to admire about Andie MacDowell and her tough-as-nails character?
• Jane by Design airs on M-Net Series (DStv channel 110) on Fridays at 7.30pm.