Sienna Miller read the scripts for “Anatomy of a Scandal,” a high-gloss limited series created by David E. Kelley and Melissa James Gibson, straight through two years ago. “I binge-watched them the way you’d watch a six-part drama,” she explained.
Sophie, the silky wife of James (Rupert Friend), a legislative minister, had been presented to her. Sophie would require all of Miller’s abilities and traits, including charisma, fragility, attractiveness, and wit. Sophie is solidly the lead in a career when she has generally been consigned to supporting wife and girlfriend roles. Miller, on the other hand, paused. “I was hesitant since it seemed a little nasty and familiar,” she explained.
Sophie discovers that James has had an affair with a coworker in the first episode, and The Daily Mail will publish the news the next morning. The parallels were evident for Miller, who had survived a mid-2000s scandal in which her then-fiancé Jude Law slept with his children’s babysitter.
However, much to how you may feel tempted to brush your fingers over a scar after a cut has healed, Miller was drawn to the role because of the opportunity to relive these former experiences. “In some strange, twisted way, I was pulled to it, to investigating it from a new angle,” she explained.
This occurred on a recent weekday morning at the restaurant of a boutique hotel in Manhattan’s West Village, close to where Miller and her 9-year-old daughter Marlowe reside. Sophie wears velvety golds, creams, and taupes in “Anatomy of a Scandal,” which premieres on Netflix on Friday. Miller wore off-white trousers and a beige sweater with overlapping necklaces at her neckline that morning, using the same colour scheme.
Miller isn’t Sophie, of course. She is liberal where Sophie is conservative, and she is uninhibited where Sophie is restricted. Sophie takes on the role of the ideal politician’s wife for personal reasons. Role-playing is completely professional for Miller. Her off-camera persona is unpretentious and approachable. Despite this, there are times in “Anatomy of a Scandal” when Sophie’s life appears inextricably linked to the actor portraying her.
Take, for example, a late-episode scenario in which Sophie faces a non-adversary. “My entire life has been under and overrated at the same time,” she adds. “If I’ve traded on a currency that the rest of the world claims is mine, then that’s what I was taught to do.” It’s difficult to tell who is speaking.
These connections were not missed on Sarah Vaughan, who developed Sophie in her 2018 novel and serves as an executive producer on the show. They give her performance “an added degree of depth and significance,” according to Vaughan.
Miller intentionally relied on her past when filming the series. “I have a type of muscle memory when it comes to many of her situations.” As a result, it was readily available,” she explained. It was almost too accessible at times.
Miller may give herself over to a role so totally that she appears to be possessed, according to a friend over the phone. “Sienna will be physically transformed, sweating or shaking, her heartbeat will have quickened, or a twitch will have occurred that she could never have anticipated,” he said.
Miller’s heart began to beat so quickly and loudly that it registered on her microphone when it came time to shoot the scene in which Sophie learns of her husband’s infidelity. “It’s an excruciating state of things,” she added, “the sensation that something is going to come out that you have no control over, the worry of knowing you only have one night before something incredibly personal is made highly public.”
Sophie, on the other hand, approaches her circumstance completely differently than Miller did. To say more would be to give too much away, but Sophie’s response to the reputational harm didn’t feel like an option for Miller at the time, and so Miller found it freeing, if not therapeutic, to act out Sophie’s story.
“Everything has catharsis,” Miller added. “Whenever you get to go to work and cry, it feels strangely fantastic.”
Vaughan noticed the rawness of Miller’s performance and its apparent honesty while seeing her in the part. And there’s more. “I’m not sure if I’m reading too much into it because of what she’s been through,” Vaughan remarked. “However, I believe there is fury there, but it is restrained rage.”
“At this point, at 40, I’ve had experiences that I’ve absorbed and can utilise — betrayal and a dissatisfaction at how much I simply took and did not fight back on, and how little self-esteem I had,” Miller replied when asked where the anger originated from.
She said it with a smile, but below it was something prickly. Miller’s ability to contain many emotional truths – wrath, despair, a wry humour — at the same time, according to creator Gibson, lends her performances a natural depth.
“She deserves every challenge because she’s up to it,” Gibson remarked.
Miller now has a higher sense of self-worth. She claimed it took a couple of decades, a dozen more parts, and the birth of a kid for her to figure out who she is now. Sophie continues her discussion about being underestimated and overvalued. “A lot of people assume they know who I am,” she informs her foe. You believe you know who I am. You don’t, believe me.”