A Brit Abroad
With a thriller from the Williams “boys,” Kate Beckinsale breaks wide of the empty nest.
Coco Van Oppens
When Kate Beckinsale agreed to play the lead in Amazon's new series The Widow, she signed up blind.
"I got sent four scripts, but I didn't know how the story ended. I was a little bit nervous of that," she says, sitting among camera cases and cables in a location house a half hour from Cape Town, South Africa. "I thought, 'Hang on… what if I end up not liking her?'"
Luckily, Beckinsale was in the hands of the Williams brothers (Harry and Jack), the British writing duo behind Starz's The Missing and Sundance's Liar. Sam Donovan (Humans, Liar) and Olly Blackburn (Donkey Punch, Glue) directed the eight-episode thriller, which is now streaming.
"I was a big fan of the boys, as I call them," Beckinsale says of the Williamses. "When I met them, I could tell that it was bad form to say, 'Please tell me what happens in the end.' But then, that's like the character, Georgia: she starts out not really knowing what she's doing or where she's going, and I was in the same position."
In The Widow, Beckinsale plays Georgia Wells, who, at the start of the series, believes her husband died in a plane crash in the Congo three years before. One day, living as a recluse in remotest Wales, she has an accident and goes to the local doctor to get stitched up. At the doctor's office, the television is showing riots in Kinshasa. And there in the melee, she thinks she sees her husband.
That sets Georgia off on a journey to Africa and Central Europe and into the shady world of Coltan mining — Coltan being a crucial, costly component of cellphones and electric car batteries.
"I've never done anything like this before," Beckinsale says. "I haven't done television since I was getting my A-levels [British SATs], and I've never done an episodic thing."
"We thought she'd never go for it," producer Eliza Mellor says. "It just shows the shift between film and television that someone known for film like Kate even considered it."
Beckinsale says she'd been looking for a longer-form job now that her daughter, Lily, has gone to college. Shooting for The Widow took place over six months in Wales and South Africa.
"I got a bit blindsided by finding myself pregnant [in 1999] and having to suddenly be a mom. I've been saying for years, 'When my daughter goes to college, then I'm going to be able to go off and do jobs that are far away.'"
Sure enough, the minute Lily left for college last year, that call came. "They went, 'Do you want to go to South Africa for six months and do The Widow?' It felt like, 'Okay, it came around a little bit sooner than I was anticipating,' but it's been amazing. Very hard work, but very rewarding. I'm hoping it comes out as good as it has felt doing it," Beckinsale says. "And yes, I do like the ending."
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 2, 2019