Why Jennifer Jason Leigh Says Her New Drama Role Is “Deeply Flawed”

The actress talks about playing a troubled character in the Emmy-nominated drama, Patrick Melrose.


The Primetime Emmy Awards 2018 is happening next month, and one of the nominated dramas is now showing here on the BBC channel. Based on the same-title novel, Patrick Melrose is a mini-series that depicts the problematic yet privileged life of British upper-class type Patrick Melrose (played by Benedict Cumberbatch).

American actress Jennifer Jason Leigh stars alongside Benedict, playing his mother Eleanor Melrose. Despite having one of the richest families in the US, Eleanor’s personal life is less than perfect. She suffers and lives in humiliation with her abusive husband, David Melrose (played by Hugo Weaving). As a result, she’s never “really there” as a mother for Patrick. Later, she even abandons the family, leaving Patrick with his heartless dad.  

We got up close with Jennifer to shed light on her dark character.

A flawed opinion. #PatrickMelrose #Showtime

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Tell us more about your character Eleanor Melrose?

Jennifer Jason Leigh (JJL): She’s a complex and deeply flawed character. She marries a man she thinks is brilliant – but he’s actually a horrible human being and it’s a very abusive marriage. 

She buys him the most beautiful chateau – but the prison of her marriage means she feels trapped and oppressed by the place. Patrick is her son – a son she loves but can’t protect. It’s a character study in denial – she drugs herself and drinks too much and numbs out the pain as well as any love she can give. You can see how much she loves him and how much she wants moments with him.

She loves taking him with her out of the chateau but with alcoholic parents, alcohol always comes first. You come a close second – but the drink comes first.

How does she feel about her husband, David Melrose?

JJL: She’s terrified of him and is in deep denial – she doesn’t think it’s possible to do what he does to a child. When they met, I think he had a brilliant mind and was very different from all the other men she met. 

He had a sense of freedom and a willingness to think outside the box. But as we see from the scene when he makes her eat off the floor, she’s afraid of him and thinks she’s not strong enough or even entitled to have better. 

 Photo: BBC Studios

What was the biggest challenge in portraying Eleanor?

JJL: It was very challenging physically. She’s a different age in every episode, and I had the flexibility and desire to make it real. The whole thing was challenging in the most exciting way, just like the way I want to be challenged as an actor.

What do you hope viewers get from watching Patrick Melrose?

JJL: I hope they love it – and him – as much as I do. It’s such an incredible ride – it’s so brilliantly funny and savage, and I hope they just can’t turn it off.

 Photo: BBC Studios

You can now catch Patrick Melrose on BBC First (StarHub channel 522) and BBC Player exclusively.

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