While he's earned a laugh or two during his harrowing adventures as "Doctor Who," British actor Matt Smith hasn't really taken on the part of comic relief. "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" shows us what we've been missing. Smith, 33, plays Parson Collins, the befuddled suitor none of the beloved Bennet sisters — not the least Elizabeth (Lily James) — wants to marry. The actor lets us in on the dark secret he gave the character, and it involves Mr. Darcy.
Were you familiar with the book before this?
No, I wasn't, no. I went back and read them both when I got the part and stuff, but I'd never read. In England as well, it's on the literature list in some schools, but I guess in its original format it's not a book that would ever really appeal to me. Suddenly you throw zombies into it and you get slightly more appealing to my taste buds.
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The joke of the book works better as a movie, I think.
It does lend itself to film, doesn't it? And also there's a zombie culture in film at the moment, isn't there? For better or worse. But adding the zombies, suddenly the Bennet sisters talking about which husband they're going to marry, to me the stakes of it become more interesting to me. There's a zombie apocalypse outside and they're still talking about which husband they're going to marry, do you know what I mean? And as an actor it allows you to make slightly bolder choices with the character, because the tone is already heightened.
The women having pretty bad-ass fighting skills makes it feel a bit more equal, but this is still a patriarchal world.
It's cool that the women are kind of kick-ass ninjas, isn't it? There's something kin sexy about that. And it should be sexy, this film. I feel the Bennet sisters particularly are kind of sexy. You know, people getting their heads chopped off by hot women. That's why you should go and watch this movie.
How was it approaching a character who is so much the comic relief?
When I set out to do it, I thought it might be interesting if secretly he was in love with Mr. Darcy. So all the getting married is just about having to go through the manner and the period of the time and the fact that he's a man of God and all that and he feels obliged, but actually somewhere he's secretly harboring this secret desire for someone else. It somehow made it more interesting to me that he was carrying this other secret. Because in that time period it can’t have been easy, either, a man of the clergy and all that. So it makes him a certain way. I just tried to be bold with it, and I thought, if you're going to do it, actually the point is to try and reinvent it. That's all I tried to do.
Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter @nedrick