“I couldn’t believe I was being encouraged to emote so freely, to indulge myself in that way and to additionally be applauded for it.”
At first glance, Gabrielle Anwar may catch you off guard with her beauty, her model-like figure and her laundry list of successful films.
Perhaps Anwar’s first foray into stardom was a steamy tango she performed with Al Pacino in 1992’s Scent of a Woman. That sexy scene and the dramatic backless dress will forever be immortalized in the world of Hollywood filmmaking.
Yet Anwar is hesitant to call that her breakout role.
“My definition of ‘breakout role’ may not concur with yours,” she said. “I suppose Scent of a Woman certainly was a successful film; and therefore a certain amount of exposure is inevitable.”
She appreciates the enormity of the scene if only much later.
“The shooting of that scene was truly an out of body journey,” she said. “There was so much anticipation from the team of agents, managers, lawyers, publicists that I was orbiting around at that time. I truly had no expectations, nor even a reverence for Al Pacino –which did later change. As far as I was concerned, I was little more than a day player, Dancer #2 if you like, with a few lines and a three-day gig. By the time the film found distinct notoriety and Pacino accepted his Academy Award, I was already pregnant with my daughter. I was in another universe by then.”
Anwar, the daughter of actress Shirley Hills and award-winning film editor Tariq Anwar, knew acting was her path relatively early in life.
“I wanted to become an actress after I fell into my first performance,” she said. “I couldn’t believe I was being encouraged to emote so freely, to indulge myself in that way and to additionally be applauded for it.”
She went on to appear in If Looks Could Kill, Beverly Hills, 90210, Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken, Scent of a Woman, Body Snatchers, For Love or Money and The Three Musketeers. Anwar was also listed on People magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People in 1994.
Today, Anwar is well on her way to becoming a legend in her own right, bursting onto the small screen with her role as Margaret Tudor on the wildly successful Showtime series The Tudors. While her role on The Tudors was undoubtedly a difficult one, it gave Anwar a certain sense of artistic freedom that seemed unlikely, given the show’s historical focus.
“Playing a historical figure is a challenge; the imagination has to adhere to well documented limitations,” Anwar said. “Fortunately Michael Hirst’s playful adaptation of the Tudor era, afforded an unusual and welcomed clemency in what materialized as a raunchy, and unpredictable character.”
Anwar now embodies perennial tough girl Fiona on USA’s Burn Notice, a role she calls the “descendant of Margaret Tudor.” Fiona, a former IRA operative gone rogue, now making a living doing a myriad of odd jobs involving explosives, lock picking, weapons, and the like. Anwar describes Fiona as “terribly dissatisfied with social definitions, subliminal and not so subliminal prejudices, particularly those involving the sexes, and thus, a great force to be reckoned with.”
Anwar cites one aspect of Fiona’s character that she most enjoys–and another of which she is not too fond.
“There is a freedom Fiona embraces that I aspire to,” she said. “I like least the pain in my toes after a running sequence in those heels!” Now that is something we understand. Burn Notice, lauded as one of cable’s top-rated shows, was renewed earlier this year for both its fifth and sixth seasons. So just what does it take to make a successful show?
“There is so much well conceived programming produced, and so few ‘successful’ enough to maintain an audience season after season,” Anwar said. “Unfortunately so much of a show’s success has little to do with the content, the writing, the performances and direction and has more to do with advertising, finances, the politics of an effective business. It is just that–a business. So as much I would like to pat myself on the back, or our team of talented writers, actors, or our hard-working crew and revel in the romanticism of the art, at the end of the day, television is a multibillion-dollar industry. If the show ‘sells enough cars,’ then the show stays on the air.” So far, it looks as though Burn Notice is doing just that.
As far as who Anwar is outside Fiona’s high heels, she’s a down to earth mom; she spends her days with her three children, Willow, Hugo and Paisley, and her boyfriend, Shareef Malnik.
“When I’m not shooting Burn Notice, I am endeavoring to catch up with my wee ones, with my man, with my furry creatures, with my books, my paints, my sewing machine, my garden, we are home – where the heart is.”
Five Minutes with Gabrielle
Favorite luxury indulgence?
Using way too much water in the bathtub.
What project are you currently working on?
I am writing. A multitude of everythings. My bliss.
The last book you read?
Savage Beauty by Nancy Milford. Started Atlas Shrugged. Again.
Your favorite designer?
My tastes vary dramatically. I am rather impatient with fashion, and will be a slave to no one.
Favorite luxury item?
TV show you cant miss?
Burn Notice, of course.
A damn good cup of tea.