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The Last Aristocrat : Anthony Andrews Said he Wouldn’t Play one Again--but ‘Jewels’ Was a Gem

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Anthony Andrews says he wants to experience everything as an actor.

That includes trying his luck at an American TV series. The British actor put in a few appearances on the old ABC series “The Love Boat,” as a charming Australian veterinarian who became engaged to cruise director Julie, but left her at the altar because he had a fatal family illness.

Still, Andrews, who is best known in America for the acclaimed British series “Danger UXB” and “Brideshead Revisited,” cringes ever so politely at the mention of “The Love Boat.”

“God! You remember that?” Andrews asked his visitor, during a recent interview. “For a long time, people used to say to me, ‘ Why did you do that?’ I got a trip to Australia, but particularly I wanted to know what it was like--what series television was like in the States. I found out very quickly.”

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Initially, Andrews had no desire to experience his latest project, “Danielle Steel’s ‘Jewels,’ ” NBC’s lavish five-hour miniseries the network hopes will lure non-baseball fans away from CBS’ coverage of the World Series.

Shot in Europe this summer, “Jewels” spans four decades in the “triumphs and tragedies” of an American beauty, Sarah Thompson (Annette O’Toole), and the dashing Duke of Whitfield (Andrews), whom she marries.

Relaxing in an empty office at the Hollywood sound studios where he was looping “Jewels,” Andrews admitted he had never read any of Steel’s enormously successful romantic novels.

“I think I pigeonholed her as someone who was an obviously prolific author, but mainly appealed to the housewife market, if you like,” he said. Andrews said he couldn’t have been more wrong.

“When I started talking about the part, I discovered my son said everybody in school read Danielle Steel,” Andrews said. “My daughter confirmed that. Many of my friends seemed to have read the entire canon of her work. My mother is a great fan. I suddenly found this incredible range out there.”

And “Jewels” was a 360-degree turn from his last project, the feature “Lost in Siberia,” in which he plays a Russian sent to a Siberian prison camp. “It was a grueling five-month shoot, very, very difficult,” he said. (“Jewels”) couldn’t be more different.”

Andrews shook his head and smiled. ‘You know me,” he said. “I often make strange choices because I tend to kind of overact against what I have been doing. I like the idea of vast contrasts. It is the old chameleon in me.”

But he was still reluctant to play William, the duke in “Jewels,” because he had gone on record saying he didn’t want to play any more British aristocrats. But the exposure and commercial aspects of the miniseries outweighed his concerns. “More particular than that was the realization I get to play someone who progresses through a considerable age range. It provided a much more interesting challenge than it might have been.”

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Making “Jewels,” Andrews said, was great fun though hectic. The five-hour miniseries was shot in just over 60 days.

“We would think nothing of moving locations three times in a day,” Andrews said. “It meant one tiny hiccup in the schedule and everything was thrown out of gear. We would find ourselves going back in makeup at the end of the day for four hours of work in order to put on the old-age makeup.”

Andrews was surprised when he was reminded it has been a decade since “Brideshead Revisited” captivated U.S. audiences when it aired on PBS’ “Great Performances” series. Andrews co-starred with Oscar-winner Jeremy Irons in the classic adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s novel and received an Emmy nomination for his turn as the tragic young aristocrat Sebastian Flyte.

“Has it been 10 years?” he said. Andrews recalled being at the Oscar ceremony in 1982 the same night the finale of “Brideshead” aired.

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“If I had a dollar for the amount of people who came rushing up to me asking me how it was going to end, I would have been a very rich man,” he said with a smile.

His career heated up here when “Danger UXB” aired on “Masterpiece Theatre” in 1981. “When ‘Danger UXB’ came out, that caused a bit of a cult hit on PBS,” he said. “Everybody was talking about that. I was offered my first television series (here).”

But he turned down the offer. “I deliberated about it an awful lot and couldn’t decide what to do,” he said. “At that stage, uprooting children and bringing them all here. ... But it would have been much simpler in hindsight. I have spent my whole life since mid-Atlantic. But it was difficult on a personal front at that stage.

“In a way I am glad, because it has given me an opportunity to do an awful lot of other stuff I might not have done otherwise.”

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“Danielle Steel’s ‘Jewels’ ” airs Sunday at 8 p.m. and Tuesday at 9 p.m. on NBC.


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