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Killer role lures Wilson to ‘Luther’

Former 'Jane Eyre' star teams with Idris Elba on series

New Faces for Fall:
Sharon Horgan | Jon Michael Hill | Billy Gardell | Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Boris Kodjoe | Andrew Lincoln | Holt McCallany | Michael Pitt | Maggie Q | Ruth Wilson | James Wolk
Fall TV Preview 2010

“I’m always moaning about the lack of diverse female roles in the industry, so when this came along I thought, ‘Wow, you don’t get many female psychopaths.’ ”

So recalls 28-year-old British actress Ruth Wilson of first reading the script for BBC America’s policier “Luther,” in which she takes on the role of an alluringly clever murderer who enters into an impromptu partnership with Idris Elba’s titular detective.

“Maybe it’s my dark side as a female, but I found her quite funny,” Wilson says of her character. “I wanted to play her as having a really good time with what she’s doing. … It was actually quite liberating to play someone who doesn’t have a conscience.”

The show, which ran in Britain earlier this summer and has been renewed for a second set of episodes in 2011, arrived between Wilson’s stints onstage in London for “A Streetcar Named Desire” alongside Rachel Weisz and a legit adaptation of Ingmar Bergman’s “Through a Glass Darkly.”

Alternating between television and theater has been Wilson’s modus operandi since her 2006 breakout, straight out of drama school, as the lead in BBC’s “Jane Eyre,” which netted her a BAFTA nomination. Since then, she’s been extremely selective with her follow-ups, and while she hopes to find an entree into film next, she sees no need to jump on the first opportunity there either.

“It’s just about trying to take steps elsewhere and not to be stuck in one place,” she says. “I’m always very aware of not being pigeonholed into particular categories. It’s nice when people think ‘Oh, is that the same girl who played “Jane Eyre?” ‘ ”

Moving straight from Stella in “Streetcar” to a physicist-turned-serial killer in “Luther” to Bergman’s schizophrenic Karin, it seems the only pigeonhole she need be wary of is her propensity for intense, emotionally-demanding roles.

“Yes, I’m thinking I’ll take on a light comedy next,” she jokes. “Or pantomime, maybe — they always need pantomimes for Christmas.”

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