If you want to talk about perfect casting choices of recent years, look no further than the actor chosen to take on the delicious role of Mrs. Coulter in the BBC’s adaptation of His Dark Materials. In the pages of Philip Pullman’s acclaimed fantasy books, Marisa Coulter was a fascinatingly complex piece of work – manipulative, powerful, and ice-cold, with a mysterious past and the smallest flicker of humanity bubbling deep under the surface. And across the first two seasons of the TV adaptation, she’s been perfectly portrayed by Ruth Wilson – who’s played so many shades of the character across her screen time, and still has more to delve into.

Now, with the third and final season finished shooting, Wilson opened up to Empire about what’s to come this time around (MODERATE SPOILER WARNING for anyone who hasn’t read the books), and explained why she’s not necessarily sad to let the character go. “I was ready to leave,” she admits. “I love creating things. I’m not so good at sustaining stuff. Mrs. Coulter is iconic, she’s brilliant, and the challenges of this season were really good because she becomes a goodie, so, how do I manage that? It’s a fine line to go from a fun baddie into that.”

The third series will complete the adaptation of Pullman’s trilogy, taking audiences into the story of The Amber Spyglass – which significantly ups the scope of the show, contains some mind-boggling alternate realities which should prove a challenge for presenting on the screen, and presents all-new sides of several characters, Mrs. Coulter included. For Wilson, it’s likely her final time playing a character sure to have made her a figure of fear for a whole generation of kids (and, let’s be honest, adults too). “My nephew watched the first season, and that Christmas he looked at me in a different way,” she says. “‘Who are you, really? I’m not sure I trust you. I’m not sure I know who you are.’ But now he loves me.”

Empire – March 2022 cover

Read Empire’s full Ruth Wilson interview – talking her upcoming drama True Things, her MBE, and her stage monologue production of The Human Voice – in The Godfather 50th Anniversary issue, on sale Thursday 20 January and available to pre-order online here. His Dark Materials returns to BBC One later in 2022.

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