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Gordon S. Miller: Pride And Prejudice’s Mr. Collins

March 19, 2013

During rehearsals for the Globe’s production of Pride And Prejudice, when Gordon S. Miller wanted to reassure himself that he was on the right track with his character, Mr. Collins, all he had to do was listen for a certain sound. If Marti Maraden, the director, was laughing, Miller knew he was doing just fine.

Maraden had established the guidelines early. She told Miller to go out there and have fun and if at any point she thought he was having too much fun, she would ask him to tone it down. “She’s fantastic,” Miller says. “It’s aGordan Miller welcome conversation. Directors and actors have to be able to talk to each other.”

The approach has worked wonders for the production. William Collins, a domineering, pompous clergyman, entirely lacking in common sense, draws laughter with practically everything he says and does, and Miller, who had not performed the role before, fully exploits the potential for silliness without going over the top.

“He’s a strange character, and I’m not sure even ‘strange’ is the right word,” Miller says of Mr. Collins. “He’s a man out of his element. He defines himself by doing what he thinks he should do, not what he knows he should do. I wouldn’t say it’s a difficult role, but it’s certainly a lot of fun. I knew it was going to be a part I was going to enjoy.”

The role reminds Miller of his portrayal of Roderigo, a secondary villain, an associate of Iago, in the Stratford Festival production of William Shakespeare’s Othello, in the sense that this character is thought of as “an ass, a fool,” but only by others, not himself.

Indeed, so “thoroughly written” is Mr. Collins that although Pride And Prejudice is Miller’s first “investigation” of Jane Austen, he finds parallels with Shakespeare in terms of “language and thought patterns” and also because both of these literary giants explored themes of “humanity.”

Miller and Maraden were in Stratford together and thus acquainted, of course, but they did not work together there. Miller spent seven seasons at the Festival, having enrolled in the Conservatory immediately upon graduating from the National Theatre School. “I knew I had a lot, lot more to learn,” he says of decision.

In Stratford, honing his craft through the classics, as a member of the repertory company, Miller performed in three plays per season, and generally, two of the three would be works by Shakespeare. It was also in Stratford that Miller met his future wife, the actress Martha Farrell. They live in Toronto now, furthering their respective careers as independent artists.

Miller has acknowledged the need to diversify, and embraced it. “I thought, I’ve got to do something different,” he says. “It was time to see what else is out there.”

While acting remains the top priority, Miller also works (between shows) in the field of home renovations, to supplement his income as a performer. “What are actors, after all, but self-employed business people?” he says. “We are independent contractors.”

Miller is comfortable in both spheres, the arts and the trades, and comes by it honestly. Born and raised in Truro, N.S., his father was a welder, his mother an office clerk.

If it hasn’t already, the bond Miller feels with his blue-collar co-workers is bound to be reflected at some point on the stage. “That’s my dream,” he says. “I want to spend my life telling stories that mean something to these guys.”

Pride and Prejudice runs from March 6 – 24, 2013. Visit the Globe Theatre website for more details, cast information, and to purchase tickets.

Nick Miliokas is a freelance writer and editor based in Regina. You can reach him by email at rozenstern@rocketmail.com.

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