Gabrielle Anwar is the only woman who could really handle Jeffrey Donovan. Or at least her character, Fiona, on USA’s Burn Notice is the only woman for Donovan’s Michael Westen. They may never be fated to get engaged and live happily ever after, but now and then they deserve a respite from the bombing, gunplay, and close quarters combat of the spy world.
Gabrielle took a moment out of her day to speak with us via a conference call, and she revealed a few things about her character on Burn Notice. She also let us know that perhaps at some point the skimpy bikini’s will be a thing of the past. Being a spy, even on a television show, is hard work.
Below is the Q&A session with Gabrielle.
I was wondering, what’s the status of Fiona and Michael’s relationship? Will we see them becoming a couple again?
Gabrielle: That depends how one would define a couple. Are you talking in the Bill Clinton instance?
Yes, like a traditional relationship, like boyfriend/girlfriend.
Gabrielle: I don’t think either of them has a traditional bone in their body, so I think perhaps not in that respect.
Alright. Fair enough. I also love the on-screen chemistry with Fiona and Sam. I was wondering, what’s the best part of doing scenes with Bruce Campbell?
Gabrielle: The hysterical laughter that it is inevitable. I think I may have cracked plenty of neatly executed make-up applications on my cheeks from the kind of laughter that goes alongside with working with Bruce.
Now the show features some pretty strong female roles and now that Carla’s in the fold how does that change Fiona for you?
Gabrielle: I think that Fiona is as threatened as Fiona can get. I don’t think it’s about necessarily how attractive physically a woman is. I think it’s how much a monopoly she might have on Michael Westen’s mind and livelihood and thinking. So I think she is perhaps threatened by Carla more so than anybody else she would be threatened by. I mean there’s plenty of hot chicks down there let’s face it.
We have learned lots about Michael’s life and his past and quite a bit about Sam’s life and Sam’s past. We know very little about Fiona’s past. I’d like you to talk about whether or not Fiona has girlfriends. Does she go for lunch, shopping? What’s her apartment like? Does she have a life outside guns?
Gabrielle: Very funny. I don’t think Fiona’s the type of gal who takes lunches with her BFF. I don’t even think she gets her nails done. I think that any attempt at being aesthetically feminine goes to the wayside when handling all these black market weapons. I think that perhaps she doesn’t really settle anywhere. So as far as an apartment is concerned, I’m not sure she has many trinkets other than her snowglobes. She’s not your average woman, let’s face it.
So then are we going to learn more about Fiona’s background beyond the fact that she’s a former IRA agent—well, maybe not even former? Are we going to learn more about Fiona?
Gabrielle: I don’t know. I’d like to because of her narcissistic connection...but it’s really not up to me. I have my own secret fantasies of who she is and where she came from and where she’s going. But unfortunately that life hasn’t connected to mine.
So there’s nothing coming up in the rest of this season that you know of that will cast some light on her background, nothing revealed to you yet?
Gabrielle: Not this far, no. Perhaps once we go back in a couple of weeks I’ll have a different story for you. But as of now what you all will be seeing tonight and so on, not so much.
If Michael and Fiona wouldn’t have a traditional relationship, what would a Michael/Fiona relationship be like?
What about your role continues to challenge you?
Gabrielle: That I still have to speak the American dialect. I think it’s a bit nerve racking now that we’re heading into season three that I’m still going to be in a bikini. I think I’ll probably have to have a hip replacement if we get to season eight. I’m not sure if the bikini’s going to work then.
What has been your most memorable moment you’ve had since filming the show?
Gabrielle: I don’t know if I have just one moment. Every day that I’m working on that show I really feel incredibly blessed to be there. And I’m really not kidding you. I know that’s an awful cliché to hear, but I really mean it. I just have a series of memorable moments that are strung together which makes me very happy, because otherwise I’d just be hoping to relive the lost memorable moment. But I’m actually looking forward to going back to work. It’s something I haven’t often said.
Speaking of that, you have such great chemistry with both of your leading men. How do you continue to maintain it?
Gabrielle: Because I’m a woman.
Use your feminine charms on them?
Gabrielle: I enjoy people, I really do. I enjoy men for a variety of reasons. So I’m fortunate enough to be working with two members of the opposite sex which I think lends itself to an interesting chemistry whether it be sexual or otherwise. There’s always something going on, and I’m fascinated by what’s really not being said more than anything else.
With regard to Fiona and Michael, when we talk to a lot of actors and actresses they sometimes are fearful of couples getting together or not getting together, thinking about what ramifications it might have on the length or the life of the series. From your own sort of personal opinion, do you want to see them get together? Do you want to see them stay apart? How do you want to see this relationship play out?
Gabrielle: I have to agree. I think there’s a certain amount of tension that is inevitable when a relationship isn’t really predictable. Obviously, Michael and Fiona have consummated their affection for one another. I think that the likelihood of their hooking up in a conventional manner with an engagement or a marriage or something, it’s just not in their cards. I don’t think it would appeal to either of them actually. They’re out of the box.
So I don’t think that would be an issue as far as...just not have any kind of predictability. I find that much more intriguing. When you start taking someone for granted in real life or in make-believe it loses a sense of passion, particularly in my eyes. I can’t see Gabrielle for those both.
Right. This is a character where you have to have a lot of guns, a lot of bombs. You have to be very physical. At the same time, like you said, you’re doing a lot more sort of bikini scenes this season. These are the kinds of things that not every actress would be necessarily comfortable with doing. Talk about the challenges of having to, number one, be in a bikini, number two, have retail of all these guns and bombs, and what are some of the things that you like about the challenges that the role offers you?
Gabrielle: I’m very glad that we have a wonderful weapons master who knows what he’s doing with a weapon, because I’m clueless. Without the crew, I would look absolutely ridiculous, which is basically the way I look when the camera’s not rolling. I’m really enjoying the fantasy of it because, obviously, it’s not really a role that I’ve been offered in the past. So I’m really relishing the fact that I think I’m tough. It’s challenging to really make it look like I know what I’m doing.
Jeffrey’s actually pretty good with self-defense, and he’s quite technically minded. He’s very logically minded mostly because he’s male and I am sort of a mishmash between being super feminine and being super feminist. I’m enjoying that aspect of my character in both Fiona and in myself.
You say that your American accent is actually one of your challenges, but you seem to carry it off flawlessly. Why is it that English actors and actresses like yourself have such an easy time playing Americans?
Gabrielle: Thanks. I have to disagree with you. I hear terrible versions of American dialects when I hear my fellow British thespians attempting it I confess. But I think that a lot of the American audiences are oblivious to the sounds that are not quite right. And when you’re struggling to be like them, and most of the audience for Burn Notice are indeed American, so I feel like I have the worst critics watching and listening to my every move.
So I think I struggle with it because I like to not be thinking about what I sound like, what I look like, what I smell like for that matter. But it’s difficult to do that when you’re trying to sound like somebody other than yourself, at least it is for me. But I appreciate your vote of confidence.
I honestly would not have known other than just doing research on your bio and knowing you did come from England. And without hearing it in the conversations today, I wouldn’t have been able to know just by your voice.
Gabrielle: Good. Maybe I can chill out about it a little.
What is, apart from Fiona, the favorite role of yours that you’ve ever done?
Gabrielle: I think I really had one of the best experiences of my life when I played in a film called Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken. I just had a ball. I loved the character. I loved the script. I loved the crew, and I loved that we were shooting in the South, and I discovered the Piggly Wiggly. It was one of my first All American experiences, and I just thought, “Wow, life is extraordinarily good.”
Even though Fiona and you are quite different as characters, do you find that you see bits and pieces of Fiona sometimes popping up in the things that you do?
Gabrielle: Unfortunately, yes. I have actually been able to get myself in quite a bit of trouble when the Fiona takes over for Gabrielle. I need to sort of remember that I can’t actually speed down PCH because I will get a speeding ticket; I’m not playing a role in an action TV show. Unfortunately, I now have a speeding ticket.
The biggest thing I would say is that because Fiona is such a strong character and she’s such a dynamic woman, you’ve got a huge fan base of woman who would like to become more like Fiona. Got a new tip?
Gabrielle: Be careful. I would say that there something to be said for the empowerment of women without having to become masculine in order to accomplish that.
That’s true, because you are able to do it a lot of times without even pulling a weapon. You do things and get in behind people and disarm them with just your charm.
Gabrielle: Women are very charming. We have a lot to offer. I don’t think it’s anything to be ashamed of or to restrain or to sensor. I think we’ve been given some—God has given a gift, for a want of a better word, so why not use them while they’re still appealing.
And for you, you mentioned that it’s the guns and the weapons and things that are harder to deal with, but are you finding it more comfortable as the season goes on?
Gabrielle: Perhaps. I’m still covered in bruises from the first day of shooting to the last. I can be a little clumsy. I’m quite petite, and a lot of these weapons are designed for big burly military men. They’re actually cumbersome and rather heavy. And when you drop them on your bare toes in a pair of stiletto heals it’s no fun. I could use a pair of combat boots every now and then I think.
How much input do you get in terms of the costumes that you wear?
Gabrielle: Rather a lot actually. I’m fortunate to have a wonderful costume designer and costume department who are very patient with me. As I mentioned, I’m quite small so I have a hard time shopping for myself so I can imagine anybody who isn’t me would too. So I tend to sort of storm the big department stores and do a big old shopping spree and sign everything up to Burn Notice Production, which is quite possibly one of the most fun things to do in the world. So yes in answer to your question, I have plenty of freedom.