Gemma Arterton on ‘cheeky’ fib she told late co-star Diana Rigg about Black Narcissus role

Black Narcissus trailer released by FX Networks

Gemma Arterton, 34, rose to fame in comedy St Trinians, and since then has played a range of characters from a Bond girl in the 2008 film Quantum of Solace alongside Daniel Craig to a famed witch hunter in 2013’s Hansel and Gretel. Most recently, she took the role of rebel nun Sister Clodagh, in the TV series adaption of Black Narcissus, a 1939 novel by Rumer Godden, but she revealed she actually told her soon-to-be co-star the late Dame Diana Rigg, that she’d secured the part before actually being offered it.

I cheekily went ‘Black Narcissus’, even though I hadn’t gotten the part yet

Gemma Arterton

The three-part series, which airs this month, follows a group of nuns who face mysterious challenges in the hostile environment of a remote old Himalayan palace, that they wish to make a convent.

Dame Diana plays Mother Dorothea, which was her final TV appearance before she died on 10 September, aged 82.

Already friends with the veteran actress through her own husband and Dame Diana’s daughter Rachel Stirling, Gemma revealed she told a “cheeky” fib.

“My husband was doing a play with Rachael, and I was waiting to hear whether I was going to do Black Narcissus,” she said in a recent interview.

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“And I went to see the play with Diana, and she asked me what I was doing next.

“I cheekily went ‘Black Narcissus’, even though I hadn’t gotten the part yet.”

She remembered that Dame Diana was pleased for her but kept it quiet that she too would be starring in the series.

“She said ‘Oh, it’s a wonderful film, darling. That’s a wonderful film.’

“And I didn’t know that she was going to be in it.”

Gemma also recalled sharing cocktails with the late star following her last day on set.

She said: “Then we were on set, and we are in our habits, and she was so wonderful. She’s so fun. She would have been a great young Clodagh, actually. There’s something about that there.

“I remember we just had fun on those days. She told me about this cocktail that she made for herself called ‘D’s Dynamite’ and it’s one part Cointreau and the rest Prosecco.

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“And so, on her last day, I brought in some Prosecco and Cointreau, and we had them. And she had two.

“We were really … It goes to your head, and I remember that. But it was great and what an absolute honour to have worked with her on this and what an amazing legend she was.”

She added that she only had “the best memories” working with her and paid a loving tribute to the actress.

Dame Diana had been diagnosed with cancer earlier this year and died peacefully at home, her daughter confirmed.

But Black Narcissus won’t be her last appearance on-screen.

She is also set to appear in the horror film Last Night In Soho, which is scheduled to premiere in April 2021.

Black Narcissus will be shown on BBC One at 9pm on December 27, 28 and 29.

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