Diana Rigg, who first captivated viewers in "The Avengers" (1966-68), describers her latest role, Lady Dedlock in PBS' "Masterpiece Theater" production of Charles Dickens' "Bleak House" as "proud, haughty and cold." But when viewers discover why she had to smother her warmth, she insists they'll see her as a "very sad character." The third episode airs Sunday at 9 p.m. on Ch. 13.
"Dickens was an extraordinary man," said Rigg from London. "But Shakespeare still tops my list of writers. I loved playing Regan with Sir Laurence Olivier in 'King Lear' (an outstanding production to be rerun on Ch. 13 next Wednesday at 9), Lady Macbeth, and other Shakespearean roles."
Married now to director Archie Stirling and mother of an 8-year-old daughter, Rachael, the stunning, auburn-haired star is reluctant to tackle another TV series. "I find I have to devote so much time to my marriage," she confessed, "so a series would be difficult at this time." Once unsure about marriage, she now says "it looks so much better from the inside than the outside. It's nice being married."
Rigg has mellowed, her drive and ambition sublimated by what she considers "more important things." She keeps fit jogging and playing tennis. She likes good food and wine. And when she's not working, she spends her days chauferring her daughter around to school, to piano lessons, and fulfilling other demanding domestic chores.
"When I was 16, I chose drama school (the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts) over a university," recalled the actress, who had gone to boarding schools as a young girl. She's still debating whether or not to put her daughter in one. "It's quite opposite from a home," she remembered. "It's communal living. Some people loathe it, some adore it."
Her own reaction? "I wasn't prepared for it at age 7," she acknowledged. "But I don't think it damaged me."
Rigg, one of the most candid actresses around, admits she dreads getting older. "Especially when you're used to looking good, it's hard," she commented. "That's why I work out." Making it more difficult on her are two teenage stepsons, who refer to aging people as "wrinkly-crinkly." She laughs good-naturedly. "They call me a 'wrinkly' now, but I dread being a 'crinkly'."
A meticulous actress who loves her profession, she thoroughly researches a character before starting a role. Then she devises a way to "intelligently put it over - a nightly exercise that becomes an exhilarating experience."