Is 'Mrs Wilson' Based On A True Story? Ruth Wilson's Family History Inspired This BBC Drama
Learning about your family history can be an extremely interesting experience. From understanding where you came from to uncovering deep secrets, it's a true moment of total self discovery. Actor Ruth Wilson has taken this to the next level, and will be portraying her grandmother in an upcoming BBC drama. So is Mrs Wilson based on a true story, and what exactly did Ruth uncover about her family's past?
It turns out that Ruth's grandfather Alexander — otherwise known as Alec — had been leading a pretty substantial double life, unbeknownst to her grandmother. The upcoming three-part drama begins in 1963, where "Alison Wilson returns home to find Alexander (Iain Glen) dead. Blinded by grief, Alison is bewildered when a woman unexpectedly arrives at the door, claiming to be Alec's 'real life' wife, Gladys (Elizabeth Rider)," as described in a press release sent to Bustle UK.
I know. It truly sounds like a work of fiction, right? A seemingly ordinary man leading a secret double life as a spy and an espionage writer, with his wife having no idea until his death. And thanks to MI6's classified files, a lot of Alec's secrets will probably be kept, well, secret.
Alison sadly passed in 2002 but luckily for her family, she continuously wrote of her experiences in the form of a memoir; a memoir that she would eventually give to a fifteen-year-old Ruth, who had been encouraged not to ask questions about her grandfather and his past, she told inews.
"She was deeply complex and intelligent. I didn't realise that she'd kept these secrets for so many years. I discovered this woman full of passion, full of love; looking for someone to believe in and wanting to dedicate herself entirely to an individual," the actor explained in the press release.
"We had this memoir that my grandmother had written, which was really the emotional truth of the story and from a female perspective. It made sense that if you focused on her, you could still tell his story but through her eyes."
It was through this memoir and the understanding of Alison's experiences that allowed Ruth to fully inhabit the role of her grandmother. As executive producer Ruth Kenley-Letts pointed out, Ruth's portrayal of her grandmother is "doubly complex because she knew the woman that she was playing from her perspective as both a child and a granddaughter, but which is completely separate from her grandmother's own personal story."
An overwhelming experience for sure, something the actor discussed with Bustle earlier this year. "I'd be sitting in a scene and ... I'd feel overwhelmed with a kind of sadness for [my grandmother] and what she must have gone through.
"It was a really profound experience, because it made me sit in my grandmother's experience."
While Ruth's own personal journey and the retelling of her family history in Mrs Wilson is certainly unique, it's an important reminder to take notice of your own family history. You never know what you might uncover.