Did anyone ask for a new version of Ben Hur? I'm thinking no but we got one anyway. The four hour, two part sword and sandals epic begins East Sunday at 8 p.m. and concludes next Sunday at the same time on CBC; ABC and BBC are both also in on the saga.
Instead of Charlton Heston as the world's most famous galley slave we get Welsh actor Joseph Morgan. There are mostly British actors in this Canada/U.K./Spain co-production, although Canadians Kristin Kreuk (Smallville) and Emily VanCamp (Brothers & Sisters) picked up some far-from-Hollywood hiatus work. The miniseries was shot in Morocco, and VanCamp, who I spoke with last week, got to ride a camel.
The 23-year-old, from Port Perry, Ont., sounds as grounded and down-to-earth as ever. I've interviewed the young actress ever since she played a teen on The WB drama Everwood. She seems to epitomise the oft-quoted expression that if you want to place an All-American young person in a series cast a Canadian.
She says it was different working with a cast full of Brits. Even the young ones take their schooling and training as an actor very seriously, she found. "They're all so incredibly skilled, I loved being around them and seeing that deep passion." VanCamp grew up in Montreal where she trained to be a classical dancer and so knows discipline but not so much in the acting arena. "Acting for me was more self taught, learn through experience," she says. "There was so much to gain from that, but also so much I missed out on."
For more on VanCamp and Ben Hur, read the rest of the column I wrote this week for The Canadian Press.