In 1979 bestselling author V.C. Andrews introduced the world to the Foxworth family with Flowers in the Attic. This tragic story of lavish wealth, greed and the horrifying actions a grandmother, Olivia Foxworth, made to hide her daughter’s children would play out in seven additional novels that became a pop culture phenomenon, later spawning numerous film adaptations.
Lifetime’s four-part limited movie series Flowers in the Attic: The Origin (Saturdays beginning July 9 at 8pm ET/PT) shares the heart-wrenching, twisted story of Olivia Winfield Foxworth. The saga is led by Jemima Rooper along with a star-studded cast that includes Max Irons (Condor), Kelsey Grammer (Frasier), Harry Hamlin (Mad Men), Paul Wesley (The Vampire Diaries), Kate Mulgrew (Orange Is the New Black) and Hannah Dodd (Harlots).
Olivia is a contemporary woman who thrived working alongside her beloved father (Hamlin), until she is unexpectedly wooed by the wealthy Malcolm Foxworth (Irons). After their marriage, she finds herself as the mistress of the lavish Foxworth Hall, where her fairy tale love turns into a horrific nightmare.
Rooper, who grew up in England, definitely heard of the book series, but couldn’t recall the details when she first read the project. “It was only when I started mentioning it to friends, and other parents at my son’s school, that I realized there are a lot of people who were completely hooked on the books, and it was really part of their growing up, and they were so excited that I was even auditioning and that there was this show being made about the origin story,” Rooper tells us. “From my point of view, I’m almost relieved that I didn’t know quite the power of the V.C. Andrews catalog because I think I would have been probably a lot more daunted than I already was.”
Diving into her character was a journey, as her initial reaction to Olivia was that she was an awful woman. Once receiving the full script she saw something different. “She’s a strong young woman at the beginning of the story,” Rooper tells. “And the intrigue of how does this person become that person — it’s a dream come true for any actor [to play]. Her story is tragic as well.”
While we start following Olivia as a young, vibrant woman, she eventually becomes the horrible grandmother to her famed grandchildren Cathy, Chris and twins Carrie and Cory.
“We can all be capable of things we never dreamed of, and there are quite a few points over the course of the four episodes where Olivia finds herself in certain situations and has to make a choice,” she concludes. “And, it’s not necessarily the choice that you would want to make, but at the time, it is the best of a bad bunch, it seems.”
Ultimately, her character states it best in the beginning narration: “Some may have an idea of who I was — a wife, a mother, THE grandmother, a monster. I only ask that you withhold final judgment until you know the true story and knowing the truth, judge me if you dare.”
Both of Jemima Rooper’s sons make an appearance in the limited series, including her then 4-month-old. “The baby I’m holding when Kelsey Grammer arrives at Foxworth Hall, [that’s my son]; he’s enormous and had no hair at that point,” she shares. “But, that was quite special for me.” Her other son plays one of Olivia’s sons at age 5.