Andie MacDowell unleashes her inner devil

ERICA THOMPSON
Last updated 05:00 17/04/2012
andie
REUTERS

MEAN ON STAGE, NOT IN LIFE: Andie MacDowell plays Gray Chandler Murray in Jane By Design.

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She terrifies her staff in new teen drama series Jane by Design, but Andie MacDowell says she's a much nicer boss in real life.

"I've had people that have come to work with me and they are dying to hear that you are bad," says the 54-year-old former Vogue model and Four Weddings and a Funeral actress.

"Everybody perceives me because of my career that I'm a movie star or I'm this model, but I'm still the same person I was when I was a little girl.

"I'm just human and I have great relationships with the people that work for me.

"A long-term assistant who worked for me for 12 years is getting married. My son is giving her away and my daughter is going to sing at her wedding.

"She's been everything to me and that's the way I treat my assistants  they are a part of my life."

However, there is another part of this South Carolina native  who is every bit as luminous in the flesh as the L'Oreal beauty products she's been spruiking for a quarter of a century would suggest  that is relishing the opportunity to be bad.

In Jane by Design, MacDowell plays top accessories designer Gray Chandler Murray  a fashion executive in the mould of Meryl Streep's The Devil Wears Prada character  who mistakenly hires high school student Jane Quimby (Erica Dasher) as her latest in a long, traumatised line of personal assistants.

The style-savvy, but uncool-to-her-peers Jane is determined to juggle her education and her secret fashion life  as long as she can meet the ever demanding needs of Gray.

"I get to be that bad, horrible person and say anything I want to," McDowell says. "How great is that?"

While Jane's premise might sound a little last season (Don't Tell Mum the Babysitter's Dead, Prada and even Ugly Betty all covered similar territory), series creator April Blair says it takes its cue from contemporary fashion trends as well.

"Some of my favourite movies were Working Girl, The Devil Wears Prada, all of the John Hughes movies," Blair says. "I also had started to read a lot of these teen fashion blogs, like Tavi [Gevinson] and Jane Aldridge and people like that.

"It used to be when you were in high school and you were discovering your style, it was just in the halls, and now it's spread around the world.

"And I had read a quote of Jane Aldridge, who has this blog, Sea of Shoes, where she was at, I think, a Chanel fashion show in Paris, and Teen Vogue was interviewing her and they said, 'You must be the most popular girl in high school'. And she said, 'Are you kidding? They all think I'm a freak'. That reminded me of John Hughes, and so that was the birth of the idea of the show."

Dasher, who endured an agonising start to the series by having to run in high heels with a broken ankle, says she can relate to Jane.

"My high school experience was kind of like Mean Girls. It was very much like a bad B movie. 'This is where the jocks sit, and this is where the cheerleaders sit.' And I never really fit in. I guess I was sort of a theatre geek, but the activity that I was most invested in was speech and debate.

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"My dad took me to all of my speech tournaments throughout high school ... and I went to speech camp, which was, you know, like a step above or below band camp depending on who you ask."

Dasher admits working with MacDowell was initially intimidating. "There is a reputation that precedes Andie because she is a movie star, but she is so generous.

"We went to Fashion Week together ... and Andie walks into a room, and everybody wants to take pictures of her and she pulled me into every picture and every interview. She's been the face of L'Oreal for 25 years. What other actor has a campaign that's that long running?"

MacDowell's fashion cred has helped pave the way for several special cameos on Jane including fashion designer Betsey Johnson, Sex and the City costume designer Patricia Field and fellow model Paulina Porizkova. MacDowell says: "I used to work with Paulina. We had fun because it was like old friends."

The Details

What: Jane By Design

When: Sunday, 3pm

Where: TV2

- The Dominion Post

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