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It must be odd watching another actor play a character you’ve made your own (just ask Julie Andrews about Emily Blunt picking up Mary Poppins’ umbrella…), but it appears Emma Thompson had no such qualms about a new adaptation of Howard’s End.

Emma, of course, won her first Oscar for her performance as Margaret Schlegel in the 1992 Merchant Ivory film, and she had some words of wisdom for Agent Carter star Hayley Atwell, who’ll play the same character in an upcoming TV adaptation of E.M. Forster‘s classic 1910 novel.

During a recent panel about the show at the Television Critics Association (TCA) press tour, Hayley revealed that she had spoken with Emma about the role, and she’d told her the male author was, in fact, “one of literature’s first proper feminists.”

It clearly made an impression, as Hayley took Emma’s interpretation and ran with it:

“Although they’re not making an aggressive point that ‘women are smart as well,’ they just naturally are because they’re human,” she explained to the audience at the Beverley Hills Hotel. “We have these two central roles for women who are ideological, they’re literal, they’re rational and they use their reason, but are also emotionally intelligent. But they’re self-aware.”

That certainly reminds us of Emma’s performance. And Hayley looks set to be just as independent and headstrong as Margaret, if the new photos released by Starz to coincide with Friday’s (July 28) panel are anything to go by:

(Photo: Starz/BBC)
(Photo: Starz/BBC)

There were also shots of her with co-star Matthew Macfadyen, who plays Margaret’s love interest Henry Wilcox:

(Photo: Starz/BBC)
(Photo: Starz/BBC)
(Photo: Starz/BBC)
(Photo: Starz/BBC)

And then there was this peek at the sister’s Aunt Juley, played by the inimitable Tracey Ullman:

(Photo: Starz/BBC)
(Photo: Starz/BBC)

Tracey was also at the panel, and she echoed her co-star Hayley’s sentiments about the book’s social commentary.

“I’m a working-class girl, and the class system perpetuates in my country and in this country, too — and that’s what fascinates me. And it’s still tough for girls — curious, liberal girls like Margaret and Helen.”

But Tracey, who’s best-known for her comedic roles, didn’t keep a straight face for long. Asked what it was about the series that drew her to it, she replied:

“I wanted to be in this very much because I want to take over from Judi Dench and Maggie Smith.”

Tracey’s fans will be well aware of her hilarious impressions of the two dames, so she’s halfway there already.

Do you think Hayley will make Emma proud?

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By Kat Sommers
Kat is a freelance writer for Anglophenia.