Remember when Gabrielle Anwar was the ultimate ingénue? She played sweet but determined young-lady characters like nobody’s business, and everyone seemed to be in consensus that she was the prettiest girl in the world. (People magazine even made it official by including her in their 1993 list.) As a tween viewer in 1991, Anwar’s tomboy look and courageous horse-diving in Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken made me a lifelong fan. And then there was her seminal appearance as the burrito-loving ice-skater on Beverly Hills, 90210. (Apparently the 9-0 writers liked The Cutting Edge almost as much as I did.)
But after the famous tango scene in Scent of a Woman, Anwar’s career went B-list, and then C-list. And, as with so many other ultimate ingénues, no one seemed to notice. There must have been a new prettiest-girl-in-the-world that year. Maybe Neve Campbell?
So imagine my delight at seeing Anwar return to the small screen as Fiona Glenanne on Burn Notice. Fiona’s got more of an edge than Anwar’s earlier characters. She’s a morally ambiguous former IRA agent who dates the protagonist, but has a greater passion for shooting bad guys.
It’s always refreshing to watch a female character in an action show who matches the male protagonist in skills, smarts, and plain old bad-assery. It’s even more refreshing that Burn Notice casts age-appropriate actresses across the board. As a low-budget USA series about spies, it could easily have gotten away with having a 20-year-old woman play opposite a 30-something dude (hell, high-budget action movies do it almost every time). But Burn Notice eschews the cult of the ingénue in favor of more experienced actresses (who, for the record, are still crazy good looking). It’s a smart move -- Anwar’s gumption and gravitas have only increased with age, and she brings a lot more to Fiona than just a pretty face.
With a recurring role on The Tudors as well, you might say Anwar is getting better parts than she did in her first blush of fame. And that makes life seem a little more fair.