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Rebecca Breeds tackles iconic 'Clarice' role: 'Her shoes fit me perfectly'

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Rebecca Breeds tackles iconic 'Clarice' role: 'Her shoes fit me perfectly'
Rebecca Breeds can now be seen in the "Silence of the Lambs" sequel series, "Clarice." File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

NEW YORK, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- Pretty Little Liars and The Originals alum Rebecca Breeds said being hired to play the title heroine in CBS' Silence of the Lambs sequel series, Clarice, was a whirlwind experience.

Debuting Thursday, the crime drama is set in the early 1990s, between the events of Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal, Thomas Harris' novels (and the films they inspired.)

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The show follows Clarice Starling as she returns to work with the FBI after helping agents catch the notorious serial killer Buffalo Bill when she was a trainee.

Breeds had about 24 hours to prepare for her audition.

"I learned the nine pages of dialogue and read, 'She has a hint of Appalachia.' I thought, 'I think that's a mountain range, so maybe that means she is icy and cold and has jagged edges and is a bit withdrawn,'" the 33-year-old Australian actress told UPI in a recent phone interview.

"And then I realized it was an accent. Crap! I better figure out what that is," she laughed.

Breeds studied the appropriate West Virginia dialect on YouTube and snuck a peek at Jodie Foster's Oscar-winning portrayal of Clarice in 1991's Silence of the Lambs.

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"The next day, I turned up and just kind of threw myself in," Breeds recalled of the tryout.

"Sometimes, there is a little bit of magic that happens and, I think, in not overthinking it, and just diving off, I just found [Clarice] in a very organic, instinctive kind of a way, and that has never really left me. Her shoes fit me perfectly. It was like a little Cinderella moment."

While the character of Clarice is an iconic one, this new TV series tells stories from her life and career no one has heard.

"It's the year after Buffalo Bill's basement, so this is about how that affected her and what would she do and how would she get back to her job and how would her trauma come with her and has this brought up trauma from her childhood with her father dying? There's just so much to explore," Breeds said.

The series is grounded in the book rather than the film adaptation and offers more depth and details than a two-hour film version possibly could convey.

"It's fun to ask, 'Who else is she?'" the actress said, noting the movie only showed Clarice over the course of a few days in a specific moment in time. "We are now expanding past that."

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Breeds was intrigued to play a female FBI agent in an era when few women worked in the agency other than support staff, and agents investigated major crimes without the aid of mobile phones, the Internet and DNA testing.

"It's very interesting. Every day, when the props guys show up, I'm like: 'Oh, my God! I've got a pager,' and [we have] these kinds of vintage [items] like the huge cameras with the big flashes on the top," she said. "It's kind of cool that we are going back in time."

One of the biggest challenges Clarice faces is learning the ropes in the glare of the media spotlight since her sensational first case has made her an unlikely celebrity.

"She knows how hard she's had to fight to be taken seriously to even get to this point, but to her detriment, she's very good with the media," Breeds said. "She's intelligent and she knows how to work the press and do that part of her job so well that, unfortunately, she then gets used as a bit of a show pony. She definitely resents it."

The attention she attracts from reporters and politicians also causes tension between Clarice and her supervisor, Paul Krendler (Michael Cudlitz.)

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"For him, the jury's out on her. He thinks that she got lucky. She's not even out of Quantico yet. She hasn't graduated yet," the actress said.

"He's really passionate about his job and he really wants to get the job done and he's worried that she's not experienced enough. She hasn't been through her paces and, therefore, she's going to be an impediment to the mission."

The job takes an emotional toll on empathetic Clarice. However, she puts on a brave face so she can continue to bring justice and closure to families who have lost loved ones due to the actions of "horrible people." She is also determined to stop the monsters from striking again.

"She's so strong. She's a survivor, but she's still very much a human. She's not good at her job despite being a woman. She's good at her job because she is a woman. That's why she is rising up," Breeds said.

"The strength of her feminine qualities are actually the things that are solving these cases, that are getting through in ways that men haven't been able to, which is why she is finding all these breakthroughs."

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