Professor Dame Mary Beard was taught to cry on demand by Dame Emma Thompson and how to “act power” with Bridgerton star Adjoa Andoh.
The 67-year-old broadcaster and historian has explored the deeply-ingrained nature of female stereotyping for her upcoming BBC Two series Inside Culture.
Appearing on Sunday Morning with Sophie Raworth, Dame Mary said there are very few templates to mirror if you want to be a powerful woman, “except to be a man”.
Speaking about her star-studded guests on the new series, Dame Mary said: “One of the people we talk to is Edwina Currie and she is extremely funny because she says she was in parliament when it was first televised.
“She said there was a lightbulb moment, all these men who would look exactly the same dressed in their grey suits and the few women that there were, she said we could stand out, we could put red and pink on.
“We also have a great lesson with Adjoa Andoh, who was Lady Danbury in Bridgerton, saying ‘look, this is how you act power’.”
Dame Mary also explored the idea of women crying where star Thompson gave her an acting lesson.
“She tries to teach me how to be an actor and how to cry on demand.
“I have to say, I am completely hopeless, I failed the audition abysmally.
“She’s brilliant at it,” Dame Mary added.
For the series, the Cambridge historian spoke to women who have reached the highest level of politics including the former prime minster of Australia Julia Gillard.
Talking about how the style of Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, Dame Mary added: “It says, ‘I am Thatcher’.
“If you look through the photos of Liz Truss, all power to her if that’s what she wants to do, but it is very definitely trying to pick out a version of female power that worked and try to make it work for her.
“Thatcher was partly very, very male, and she did lower her voice, but she was quite clever because she retained little signifiers of being female like the handbag, which became a symbol of female power in Thatcher’s hands.”
The new series of Inside Culture with Mary Beard starts on BBC Two on Friday.