But while fans may enjoy her portrayals of extreme personalities, the actress says her parents wish she would “just play someone normal.”
Speaking to Harper’s Bazaar, she said of her extreme roles: “My mum and dad are always saying, ‘Ruth, just play someone normal!’”
Wilson added: “But no one’s normal, are they?”
The actress was speaking shortly before being named a television icon at the magazine’s Women of the Year awards, held at Claridge’s on Tuesday night.
Other winners included Cate Blanchett, who was given the philanthropy award, Helena Bonham Carter, who was named British icon, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who won the editor’s choice award, and Letitia Wright, who received the breakthrough talent award.
Sprinter Dina Asher-Smith, model Adwoa Aboah and acting stars Dominic West and Cressida Bonas were also there.
Wilson previously starred in Sky series The Affair, as a woman who has an extramarital relationship, and in the BBC’s Luther, as a psychopathic killer.
In His Dark Materials, which begins on Sunday and is based on Philip Pullman’s books, she plays the villainous Mrs Coulter.
Explaining it was impossible to turn down the part, Wilson added: “The stories are so philosophical — they raise questions about power and control, about good and evil, and the relationship between them.
“The way Philip wrote the books was very clever: he gives a lot, but then lets you create many of your own answers.”
Last year she departed from her usual characters to play her own grandmother in BBC series Mrs Wilson.
It was based on the true story of her grandmother’s discovery that her late husband was a bigamist who had two other wives.
Wilson also produced the series and said: “It was terrifying. Exhausting — and that pressure! It was an out-of-body experience. It felt like a dream.
“I’ll probably look back in two years and say, ‘Woah, what was that?’ It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, hands down. But I’m really proud of it.”
The December issue of Harper’s Bazaar is out now.