Childhood & Early Life
Cherie Mary Lunghi was born on April 4, 1952, in Nottingham, England, to Alessandro Lunghi, who was from Fermignano, Italy, and Gladys, who was from Newcastle. Cherie was still a baby when her parents decided to part ways. Though her father would visit her a few times a year, he had little contribution in her upbringing.
Lunghi was raised by strong independent women in a post-World War II London. Her mother, who later acquired the name “Gypsy” as a fortune teller, also ran a boarding house in Kensington, along with her aunt Mary and her grandmother. Lunghi spent her childhood among lodgers who would tell her war stories and read fantasies such as ‘Alice in Wonderland’ to her.
Though her childhood dream was to become a ballerina, at age 11, Lunghi was sent to the ‘Arts Educational Trust School’ in Hyde Park, a theater school that had a “rich creative atmosphere without pretensions” with an impressive academic record. It was run by three “old-fashioned” British ladies.
At age 13, Lunghi got her first professional assignment, as ‘Alice’ in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ on ‘BBC Radio.’ She continued her work on radio, playing ‘Hedvig’ in Henrik Ibsen’s ‘The Wild Duck’ while still in school. A few years later, Lunghi graduated from ‘Homerton College,’ Cambridge, and went to London’s ‘The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama’ to continue her theater studies.
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Like most theater aspirants, Lunghi, too, joined the ‘Royal Shakespeare Company,’ which has produced legendary actors such as Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Patrick Stewart, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, and Sir Ian Holm. She spent 2 years with the company, during which she appeared as ‘Perdita’ in ‘The Winter’s Tale,’ ‘Celia’ in ‘As You Like it’ (1978), and ‘Viola’ in ‘Twelfth Night’ (1979).
Lunghi started her TV career in the early 1970s, with minor roles, some of which were uncredited. Her first TV appearance was in 1973, in ‘The Brontes of Haworth.’
She got a big breakthrough in 1981, when she was cast as ‘Queen Guinevere’ in John Boorman’s historical fantasy ‘Excalibur,’ which brought her international recognition, especially from across the Atlantic Ocean. By then, she was already a frequent face on British TV, featuring mostly in classics such as ‘Prince Regent’ (1979), ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore’ (1980), and ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ (1982).
Most of her TV work in the 1980s revolved around adaptations of stories and novels by authors from different eras. In 1982, she played ‘Nancy’ in a telefilm adaptation of Charles Dickens’s classic ‘Oliver Twist.’ This was followed by a made-for-TV film adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘The Sign of Four,’ in 1983. She acted in Sidney Sheldon’s ‘Master of the Game’ and the TV production of ‘Much Ado about Nothing’ for ‘BBC's ‘The Shakespeare Series,’ in 1984.
Hollywood, too, was reaching out to Lunghi after the success of ‘Excalibur.’ She moved to Los Angeles to make the most of it. Lunghi worked with Edward Woodward and Richard Gere in the American historical drama ‘King David,’ in 1985. Lunghi worked with Robert De Niro for the first time in ‘The Mission,’ in 1986, and then in ‘Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein,’ in 1994. After 8 years in America, Lunghi returned home to take care of her ailing mother.
In 1989, Lunghi appeared as an independent, alluring modern woman of authority in two seasons of the ‘Channel 4’ drama series ‘The Manageress,’ which showcased her in a new avatar on British TV. The series brought immense popularity to Lunghi and became one of the most notable TV works of her career.
The 1990s were a mix of classics and contemporary work, primarily on TV. She appeared in ‘Covington Cross’ (1992), an adventure series, and a ‘BBC’ adaptation of Edith Wharton’s posthumously published novel ‘The Buccaneers’ (1995).
Later, Lunghi appeared in ‘Midsomer Murders’ in 2003, returning for a second time in the series in 2016. She had also appeared in ‘Casualty 1906,’ ‘Casualty 1907,’ and ‘Casualty 1909,’ in 2006, 2008, and 2009, respectively.
In 2008, Lunghi’s popularity on TV soared with her appearance on the ‘BBC’ celebrity reality dance show ‘Strictly Come Dancing.’ Paired with James Jordan, Lunghi was a series favorite, but shockingly got voted out of the competition on November 16, 2008, after being in the midst of an ethical controversy over her being a trained dancer as opposed to the format of the show.
Family & Personal Life
Lunghi met Ralph Lawson, a South African fellow student from the ‘Central School of Speech and Drama,’ in 1975. It was a marriage of convenience rather than one based on romantic attachments. Lawson’s student visa was about to expire, and marrying Lunghi was a convenient way of staying in the UK. They never cohabitated or consummated their marriage.
Lunghi was in a long-term relationship with filmmaker Ronal Joffe, for almost 7 years in the 1980s. The couple had a daughter, Nathalie, in 1986, but separated soon after. Lunghi has recently expressed her wish to stay single.