Dakota Blue Richards is an English actress known for portraying Lyra Belacqua in the film ‘The Golden Compass’ and Franky Fitzgerald in the third generation cast of British teen drama ‘Skins’. She has also been extensively active on stage, performing in productions of plays like ‘Arcadia’ and ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’. A London native, Richards grew up in Sussex. She attended a few drama classes at her school but mostly received acting lessons on the weekends. She also skipped school for auditions. ‘The Golden Compass’ was her first on-screen appearance as an actress. While the film garnered a lukewarm response, Richards received widespread positive reviews for her performance. In the following year, she made her small screen debut in the television film ‘Dustbin Baby’. She also appeared in the fantasy film ‘The Secret of Moonacre’ in the same year. Since then, she has established herself as a prominent young actress in all three mediums of performing arts and has received multiple awards for her acting.
Childhood & Early Life
Born on April 11, 1994, at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in South Kensington, London, Dakota Blue Richards was brought up by her mother in Brighton, Sussex. She is part Prussian through her grandmother and part Irish through her father.
Her mother had lived among Native Americans for a considerable period while she was studying and travelling in US. Because of this, she named her daughter Dakota Blue.
She started receiving drama lessons and took part in school plays. In the weekends, she was given classes on acting. Often, she did not go to school if she had an audition that day.
She was a student at St Paul's Primary School in Brighton, and later at Blatchington Mill School in Hove and KBis Theatre School in Brighton.
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Dakota Blue Richards made her screen debut in 2007 in ‘The Golden Compass’. The film’s commercial success garnered her a solid footing in the industry.
Her next project, titled ‘The Secret of Moonacre’, was also a cinematic adaptation of a fantasy novel, ‘The Little White Horse’ by Elizabeth Goudge. Richards was cast as Maria Merryweather/The Little Moon Princess, a 13-year-old girl who becomes the sole hope for lifting an ancient curse from the magical Moonacre Valley.
In 2008, she was cast as April Johnson in ‘Dustbin Baby’, the BBC adaptation of the Jacqueline Wilson novel of the same name. A year later, she played Cass in the drama short ‘Five Miles Out’.
Although she originally wanted to play Liv and auditioned for that role, she was eventually cast as Franky Fitzgerald in series five (2011) and six (2012) of the E4 teen drama ‘Skins’. Her performance brought her a nomination for the TVChoice Award for Best Actress.
In 2013, she appeared in the ITV miniseries, ‘Lightfields’, which is the second instalment in David Schulner’s trilogy.
She worked with Catherine McCormack and Marina Stoimenova in the British indie feature ‘The Fold’, which was released in 2014. That year, she also portrayed Sarah Connolly, a fiercely independent teenager who takes on a group of bandits to protect her family’s farm, in French filmmaker Stéphanie Joalland’s sci-fi thriller ‘The Quiet Hour’.
In 2015, she had her stage debut in English Touring Theatre’s production of Tom Stoppard’s ‘Arcadia’, portraying the role of Thomasina Coverly. She has since performed as Stella in Curve’s 2015 revival of ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ and Geraldine in Curve’s 2017 revival of ‘What the Butler Saw’.
Between 2016 and 2018, she appeared in 13 episodes of the ITV detective drama series ‘Endeavour’. She was also cast as the protagonist’s sister-in-law in the 2016 erotic comedy ‘ChickLit’. In 2019, she started portraying Margaret Osborne in the ITV period drama series ‘Beecham House’.
Since Dakota Blue Richards had seen the stage adaptation of Philip Pullman’s trilogy ‘His Dark Materials’ at the National Theatre for the first time, she had wanted to be Lyra Belacqua, the young protagonist of the series. Both Pullman and Chris Weitz, the director of ‘The Golden Compass,’ the film adaptation of the first instalment of the trilogy, agreed that Richards was the best choice to portray the character.
The film, ‘The Golden Compass,’ was a commercial success, earning $372 million against its $180 million budget at the worldwide box office. She also voiced Lyra for the video game based on the film.
Richards received critical praise for her performance, with Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Roger Ebert dubbing her “a delightful find”. She was nominated for a Young Artist Award, a Saturn Award, and a Critics’ Choice Award for the role.
Family & Personal Life
During the filming of ‘The Golden Compass’, Dakota Blue Richards had to dye her hair ginger. Due to this, some bullies at her school mercilessly teased her. In 2008, she made an appearance at the "Our Space" camp of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (in the Lake District), which brought together "teenagers from different backgrounds to discuss human rights and discrimination".
Since 2010, she has been part of Action for Children, a UK-based charity initiative that helps young people to triumph over injustice and deprivation. In 2011, she led their commercial campaign as a spokesperson for a new charity project.
She also supports The Young Actors Group, a Brighton-based acting school that gives professional training to children and teenagers for both the stage and the screen.