Gemma Jones is a British actor who has appeared in a vast number of stage, TV, and film projects. Known for her character and supporting roles, Gemma is a gold medalist from the 'Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.' She began her career with appearances in British TV series and films but emerged as a famed international actor after she was cast in 'Sense and Sensibility,' a film adaptation of Jane Austen's popular novel of the same name. The movie featured her in the role of the mother of two of the most celebrated Hollywood actors, Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet. Gemma has been part of several projects that have been adapted from the works of renowned authors and playwrights such as William Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, TS Eliot, and Agatha Christie. She has also been part of three films from the ‘Harry Potter’ franchise. Gemma has never been married but has a son from a long-term relationship.
Childhood & Early Life
Gemma was born Jennifer Gemma Jones, on December 4, 1942, in Marylebone, London, England, to English film, stage, and TV actor Griffith Jones and his wife, Irene. Gemma’s younger brother, Nicholas Jones, is also a film and TV character actor.
Gemma attended the 'Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.' She is also a gold medalist from the same institute. She won the medal in 1962. She is also an associate member of the 'Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.’
When Gemma decided to enter the movie industry, she had to change her name, as there was already a known actor named Jennifer Jones in the industry. Her father chose the name of one of the leading characters from 'Escape Me Never,’ the 1935 British drama film that he was part of, as Gemma’s pseudonym.
Shortly after her graduation in 1963, Gemma was cast as ‘Joanna,’ opposite Peter O'Toole, in the play 'Baal,' staged at the 'Phoenix Theater.' After a few more appearances in stage and TV productions, she made her film debut in 1971.
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Much before Gemma made her first silver-screen appearance, she had made her TV debut with two TV series in 1962. She was thus seen as a postmistress in 'ITV Play of the Week' and as ‘Brenda’ in 'No Hiding Place.' Simultaneously, Gemma continued her stint with theater, appearing in plays such as 'The Cherry Orchard' (1965), 'Much Ado About Nothing,' 'Saint Joan' (1966), and 'Howard's End' (1967). She essayed the role of renowned nineteenth-century Italian operatic soprano Giuseppina Strepponi in the musical 'After Aida.'
In 1967, Gemma had her first brief recurring role in the 'BBC' series 'Rainbow City.' The same year, she played Queen Elizabeth I in the 'BBC' mini-series ‘Kenilworth’ and became a household name in the British TV circuit. She then starred in the 1970 'BBC 2’ four-part dramatization of the Henry James novel 'The Spoils of Poynton.' Gemma’s first film was the 1971 British historical drama–horror 'The Devils,' in which she played ‘Madeleine.’
By the mid-1970s, Gemma had gained recognition outside the UK, for her performances in the 'BBC' TV drama series 'Fall of Eagles' (as ‘Princess Vicky’) and 'The Duchess of Duke Street' (as ‘Louisa Trotter’). She was also part of two 'BBC' movies based on popular plays. She appeared as the protagonist, ‘Portia,’ in 'The Merchant of Venice' (1980) and as ‘Miss Prism’ in 'The Importance of Being Earnest' (1986). Gemma has also been part of a few detective and crime-based TV projects, such as 'Inspector Morse' (1987), 'Ruth Rendell Mysteries' (1990), the TV movie 'Wycliffe and the Cycle of Death' (1993), 'Midsomer Murders' (2002), 'Agatha Christie's Poirot' (2003), and 'Death in Paradise' (2013).
Gemma was approached for the role of ‘Sarah/Anna’ in the 1981 British romantic drama 'The French Lieutenant's Woman.' However, the role was finally bagged by Meryl Streep, who later won an 'Academy Award' nomination for the ‘Best Actress’ for her performance.
In 1995, Gemma was seen in her first Hollywood film. She was cast as ‘Mrs. Dashwood’ in the 'Academy Award'-winning period movie 'Sense and Sensibility.' In 1997, she essayed the role of ‘Lady Queensbury’ in the commended film 'Wilde,' based on Oscar Wilde’s 'Pulitzer Prize'-winning 1987 biography by Richard Ellmann. Gemma’s acting career flourished with a few more award-winning productions, such as the 1999 period drama 'The Winslow Boy' (as ‘Grace Winslow’), the 2000 UK TV movie 'Longitude' (as ‘Elizabeth Harrison’), and the 2001 romantic comedy ‘Bridget Jones's Diary’ (as ‘Mrs. Pamela Jones’).
In 2002, Gemma played ‘Madame Pomfrey’ in the second installment of the ‘Harry Potter’ film series, 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.' She reprised the role in the sixth installment, ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,’ and the eighth and final installment, 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2,' which released in 2009 and 2011, respectively. Gemma was cast in a recurring role in 'Trial and Retribution,' an 'ITV' police procedural drama. In 2014, she appeared as ‘Mary’ in the 'BBC' movie 'Marvellous,' for which she received a 'British Academy Television Award.'
From 2015 to 2017, Gemma played ‘Great Aunt Lizzie’ in 45 episodes of the 'BBC' children’s drama series 'Teacup Travels.' She voiced the character ‘Marmee’ in the 'Focus on the Family Radio Theatre' production of the 2018 family drama ‘Little Women.’ Gemma will be seen in the upcoming British–American historical drama series 'Gentleman Jack' and in musician Elton John’s biopic 'Rocketman.'
Gemma has also lent her voice to Shakespeare’s sonnet 'How Heavy Do I Journey on The Way,' featured in the compilation album 'When Love Speaks,' released in 2002 by 'EMI Classics.'
Family & Personal Life
Gemma has a son, Luke, from her long-term live-in relationship with the late director Sebastian Graham-Jones. Luke is a Los Angeles-based film producer.
Gemma’s family originally hails from the Welsh mountains. She thus developed an interest in mountain climbing. She also enjoys gardening.
Gemma was shown playing the piano in the 2014 film 'Radiator.' Her scenes were trick shots, as she cannot play the instrument in real life. Gemma did, however, learn to play the piano from her father, though she never practiced enough to gain expertise.