Harriet Walter is an English stage and screen actress known for her work in various Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) productions, including 'Twelfth Night', 'Three Sisters', 'Macbeth', 'Antony and Cleopatra', and 'Mary Stuart'. Her popular film roles were in 'Sense and Sensibility', 'The Governess', 'Villa des Roses', 'Atonement' and 'Man Up'. Following in the footsteps of her uncle Sir Christopher Lee, who played Count Dooku in the 'Star Wars' series, she appeared as Dr. Kalania in 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' in 2015. She also earned fame on television for her roles on series such as 'A Dorothy L. Sayers Mystery', 'Little Dorrit', 'Law & Order: UK', and 'Downton Abbey'. She played Clementine Churchill on the Netflix series 'The Crown' in 2016 and appeared as Helen Piena, Elton John's piano teacher, in the 2019 biographical musical 'Rocketman'. She was appointed 'Commander of the Order of the British Empire' (CBE) in 2000 and 'Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire' (DBE) in 2011. She is also an author who opened up about ageing as an actress in a recent book.
Rise to Stardom
Starting her stage career in 1974, Harriet Walter worked on various productions of the Joint Stock Theatre Company, Paines Plough touring, and the Duke's Playhouse, Lancaster. In the early 1980s, she began acting in Royal Shakespeare Company productions like 'Nicholas Nickleby', 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' and 'All's Well That Ends Well'. In 1983, she made her Broadway debut when RSC transferred their production of 'All's Well That Ends Well' to New York.
Harriet Walter became an associate artist of RSC in 1987 and continued to work with the company throughout her career, playing roles such as Dasha in 'A Question of Geography', Viola in 'Twelfth Night', Masha in 'Three Sisters', apart from appearances in 'The Duchess of Malfi', 'Macbeth' and 'Much Ado about Nothing'. She began appearing on television and in movies in the 1980s. She had a main role in the mini-series 'The Price' in 1985, followed by roles in series such as 'A Dorothy L. Sayers Mystery', 'The Men's Room', 'Hard Times' and 'Unfinished Business'.
Harriet Walter gained recognition as a film actress for her appearances in 'Sense and Sensibility', 'Bedrooms and Hallways', 'The Governess', 'Onegin', 'Villa des Roses' and 'Bright Young Things'. Later on, her film and television work increased compared to her stage work, and she has been working both in the UK and in Hollywood productions.
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During the 2000s, Harriet Walter appeared on the series 'Messiah: The Harrowing', BBC's 'Little Dorrit' and the ITV series 'Law & Order: UK'. As part of the Donmar Warehouse's all-female productions, Harriet Walter played Brutus in 'Julius Caesar' in 2012, followed by Henry IV in the eponymous play and Prospero in 'The Tempest'. In 2014, she reprised her role in an Off-Broadway production of 'Julius Caesar'. She returned to RSC to portray Linda Loman in 'Death of a Salesman' in 2015. In recent years, she has worked in films like 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' and 'Rocketman', and has appeared on the Netflix series 'The Crown'.
Family & Personal Life
Harriet Mary Walter was born on September 24, 1950 in London, England, to Xandra Lee and Roderick Walter. Renowned British actor Sir Christopher Lee is her maternal uncle. On her father's side, she is a great-great-great-granddaughter of John Walter, founder of 'The Times'. Her parents separated when she was 12. She completed her school educations from Cranborne Chase School, but subsequently decided against going to university and study drama instead. However, her application was rejected by five different drama schools before she was admitted to the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.
Harriet Walter was in a number of passing relationships up until her mid-forties, when she met English character actor Peter Blythe. The two lived together for eight years before she proposed to him in 2004. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with lung cancer later that year. He died shortly after, on June 27, 2004, before they could get married. She later told 'The Telegraph' that she had spent most of her life alone and was okay with it until she met Blythe and "experienced how great it is to do things with someone".
She later met American actor Guy Schuessler, known on stage as Guy Paul, in 2009. The relationship was "slow and cautious and tentative" as both of them were terrified of failure. Two years later, the 60-plus couple decided to get married for the first time on May 21, 2011 in the Minneapolis church. They later held receptions in Los Angeles and in England. They wrote their own vows, and hers was: "I shall try to control my temper." They settled in England where she hoped that he could play American roles replacing English actors with cod accents.