Jemma Redgrave is a British actress, who comes from the Redgrave family which is known as the ‘first family of acting’ in England. She was born to an actor father and a fashion model mother. Her father was a political activist and often took Jemma to rallies and marches while her mother was a very sociable person and that meant their house was always full of people. Performing arts became a part of her life early on as both her paternal grandparents and her paternal aunts were actors as well. Her grandmother would take her to the theatre and by the time she hit her teenage years she knew what she wanted to become. After passing out from drama school, she started performing on stage. Television and film roles followed. She has been part of award-winning films and has also been the lead character in several television serials. She was also a cast member of the classic British TV series ‘Doctor Who’.
Childhood & Early Life
Jemma Redgrave was born on 14 January 1965 in London, England. Her father, Corin Redgrave, was an actor and her mother, Deirdre Hamilton-Hill, was a fashion model. She has three brothers - Luke, and two half-brothers Harvey and Arden.
Redgrave did her primary schooling from ‘Bousfield Primary’ in West London. She did quite well in primary school, however, when she started going to the secondary school ‘Godolphin and Latymer’ she found that she was far from being one of the better students and studies were hard.
She recalls having a fun-filled childhood with her brother Luke. They spent a lot of time outdoors, went rowing and fishing at their maternal grandparents house’ at Shepperton on Thames river and were very independent.
Her mother was extremely sociable and a wonderful dancer while her father was a pianist and quiet person. He was also a member of the left-wing ‘Workers Revolutionary Party’ and as a young girl, she went to rallies against apartheid with him. The opposing personalities of her parents strained the marriage.
Her parents separated when she was nine. She coped with their divorce by cutting herself off from the situation. She went to live with her mother who was a lot of fun, but the parties and boyfriends, and the complete lack of structure in life was too much for young Jemma.
She became very close to her grandmother Rachel Kempson, who was an actress. Her grandmother took her to numerous theatres. By the age of 13, she knew she wanted to be an actor.
Her grandmother warned her that she should not get into acting to become famous while her father marked her decision by buying her Henry VI parts 1 to 3 with inscriptions.
When she was 17 she left her mother’s home and moved in with her father and his second wife Kika Markham, an actress. Markham became a second mother to her.
At 18, Jemma Redgrave joined the ‘London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts’. After completing her training, she started working in theatre doing many prestigious productions.
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In 1990 Jemma Redgrave starred with her aunts Vanessa and Lynn in the West End production of Anton Chekov’s ‘The Three Sisters’. She also acted in plays alongside actors such as Colin Firth in ‘Chatsky’ and Dawn French in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.
She made her debut in Television in 1988 with ‘Tales of the Unexpected’. In the same year her first film ‘Dream Demon’ was also released.
In 1992, Redgrave was part of the award-winning Merchant-Ivory production ‘Howards End’. She played the role of a whiny young girl Evie Wilcox in the film.
In 1993 ,she appeared as Carolyn Bartholomew, Princess Diana’s school friend and flatmate in the telefilm ‘Diana: Her True Story’. The same year she played Eleanor in 1993 TV serial ‘The Buddha of Suburbia’. She says that her younger self would have been very impressed with this role.
From 1995 to 1998 Jemma Redgrave played the lead role of Dr. Eleanor Bramwell, a doctor in the Victorian era, in the TV series ‘Bramwell’ which was about the place of women in the male-dominated medical establishment.
Redgrave starred with Craig Ferguson in his 2003 directorial debut. She played Rebecca Edmonds in this British-American comedy ‘I’ll Be There’.
Among the many prominent parts that she played in television, one was the role of Detective Sergeant Eve Granger in the 2005 TV series ‘Cold Blood’
In 2007, Jemma Redgrave played Lady Bertram in the TV adaptation of the Jane Austen novel ‘Mansfield Park’. The same year she realised her dream of working together with her father in the TV film ‘The Relief of Belsen’ where she played a red cross nurse and he a Brigadier leading a medical team.
In 2010, she appeared in the production of ‘The Great Game: Afghanistan’ a series of twelve short plays. The 12 plays were performed one after the other the same night and Redgrave acted in four of them. She recalls that the experience gave her insight into the political issues in Afghanistan.
From 2009 to 2013 she did a variety of roles in film and television. She was the main protagonist Rachel Belcombe in the series ‘Unforgiven’. She also had a lead role in the series ‘Frankie’ where she played Dr. Zoe Evans.
From 2012 to 2015, Jemma Redgrave joined the cast of the acclaimed science fiction series ‘Doctor Who’ She played Kate Stewart the chief scientific officer of the UNIT.
In the critically acclaimed 2016 film ‘Love & Friendship’. She essayed the part of Lady DeCourcy in this film which was based on Jane Austen’s novel ‘Lady Susan’.
As an actress Redgrave moves effortlessly between film, television and theatre. In recent years she has essayed the role of ‘Vanessa’ in the play ‘Mood Music’. She was also seen as DI Jill Raymond in the BBC produced crime drama series ‘Silent Witness’.
Family & Personal Life
Jemma Redgrave comes from a family of acting and film professionals. Her brother, Luke, is a cameraman. Actors Sir Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson, were her grandparents. The actresses Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave are her aunts.
Jemma Redgrave met barrister Tim Owen in 1990. They got married in 1992 and have two sons Gabriel and Alfie. They separated briefly in 1997 and reconciled in 1998.
Redgrave lost her cousin Natasha Richardson in 2009 and her father Corin and aunt Lynn in 2010. Her losing the people she was close to in such a short period affected her deeply.