Childhood & Early Life
Polly was born Polly Alexandra Walker, on May 19, 1966, in Warrington, Lancashire. She was one of the four children of Arthur and Georgiana. She was educated at the 'Padgate Church of England Primary School' in Warrington and the 'Silverdale Preparatory School,' West Acton, London.
Polly was just 4 when she started attending the local ballet school. Back then, she idolized her cousin who went to the 'Royal Ballet.' Polly later attended the 'Bush Davies Ballet School,' and at the age of 16 years, she graduated from the 'Ballet Rambert School' in Twickenham.
Upon her graduation, Polly began her career as a dancer. However, a leg injury at age 18 hampered her dance career. Apparently, her ankles are so double-jointed that they could not survive the grueling ballet training.
Polly then decided to become an actor and attended the 'Drama Centre' in London. She later moved to the 'Royal Shakespeare Company' and played bit parts for 6 months before she forayed into the mainstream entertainment business.
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Polly performed in the 1988 'Royal Shakespeare Company' production of 'Hamlet.' The following year, she made her TV debut with the role of ‘Margaret Niner’ in an episode of 'Storyboard' and then appeared as ‘Fiona’ in two episodes of the miniseries 'Rules of Engagement.' She then essayed the titular role in the 1990 'ITV' movie adaptation of R.D. Blackmore's novel 'Lorna Doone.'
Polly was cast to play ‘Hélène Lagache’ in the French drama 'Les Équilibristes' ('Walking a Tightrope'). The movie was screened at the 1991 'Venice International Film Festival.' She then played ‘Lady Caroline Dester’ in 'Enchanted April.'
The 1992 British TV movie 'A Dangerous Man: Lawrence after Arabia' featured Polly as ‘Madame Dumont,’ the wife of a French emissary. She played the prominent role of Irish terrorist ‘Annette’ in the spy thriller feature 'Patriot Games.' Her performance in the film earned her international attention, which eventually opened avenues for multinational projects.
Polly featured as ‘Vida Warren,’ a fashion model secretly working as a call girl, in the 1993 erotic thriller 'Sliver,' based on Ira Levin's novel of the same name. She earned the role of the king's favorite mistress, Celia Clemence, the 1995 'Academy Award'-winning historical drama 'Restoration.'
Polly essayed the role of ‘Jane Fairfax’ in the 1996 film adaptation of Jane Austen's novel 'Emma.' She starred as ‘Polina’ in the 1997 drama film 'The Gambler.'
Polly played the lead roles of ‘Mara’ in the 1997 Polish–German–French drama film 'Bandyta' ('Bastard') and ‘Alexis Chandler Weinberg’ in the 1998 film 'Dark Harbor.' She starred as ‘Julia’ in the 1998 romantic comedy 'Curtain Call.' Polly played the title role in the 1998-released 'Talk of Angels,' based on Kate O'Brien's 1936 novel 'Mary Lavelle.'
Polly was seen as ‘Nurse Jenny Munroe’ in the 2002 psychological thriller 'D-Tox' (alternative title: 'Eye See You'), adapted from Howard Swindle’s 1999 novel ‘Jitter Joint.’
Polly earned a 'Genie Award' nomination for her performance in the 2002 Canadian thriller–drama film 'Savage Messiah,' based on the life of real-life cult leader Roch "Moïse" Thériault, who was arrested in Burnt River, Ontario, in 1989. The film featured her as Paula Jackson, the social worker who investigated the crimes committed by Thériault.
Polly portrayed British solar power scientist Mary Archer, wife of English novelist and politician Jeffrey Archer, in the satirical comedy 'Jeffrey Archer: The Truth,' aired on 'BBC' in 2002.
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The 2003 TV movie adaption of Thomas Hardy's 1886 novel 'The Mayor of Casterbridge' featured Polly as ‘Lucetta Templeman’ (‘Le Sueur’). She appeared as ‘Anne Collins’ in six episodes of the 'BBC One' drama 'State of Play.'
That year, Polly performed in the Choderlos de Laclos' play 'Les Liaisons Dangereuses,' adapted by Christopher Hampton and staged at the 'Playhouse Theatre' in London.
Polly essayed the classic character ‘Atia of the Julii,’ Roman dictator Julius Caesar's niece and mother of Octavian/Augustus and Octavia, in the first and second seasons of the British–American–Italian historical drama 'Rome' (22 episodes, 2005 to 2007) and was nominated for 'Golden Globe Award' for the ‘Best Actress’ and the 'Satellite Award' for ‘Best Supporting Actress’ for the same role. Polly did a phenomenal job to get into the skin of the snobbish and cunning ‘Atia.’
Polly had a recurring role, as rival family member ‘Ellis Samuels,’ in the 'CBS' drama 'Cane' (13 episodes, 2007). She also appeared as the high priestess of ‘Athena’ and the headmistress of a private religious school, ‘Sister Clarice Willow,’ in the 'SyFy' science-fiction drama 'Caprica' (17 episodes, 2009–2010) and as ‘Francesca Miller’ in both the seasons of the 'BBC' drama 'Prisoners' Wives' (10 episodes , 2012–2013).
Polly played another Greek character, the mythical queen of ‘Aethiopia’ and wife of ‘King Cepheus,’ ‘Queen Cassiopeia,’ in the 2010 American–Australian action–adventure fantasy feature 'Clash of the Titans.'
The 2012 science-fiction action film ‘John Carter’ featured Polly as ‘Sarkoja.’ She appeared in the section named 'Tharks,' and her role was performed solely through a combination of voice-over and motion-capture with props. She appeared as the prominent character ‘Delphine Day’ in four episodes of the British period drama 'Mr. Selfridge' (2014).
Polly starred as ‘DI Baker’ in the third season of the 'BBC One' drama 'The Syndicate' (2015) and as ‘Monica Wayfield’ in the 'ITV'/'Netflix' crime drama 'Paranoid' (2016).
Polly appeared as ‘Bel Finch,’ a homemaker running her family's salon business, in six episodes of the 'BBC One' drama 'Age before Beauty' (2018). She appeared as ‘Peggy Sykes,’ a main character, in nine episodes of the 'Epix' drama 'Pennyworth' (2019).
Family & Personal Life
Polly's father, Arthur Walker, runs a hotel, while her mother, Georgiana Walker, worked as a school teacher.
Polly has two children from her two previous relationships, Giorgio (born in 1993) and Delilah (born in 2000). On October 23, 2008, she married former actor Laurence Penry-Jones.
Polly is a culinary enthusiast. She loves cooking and enjoys reading cookery books. Polly loves the art so much that she claims had she not been an actor, she would have been a chef. She has even attended pastry and pasta courses at the 'Prue Leith Chef's Academy.'