Childhood & Early Life
Sean Carl Roland Pertwee was born on June 4, 1964, in Hammersmith, London, to English actor Jon Pertwee and his second wife, Ingeborg Rhoesa.
He grew up along with his older sister, Dariel Pertwee, in a hilltop house without any electricity, in Ibiza. He had an idyllic Bohemian childhood. He had the freedom to play all day and return only for meals when his father rang a cowbell. His parents never patronized him or his sister and gave them enough respect and freedom to voice their opinions on serious family matters.
Although he enjoyed the fact that his father was ‘The Doctor’ from the popular TV show ‘Doctor Who,’ he evidently struggled to share him with the fans of the show.
The acting bug bit him at a young age, and he made his first TV appearance at age 11, with the TV series ‘Billy Smart’s Children Circus.’
He attended the ‘Teddington Boys’ School’ in London, followed by ‘Sunbury College.’ In 1986, he graduated as an actor from the ‘Bristol Old Vic Theatre School,’ one of the most prestigious drama schools in the UK, founded by acclaimed actor Laurence Olivier.
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He was employed by the prestigious theater group ‘Royal Shakespeare Company’ soon after his graduation in 1986. He stayed with the company for the next 3 years, where one of his early notable successes was the Deborah Warner-directed production of ‘Titus Andronicus.’
Pertwee’s film career began with the Joe Orton biopic ‘Prick up Your Ears’ (1987), which featured him as Orton’s friend. He was cast in Paul WS Anderson’s ‘Shopping,’ alongside Jude Law, in 1994. He appeared with Catherine Zeta-Jones and Ewan McGregor in ‘Blue Juice’ in 1995.
In 1996, he was cast in the TV film ‘Deadly Voyage.’ The following year, he appeared as ‘Pilot Smith’ in ‘Event Horizon’ (1997). Pertwee then appeared in the 1998 ‘Warner Bros.’ film ‘Soldier,’ directed by Paul WS Anderson. He then appeared in Michael Bogdanov’s TV production (for ‘Channel Four Films’) of ‘Macbeth,’ playing the titular character.
He continued appearing in classics such as ‘Cleopatra’ (1999), a ‘Hallmark Entertainment’ film, in which he played ‘Brutus.’ Soon, he was featured in ‘Love, Honour and Obey’ (2000), ‘Formula 51’ (2001), ‘Dog Soldiers’ (2002), and the ‘BBC’ production of ‘Julius Caesar’ (2003).
In 2008, he played ‘Doctor Talbot’ in ‘Doomsday’ and then appeared in the 2010 zombie film ‘Devil’s Playground’ (directed by Mark McQueen). He was featured in ‘Wild Bill’ in 2011. He then appeared in ‘Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa’ (2013), where he was cast opposite Steve Coogan. He also appeared in the film ‘The 4th Reich,’ which is in the pre-production stage.
One of Pertwee’s first TV appearances was in an episode of ‘Poirot’ (also known as ‘Agatha Christie’s Poirot’) in 1989. He returned to the show in another episode, in 2013. In the 1990s, he made TV appearances in ‘Chancer’ (1990), ‘Clarissa’ (1991), ‘The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles’ (1992), and ‘Bodyguards’ (1996–1997). He also had a recurring role in the massively popular ‘Cold Feet’ (2001 and 2003). His other notable TV projects are ‘Skins’ (2008) and ‘Camelot’ (2011). He had a lead role in the award-winning show ‘Luther’ (2010).
He was cast in the iconic role of ‘Inspector Lestrade’ in ‘CBS’s ‘Elementary’ (2013–2014). Created by Robert Doherty, it was a contemporary retelling of the ‘Sherlock Holmes’ stories, starring Jonny Lee Miller as ‘Holmes’ and Lucy Liu as ‘Dr. Joan Watson.’ In 2013, he had a short six-episode stint as ‘Charlie’ in the English TV series ‘Jo,’ which was based on the French police and their daily operations.
‘Alfred Pennyworth,’ a character in the widely popular TV series ‘Gotham,’ is one of Pertwee’s most popular TV characters to date. Developed by Bruno Heller, the series premiered on September 22, 2014, and ran for five seasons, ending on April 25, 2019. Presently available on ‘Netflix,’ the series was well-received by critics and won many awards.
The first video game that Pertwee voiced was ‘The Gene Machine’ (1996), in which he portrayed ‘Piers Featherstonehaugh.’ Other popular video games featuring his voice are ‘Medieval: Total War’ (2002), ‘Warhammer 40,000: Fire Warrior’ (2003), ‘Killzone’ (2004), and ‘Killzone 2’ (2009). He has also voiced the character of ‘Peter Chamberlaine’ for ‘Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag’ (2013).
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He has acted in several radio plays, such as ‘Burning Both Ends’ (2011), a ‘BBC Radio 4’ play written by Matthew Broughton. Pertwee’s voice was featured as that of ‘Oliver Reed’ in the play. He appeared as a narrator in season four of ‘Masterchef: The Professionals’ (2011).
He embarked on a career as a director with the short film ‘Just Another Day in London’ (1996). Pertwee ventured into production by setting up a film and theater production company named ‘Natural Nylon’ with Jude Law, Sadie Frost, Ewan McGregor, and others, in 1997. Based in London and New York, the company was involved in production till 2003.
Pertwee opened a gallery in London (2011) in partnership with Simon Anderson and James Golding. They called it ‘Pertwee, Anderson & Gold’ in a deliberate attempt to “sound like a Jewish accounting firm” and snub the hipster gallery naming trends that were common back then.
Another popular success was the ‘CBS’ American procedural drama ‘Elementary’ (2013–2014). Pertwee plays ‘Inspector Lestrade,’ Sherlock’s British colleague and rival at the ‘Metropolitan Police.’
Filmed mostly in New York City, it premiered on September 27, 2012. Its seventh and final season aired on May 23, 2019.It has been well-received by critics for its performances, writing, and unorthodox approach. It has also won many awards. Currently, the cast of ‘Elementary’ is working on the episode ‘On the Scent.’
Pertwee took over from India Fisher as the narrator of ‘Masterchef: The Professionals’ during its fourth season in 2011. The ‘BBC Two’ competitive cooking show was a spin-off of the original ‘MasterChef’ series and was very well-received.
Family & Personal Life
Pertwee married makeup artist Jacqueline Jane “Jacqui” Hamilton-Smith, daughter of peer, dentist, and politician Anthony Hamilton-Smith, on June 12, 1999, at the ‘House of Lords.’
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In 2001, he and his wife, Jacqui, welcomed their twin sons, Alfred (Freddy) and Gilbert, to this world. Born prematurely at 25 weeks, Gilbert, sadly, passed away after 4 days. Fortunately, Alfred survived after spending the first few months in a coma.
This affected Pertwee greatly, and he pledged to always be by his son and support him throughout life to the best of his abilities. He believes his son’s extraordinary calmness and old-soul nature were the reasons for his miraculous survival.
Due to his work commitments, he splits his time between New York City and London, although he has made London his permanent residence, preferring not to move his family to the US.
Pertwee is from an illustrious family of actors. His grandfather, Roland Pertwee, was an actor, screenwriter, and playwright. His uncle, Michael Pertwee, was a prolific screenwriter and playwright. His father, Jon Pertwee, was a famous actor, while and his older sister, Dariel, too, has made her name in the family profession.
Pertwee had a difficult relationship with his father. As a teenager, he did not get along with him. However, they had resolved their differences by the time he grew up.
Pertwee supports the British ‘Labour Party’ and has made political broadcasts for the party during the campaign for the 2010 UK general elections.
A man of many talents, Pertwee has also worked as an animator, a painter, and an album cover designer.
He was given the award for the ‘Best Death Face’ by the ‘Bristol Old Vic Theatre School’ for his multiple portrayals of “grimacing deaths” in films. His propensity to die gruesome deaths on screen, apparently, even led to a ‘Sean Pertwee Must Live’ campaign on the internet.
He was asked to feature in some episodes of the long-running and popular series ‘Doctor Who,’ in its ninth season. However, owing to his commitment to ‘Gotham,’ it did not work out.