Lily James

Lily James

Born Lily Chloe Ninette Thomson
(1989-04-05) 5 April 1989
Esher, Surrey, England
Alma mater Guildhall School of Music and Drama
London, England
Occupation Actress
Years active 2010–present
Notable work

Lily Chloe Ninette Thomson (born 5 April 1989), better known as Lily James, is an English actress. She is best known for her role as Lady Rose Aldridge in the ITV period drama Downton Abbey, and the title role in the 2015 Disney film Cinderella.

James began her professional acting career as Ethel Brown in the 2010 BBC production Just William. In 2011 and 2012, she earned warm reviews in several London theatre productions. She began to appear in Hollywood films in 2012, with roles in Wrath of the Titans and Fast Girls, and was seen in further television roles, including the character of Natasha Rostova in the 2016 BBC historical drama series War & Peace.

Early life

Lily James was born in Esher, Surrey, the daughter of Ninette (née Mantle), an actress, and musician James "Jamie" Thomson.[1] Her grandmother, Helen Horton, was an American actress.[2][3] She began her education at the Tring Park School for the Performing Arts[4] and subsequently went on to study acting at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, graduating in 2010.[5][6]


In 2011, James played Taylor at the Young Vic Theatre in Tanya Ronder's stage adaptation of the novel Vernon God Little directed by Rufus Norris,[7] Nina in Russell Bolam's modern adaptation of The Seagull at Southwark Playhouse, and Desdemona in Daniel Evans's production of Othello at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, alongside Dominic West and Clarke Peters. Quentin Letts wrote in The Daily Mail: "We may have a new star actress on our hands. ... She left drama school only last year, yet she practically sweeps all before her as Desdemona in this Othello. Poise, diction, allure – she has them all. ... Her character’s love affair with a much older husband is completely believable".[8] In 2012, James played the role of Katrina in Play House and Marijka in Definitely the Bahamas in a double-bill written and directed by Martin Crimp at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond, London as part of the theatre's fortieth anniversary. Charles Spencer of The Telegraph wrote that "it is performed with a persuasive mixture of mischief and deeper feeling by Obi Abili and Lily James, the latter combining a mixture of neuroticism and glowing sexual allure that proves extraordinarily potent."[9]

Also in 2012, James played the role of Korrina in the Warner Brothers film Wrath of the Titans and starred in Fast Girls, written by Noel Clarke, centered around a group of young female athletes competing in the World Championships. Her television credits include Ethel Brown in the 2010 BBC production of Richmal Crompton's Just William, Poppy in the fourth series of ITV's Secret Diary of a Call Girl (2011), and the rebellious Lady Rose in the last episode of series three of Downton Abbey.[10] Lady Rose later became a main character in the fourth and fifth series of the programme.[11] James also appeared as Lady Rose in the series finale.[12]

James played the title character in the 2015 live-action Disney film Cinderella.[13] The film was released on 13 March 2015. James, as Cinderella, was photographed by Annie Leibovitz, in the blue gown that she wears to the ball, for the December 2014 issue of Vogue.[14][15] James also made her singing debut in the film's end credits, covering "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes" from the 1950 animated film.

In 2016, she returned to television in the BBC's War & Peace drama adoption, which received rave reviews. She played the character of Natasha Rostova in the 2016 BBC historical drama series War & Peace. She also starred in her second major film, playing the role of Elizabeth Bennett in the action-horror film Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a parody of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It received mixed reviews and failed to break even at the box office.

James is scheduled to play the role of Juliet in the Garrick Theatre's production of Romeo and Juliet. The directors are Rob Ashford and actor-director Kenneth Branagh.

Personal life

In 2008, James' father died from cancer, which made filming father/daughter scenes in Cinderella very emotional for her.[16] She began dating Matt Smith in 2015, announcing their relationship when they appeared together at the Cinderella premiere in February.[17]

Awards and nominations

Year Festival Prize Film or TV series Result
2014 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series Downton Abbey Won
2015 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series Downton Abbey Won
2015 Teen Choice Awards Choice Movie Actress: Sci-Fi/Fantasy[18] Cinderella Nominated
2015 Harper's Bazaar Women of the Year Awards Breakthrough Award[19] Cinderella Won
2016 Kids' Choice Awards Favorite Movie Actress[20] Cinderella Nominated



Year Title Role Notes
2012 Chemistry Ines Short film
Wrath of the Titans Korrina
Broken Older Skunk
Fast Girls Lisa Temple
2015 Cinderella Cinderella Also playback singer for 'A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes'
Burnt Sara
2016 Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Elizabeth Bennet
The Exception Mieke de Jong Post-production
2017 Baby Driver Deborah Post-production
Darkest Hour Elizabeth Nel Filming


Year Title Role Notes
2010 Just William Ethel Brown 4 episodes
2011 Secret Diary of a Call Girl Poppy 8 episodes
2012–2015 Downton Abbey Lady Rose MacClare 21 episodes
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
2016 War & Peace Natasha Rostova 6 episodes


Year Title Role Notes
2011 Vernon God Little Taylor Young Vic Theatre
2012 The Seagull Nina Southwark Playhouse
2016 Romeo and Juliet Juliet Garrick Theatre


  1. Pietras, Emma (20 March 2015). "Cinderella and Downton Abbey's Lily James amazing rise to Hollywood star". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 28 September 2015.
  2. Hansen, Pal (23 December 2012). "Fallen angel: How Lily James is bringing scandal to Downton Abbey this Christmas". The Independent. Retrieved 16 March 2015.
  3. "Lily James found comfort in drama". Belfast Telegraph. 3 January 2014. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  4. "Branagh and Lily James in new venture". Tring Park School for the Performing Arts. 17 April 2015. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  5. "Lily James". Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  6. Mottram, James (15 March 2015). "Disney's Cinderella: Why Downton Abbey star Lily James is not just another English rose". The Independent. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  7. "What's On – Young Vic". Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  8. Letts, Quentin. "A star is born as newcomer takes Desdemona to The Wire", The Daily Mail, 20 September 2011, accessed 19 November 2014
  9. Spencer, Charles. "Play House/Definitely the Bahamas, Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, review", The Daily Telegraph, 19 March 2012, accessed 19 November 2014
  10. "The Tatler List". Tatler.
  11. "Ones to Watch in 2011". Female First.
  12. "Lily James to return for final episode of Downton Abbey". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  13. ‘Downton Abbey’ Star is New Cinderella Retrieved 30 April 2013.
  14. "The New Trailer, Poster and Photos for Disney's Cinderella!". Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  15. Camhi, Leslie. "What Would Cinderella Wear? Costuming Lily James and Cate Blanchett in Kenneth Branagh's Forthcoming Film". Vogue. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  16. Wells, Frankie (2015-02-11). "'Downton Abbey’s’ Lily James reveals her real-life Cinderella story | New York Post". Retrieved 2016-11-28.
  17. "Lily James and Matt Smith Make Their Debut as a Couple at Cinderella Premiere in Milan—See the Pics! | E! News". 2015-02-19. Retrieved 2016-11-28.
  18. Teen Choice Awards 2015 Winners: Full List
  19. Lily James In Erdem – 2015 Harper’s Bazaar Women of the Year Awards
  20. "Kids' Choice Awards: Adele, Justin Bieber, 'Star Wars' Among Nominees". Retrieved February 7, 2016.

Further reading

External links

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