David Oakes

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David Oakes
ROMY2011 b07 David Oakes.jpg
Oakes in 2011
Rowan David Oakes[1]

(1983-10-14) 14 October 1983 (age 38)
Alma materBristol Old Vic Theatre School
University of Manchester
OccupationActor, artist, presenter
Years active2008–present
Partner(s)Natalie Dormer (2018–present)

Rowan David Oakes (born 14 October 1983) is an English actor and environmentalist. He is best known for his roles in the series The Pillars of the Earth, The Borgias, The White Queen and Victoria and for his discursive Natural History podcast, Trees A Crowd.

Early life and education[edit]

Oakes was born in Salisbury, Wiltshire, in 1983,[2] the son of Jeremy Charles Oakes, a Church of England canon[3] and Fiona Brockhurst (née Cunningham), a professional musician. He grew up in Fordingbridge, Hampshire.[4]

Oakes was head boy at Bishop Wordsworth's School, in Salisbury, where he was also heavily involved with the Salisbury Playhouse and their youth theatre, Stage 65. He graduated with a First in English Literature from the University of Manchester.[3]

He attended the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School from 2005 to 2007.[5]


Oakes began his career at Shakespeare's Globe, before taking roles at the Almeida Theatre and the Old Vic, but he came to prominence when he played the villainous William Hamleigh in the television miniseries The Pillars of the Earth (2010).[6] Oakes was present to accept the Jury Prize at the 2011 Romy Awards in Vienna alongside Donald Sutherland and Natalia Wörner.

The following year, Oakes was cast in the television series The Borgias (2011), airing on Showtime.[7] He played Juan Borgia opposite Jeremy Irons. Whilst shooting the second season, Oakes performed a cameo in the sequel to The Pillars of the Earth, World Without End (2012).

Continuing a career on television playing morally dubious characters,[citation needed] Oakes had a role in The White Queen for BBC One and Starz playing George, Duke of Clarence. It was broadcast in mid-2013.

In an attempt to distance himself from his "TV Period Bad Boy" image, in 2013 Oakes played Mr Darcy in an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice at Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park. He said, "I've been playing bad guys back to back, so Darcy's a bit of an antidote!"[8] He followed this by more stage work, appearing in the world premiere of Shakespeare in Love at the Noël Coward Theatre as Christopher Marlowe.

In a return to TV period dramas in 2015, Oakes guest-starred in both the third season of Endeavour with Shaun Evans and in BBC's limited series The Living and the Dead with Colin Morgan.

The role of Prince Ernest, brother of Queen Victoria's husband Prince Albert, went to Oakes in 2016 in the ITV series Victoria. The role reunited Oakes with his Trinity co-star Tom Hughes, and Pillars of the Earth co-star Rufus Sewell.

In 2017, Oakes starred in the film adaptation of Albert Sánchez Piñol's novel Cold Skin, directed by Xavier Gens and co-starring Ray Stevenson and Aura Garrido. He also starred as Thomas Novachek in the London West End premiere of David Ives's play Venus in Fur at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. This production was directed by Patrick Marber and co-starred Natalie Dormer as Vanda.[9]

In 2019, Oakes played Hamlet at Shakespeare's Rose Theatre, York. The Stage wrote that he "plays Hamlet with natural ease: he is clearly comfortable with the cadences of the language and he conveys meaning well."[10] Both WhatsOnStage and the British Theatre Guide praised Oakes' clever performance, particular his rapport with the audience, despite the production's more light-hearted take on the play.[11][12]

On 26 Jan 2021, it was announced Oakes was to play Earl Godwin in Vikings: Valhalla, the spin-off of the show Vikings, for Netflix.[citation needed]


Year Title Role Director Channel Notes
2008 Bonekickers Alfred, Lord Tennyson Iain B. MacDonald BBC One Episode 6 "Follow the Gleam"
Walter's War Oswald Hennessey Alrick Riley BBC Four Television movie
2009 Henry VIII: The Mind of a Tyrant George Cavendish Channel 4 Episode 3 "Lover"
Trinity Ross Bonham Colin Teague ITV2 Episodes 1, 2, 3
2010 The Pillars of the Earth Lord William Hamleigh Sergio Mimica-Gezzan TV miniseries nominated for several TV Emmys and Golden Globe Awards
2011–2012 The Borgias Juan Borgia Neil Jordan, John Maybury, David Leland, John Amiel, Kari Skogland, Jeremy Podeswa et al. Season 1 & 2
2012 World Without End Bishop Henri Michael Caton-Jones Channel 4 The sequel to The Pillars of the Earth. Oakes appears as a secret cameo alongside Charlotte Riley. Oakes was back in Budapest filming The Borgias, so the producers of World Without End thought it would be a fun nod to the original series.
2013 Ripper Street Victor Silver Andy Wilson Episode 8 What Use Our Work?
The White Queen George, Duke of Clarence James Kent, Jamie Payne and Colin Teague Episodes 1 - 7
2014 Kim Philby: His Most Intimate Betrayal Kim Philby BBC2 Two-part drama documentary by Ben MacIntyre
2015 Endeavour Jocelyn "Joss" Bixby Sandra Goldbacher ITV & Mammoth Productions Season 3: "Ride"
The Living and the Dead William Payne Sam Donovan BBC Episodes 4 - 6
2016–2017 Victoria Ernest II, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha Tom Vaughan, Sandra Goldbacher, Oliver Blackburn, Lisa James Llarsson, Geoff Saxe, Jim Loach & Daniel O'Hara ITV & Mammoth Productions Season 1 and 2
2021–present Vikings: Valhalla Earl Godwin Niels Arden Oplev, Hannah Quinn and Steve Saint Leger Netflix


Year Title Role Producer/Director Notes
2012 Truth or Dare Justin Corona Pictures / Rob Heath Also known as "Truth or Die" in the United States
100Dniowk@ David Potter Agresywna Banda / Alessandro Leone Polish-language feature film – for which Oakes learned Polish
2013 Love By Design Adrian Solar Junction / Michael Damien Romantic comedy with Jane Seymour and Olivia Hallinan
Goblin? Harry Multi Story Film / Christian James Short film with Holliday Grainger
Who Shall I Play With Now? Gregory Dog Ate Cake / Henry Bell UK premiere on 29 June 2013 at the Wimbledon Shorts Festival
2014 Sins of a Father Martin Sea Lion Films / Andrew Piddington A partially re-shot, re-edited version of the 1991 film Shuttlecock with Alan Bates and Lambert Wilson
2015 Night Feed Husband Channel 4 / Christian James A short film made by Channel 4 with Alice Lowe for Film Four Frightfest
2017 Cold Skin Friend Babieka / Xavier Gens An adaptation of the novel co-starring Ray Stevenson
2018 The Garden of Evening Mists Frederick HBO Asia / Tom Lin Shu-yu An adaptation of Tan Twan Eng's Booker Prize winning novel, also starring John Hannah, nominated for 9 Golden Horse awards
2019 You Brandon Miller Moolmore / Nicola Abbatangelo



Year Title Role Theatre Director
2006 Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare Claudio & Verges Royal Shakespeare Company & Bristol Old Vic Theatre School John Hartoch
2007 Love's Labour's Lost by William Shakespeare Dumaine Shakespeare's Globe & International Tour Dominic Dromgoole
We the People (world premiere) by Eric Schlosser Charles Pinckney & Gunning Bedford Jnr Shakespeare's Globe Charlotte Westenra
2008 Old Vic New Voices: The Twenty-four Hour Plays Davide Old Vic Theatre
Journey's End by R. C. Sherriff Raleigh Mercury Theatre, Colchester Tony Casement
Mary Stuart by Friedrich Schiller Mortimer Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh Aida Karic
2009 All The Little Things We Crushed (world premiere) by Joel Horwood Hugh Almeida Theatre, London Simon Godwin
2011 Three Farces ("Slasher and Crasher", "A Most Unwarrantable Intrusion" & "Grimshaw, Bagshaw and Bradshaw") by John Maddison Morton Samson Slasher & John Bagshaw Orange Tree Theatre, London Henry Bell
2013 Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen adapted by Simon Reade Darcy Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park, London Deborah Bruce
2014–2015 Shakespeare in Love (world premiere) by Marc Norman & Tom Stoppard adapted by Lee Hall Christopher Marlowe Noël Coward Theatre, West End, London Declan Donnellan
2015 The Trial of Macbeth by Jonathan Myerson Banquo Noël Coward Theatre, West End, London Christopher Haydon
2017 Venus in Fur (West End premiere) by David Ives Thomas Novachek Theatre Royal Haymarket, West End, London Patrick Marber
2019 Hamlet by William Shakespeare Hamlet Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre, York Damian Cruden

Theatre direction[edit]

Oakes has directed a number of theatre pieces alongside his acting career. In 2003 he took a stage adaptation of The Wicker Man to the Epping Forest Theatre Festival. Rehearsing in and around his hometown of Salisbury, Oakes "got kicked out of the [Cathedral] Close for rehearsing pagan rituals for [his] open-air production of The Wicker Man."[20]

While at university, Oakes directed numerous plays including Martin McDonagh's Beauty Queen of Leenane, Harold Pinter's The Dumb Waiter and Anthony Minghella's Whale Music.[21]

Also whilst at University in 2005, Oakes assisted director Natalie Wilson on a production of Smilin' Through that was co-produced by the Truant Company, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, and Contact Theatre, Manchester. Later that year, Oakes once again turned to literary adaptation, taking a production of Stephen King's The Boogeyman to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.[21]

With his and Bell's theatre company, Dog Ate Cake, in 2009 Oakes directed a small tour revival of John Maddison Morton's Box and Cox.[22]

Oakes frequently directs at Shakespeare's Globe extending their "Read Not Dead" series, a study devoted to performing fully staged readings of the entirety of the Early Modern Canon of Drama. Most recently Oakes directed Robert Greene's The Honourable History of Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay[23] and Lewis Theobald's "Happy Ending" version of John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi, "The Fatal Secret".[24]

Oakes recently directed an extract of Robert Daborne's A Christian Turn'd Turk as part of a special "Read Not Dead" event at Shakespeare's Globe. Four directors with four scholars were teamed up with actors and presented their arguments and selected scenes at a special hustings event on Thursday 29 May 2014. Winning the event, teamed with Dr Emma Smith of Oxford University, Oakes directed the full play on Sunday 5 October 2014 in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.


In 2020, Oakes narrated an episode of Historic Royal Palaces' Outliers podcast.[25] He appeared as Thomas Phelippes, a spy and code breaker in the court of Elizabeth I plotting the downfall of Mary, Queen of Scots.

The Trees A Crowd Podcast[edit]

Oakes is the presenter of the natural history podcast Trees A Crowd.[26] The first episode was released on 25 February 2019 and featured Mark Frith.

Personal life[edit]

Oakes is an environmentalist and an ambassador for both the Wildlife Trusts and the Woodland Trust.[27] His podcast Trees A Crowd is a series of informal conversations with artists, scientists and enthusiasts; a mutual celebration of the beauty of the environment and the way it inspires them as human beings. Each episode explores how the countryside has inspired their careers as they reflect on how growing up within the natural world became working for the natural world. Growing up in the New Forest and the Purbeck Jurassic Coast, Oakes launched this podcast as a passion project to explore his lifelong fascination with the wild people and the wildlife that makes our planet its home.[28]

Oakes plays both the clarinet and bass clarinet, and is a strong bass singer.[17]

He is an avid follower of folk music, and continues to support the Bristol folk group Sheelanagig.[4]

He has an extensive collection of canoes and is currently developing a comedy pilot based on this interest. His preferred canoe method is kayak but he also enjoys Canadian canoeing.[citation needed]

Oakes has been in a relationship with actress Natalie Dormer since 2019. In April 2021, Dormer announced she gave birth to their daughter three months prior.[29]

Charity work and advocacy[edit]

British Lung Foundation[edit]

Oakes, following his infant niece being diagnosed with a lung condition, has been heavily involved with raising awareness for and fundraising on behalf of the British Lung Foundation.

In 2013, Oakes collaborated with his Borgias castmate Holliday Grainger to make the short comedy film Goblin. Directed by Christian James, the film was screened at the 2014 Film 4 Fright Fest in their Shorts Showcase,[30] and all profits from the sale of this film were donated to the British Lung Foundation.[31]

Later in 2014, Oakes ran the length of the country to raise awareness for infant lung diseases for both the British Lung Foundation and ChILD Lung Foundation UK.[32] More recently he joined with the BLF to promote their new Children's Hub to provide families with information and support.[33]

Alongside this, in 2016, 2017, and 2018 he created the charity's Christmas card.

Arts charities[edit]

Since 2014, Oakes has also been a friend of Anno's Africa,[34] an arts-based charity working with Kenyan orphans and slum children, and has supported the UK based Shakespeare Schools Festival, most notably with and surrounding their "Trial of Macbeth" and "Trial of Richard III". In 2019, Oakes helped organise, and alongside Michael Palin, Twiggy and others, appeared in the "Just A Book" poster campaign on the London Underground. The campaign was created to support independent businesses and bookshops on British highstreets and also to raise funds for Anno’s Africa.[35]

Environmental activism[edit]

Since 2019, Oakes has been an Ambassador for the Woodland Trust.[36] On 9 October 2019, Oakes hosted a discussion at the 70th Cheltenham Literature Festival on the subject of "The Art of Trees".[37] In the press release for the event, Oakes said:

Books and woods are entwined throughout history – literally the word book descends from the word for beech. Symbolically, both offer an opportunity to escape, to switch off from the pressures of the manufactured society around us and free our senses to dream, imagine and think. A woodland walk is an opportunity to immerse ourselves in places where myths, legends and stories are born. Our ancient trees and forests, and the wildlife that lives within them, are irrevocably bound up in tales from the past and will continue to feature as long as they exist.[38]

Writing in an editorial for the Sunday Times on 2 November 2019, Oakes said:

Trees give us so much: if you can come up with a better technology and material that is cheap, enhances wellbeing, stimulates happy childhood memories, sequesters CO2, boosts biodiversity and even just looks as pretty as a copper beech, a hawthorn or a horse chestnut, then I’ll bow to you.[39]

On Thursday 30 January 2020 Oakes was a co-signatory, with the CEOs of The Wildlife Trusts, the National Trust, the Woodland Trust, the RSPB, the World Wide Fund for Nature, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Buglife and Butterfly Conservation, and other notable environmental ambassadors and activist, on a letter written to Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and published in The Times, to get the UK government to rethink its stance on the second UK High Speed Rail Link along environmental and biodiversical lines.[40]

On 21 June 2020 Oakes co-hosted the live-stream event, The Big Wild Quiz, for The Wildlife Trusts as part of their "30 Days Wild" campaign.[41] Nine days later, on 30 June, alongside environmentalists and activists, including Chris Packham and Ellie Goulding, Oakes took part in the Climate Coalition's mass virtual lobby to focus the MPs to put people, climate and nature at the heart of the British nation’s recovery.[42] He also hosted The Big Wild Quiz in 2021.

On 26 November 2020 Oakes became an ambassador for The Wildlife Trusts.[43] He also painted the 2020 Christmas card for the Woodland Trust.[44]

Oakes is also a PADI-certified 'Divemaster' and has spent time diving with the UK charity, the Manta Trust, at one of their research locations in the Maldives.[45] He has also helped the charity instigate and promote the charity's first "World Manta Day" initiative, through his podcast, by interviewing the Underwater filmmaker, Doug Allan.[46]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Q&A with actor David Oakes". Salisbury Journal. 27 November 2013. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  2. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 19 July 2020.
  3. ^ a b "Interview for 1883 Magazine from 2011". Archived from the original on 1 July 2015. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
  4. ^ a b "Interview for Emma Hartley entitled "Desert Island Folk Discs"". Retrieved 2 December 2012.
  5. ^ "List of graduates from the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School since 1984". Archived from the original on 8 May 2010. Retrieved 5 June 2010.
  6. ^ Press release (n.d.). "Ian McShane, Donald Sutherland, Rufus Sewell, Matthew Macfadyen, Sarah Parish, Hayley Atwell, Eddie Redmayne and Gordon Pinsent Headline Star-Studded Cast for Screen Adaptation of Ken Follett's Bestselling Masterpiece The Pillars of the Earth". Tandem Communications. Retrieved 4 April 2011.
  7. ^ Vlessing, Etan (10 June 2010). "David Oakes, Holliday Grainger join 'Borgias'". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 13 June 2010. Retrieved 3 July 2010.
  8. ^ "Brief Encounter with David Oakes". Whats On Stage. 24 June 2013. Retrieved 3 February 2017.
  9. ^ "Natalie Dormer will star in erotically charged West End production of Venus in Fur" by Alistair Foster, The Evening Standard, 12 May 2017
  10. ^ "The Stage, Hamlet Review". Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  11. ^ "WhatsOnStage, Hamlet Review". WhatsOnStage. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  12. ^ "British Theatre Guide, Hamlet Review". British Theatre Guide. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  13. ^ "UK Theatre Database: RSC's Much Ado About Nothing". Archived from the original on 21 April 2013. Retrieved 24 March 2013.
  14. ^ "The 200th Read Not Dead". Retrieved 24 March 2013.
  15. ^ "The Marlowe Society Research Journal - Volume 05 - 2008" (PDF). Retrieved 24 March 2013.
  16. ^ "David Oakes' Spotlight CV". Retrieved 24 March 2013.
  17. ^ a b "Interview for Fault Magazine 2011". Archived from the original on 10 January 2013. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
  18. ^ "EVENT: The Trial of Macbeth". Inner Temple Library. Retrieved 12 July 2021.
  19. ^ "Guardian - Trial of Macbeth". Retrieved 21 February 2016.
  20. ^ "Interview for Wiltshire Life 2010" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 March 2013. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
  21. ^ a b "Theatre Credits Prior To Drama School". Retrieved 11 June 2013.
  22. ^ "Dog Ate Cake". Retrieved 11 June 2013.
  23. ^ "Bacon and Bungay Review". Retrieved 11 June 2013.
  24. ^ "Globe Read Not Dead 2014". Retrieved 19 January 2014.
  25. ^ "Outliers: Seal of Fate". Retrieved 14 January 2020.
  26. ^ "Trees A Crowd". Retrieved 14 February 2019.
  27. ^ "Woodland Trust Ambassadors". Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  28. ^ "Trees A Crowd". Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  29. ^ Earp, Catherine (28 April 2021). "Game of Thrones' Natalie Dormer announces she's secretly welcomed a baby girl". Digital Spy. Retrieved 29 May 2021.
  30. ^ "Goblin Film Four Fright Fest Review". Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  31. ^ "BLF Patrons". Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  32. ^ "David Oakes Runs for Charity". Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  33. ^ "Josie was the Strongest". Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  34. ^ "Anno's Africa Patrons". Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  35. ^ "Just A Book at The Bookseller". Retrieved 17 June 2019.
  36. ^ "Official Twitter for the Woodland Trust". Retrieved 3 July 2019.
  37. ^ "Chelt Lit Festival Website Details". Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  38. ^ "Link between trees and literature explored at Cheltenham Festival". Retrieved 30 January 2020.
  39. ^ "Conkering hero David Oakes on planting trees". Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  40. ^ "HS2 should not get the green light in current form". Retrieved 30 January 2020.
  41. ^ "Big Wild Quiz". Retrieved 26 June 2020.
  42. ^ "Climate Coalition Virtual Lobby". Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  43. ^ "The Wildlife Trusts welcome Liz Bonnin as new president". Retrieved 27 November 2020.
  44. ^ "Robin on Holly Christmas card". Retrieved 27 November 2020.
  45. ^ "Trees A Crowd - Maldives Underwater Initiative". Retrieved 31 August 2021.
  46. ^ "Trees A Crowd - Doug Allan". Retrieved 31 August 2021.

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