Harriet Walter

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Dame Harriet Walter
Harriet Walter - Actress.jpg
Dame Harriet Walter discusses the role of women in Shakespeare plays as part of the RSC's "Stand up for Shakespeare" programme in January 2009
Born Harriet Mary Walter
(1950-09-24) 24 September 1950 (age 65)
London, England, UK
Nationality British
Occupation Actress
Years active 1974–present
Spouse(s) Guy Schuessler
Family Christopher Lee

Dame Harriet Mary Walter, DBE (born 24 September 1950) is an English actress of stage and screen. Her film appearances include Sense and Sensibility (1995), The Governess (1998), Villa des Roses (2002), Atonement (2007), and Man Up (2015). On television, she starred in the ITV drama series Law & Order: UK (2009–14). She was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 2011 for services to drama.

Walter starred in the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of All's Well That Ends Well in 1981, and made her Broadway debut when the production transferred to New York in 1983. For her work in various RSC productions, including Twelfth Night (1987–88) and Three Sisters (1988), she won the 1988 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Revival. Other notable roles for the RSC include Lady Macbeth in Macbeth (1999) and Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra (2006). She won the Evening Standard Award for Best Actress for her role as Elizabeth I in the 2005 London revival of Mary Stuart, and received a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Play when she reprised the role on Broadway in 2009.

Personal life[edit]

Walter is the niece of renowned British actor Sir Christopher Lee,[1] as the daughter of his elder sister Xandra Lee. On her father's side, she is a great-great-great-granddaughter of John Walter, founder of The Times.[2] She was educated at the Cranborne Chase School. After turning down a university education, she was in turn rejected by five different drama schools before getting into the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.[3] Following her training, she gained early experience with the Joint Stock Theatre Company, Paines Plough touring, and the Duke's Playhouse, Lancaster.[4] Her partner, until his death in 2004, was actor Peter Blythe.[5] On 21 May 2011 she married Guy Schuessler, an American actor (stage name Guy Paul).[6]


She has worked many times throughout her career with the Royal Shakespeare Company, in productions including Nicholas Nickleby (1980), A Midsummer Night's Dream (1981), as Helena in All's Well That Ends Well (1981), The Castle (1985), Dasha in A Question of Geography, Viola in Twelfth Night (1988), Masha in Three Sisters (1988), The Duchess of Malfi (1989), Macbeth (1999), and Much Ado about Nothing (2002). She returns to the RSC in 2015 to play Linda Loman in Death of a Salesman, directed by Gregory Doran.

She was made an associate artist of the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1987. Other theatre work includes Three Birds Alighting on a Field (1991), Arcadia (1993), Hedda Gabler (1996), Ivanov (1997), and Mary Stuart (2005).

In New York, she made her Broadway debut in 1983, when the RSC production of All's Well That Ends Well transferred there. In 1993, she starred as Biddy in the Off-Broadway production of Three Birds Alighting on a Field, for which she received a Drama Desk Award nomination. She returned to the Broadway stage in 2009, when she and Janet McTeer reprised their roles in Mary Stuart. In 2014, Walter starred as Brutus in an all-female production of Julius Caesar Off-Broadway and received her second Drama Desk nomination.

Her films include Sense and Sensibility (1995), Bedrooms and Hallways (1998), The Governess (1998), Onegin (1999), Villa des Roses (2002), and Bright Young Things (2003). On television, she starred as Detective Inspector Natalie Chandler from 2009–12 in the ITV drama series Law & Order: UK. Other TV roles include Mrs. Gowan in the 2008 BBC adaptation of Little Dorrit, and Lady Shackleton in three episodes of Downton Abbey (2013–15). In 1987, she portrayed Lord Peter Wimsey's love interest Harriet Vane for three installments of the BBC's "A Dorothy L. Sayers Mystery" series.[7]

She is also a patron of several notable charities; the Shakespeare Schools Festival, a charity that enables school children across the UK to perform Shakespeare in professional theatres,[8] Prisoners Abroad, a charity that supports the welfare of Britons imprisoned overseas and their families and Clean Break, a charity and theatre company dedicated to sharing the often hidden stories of imprisoned women, and to transforming the lives of women offenders and—through theatre education—of women at risk of offending.


She was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2000 New Year Honours[4] and Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2011 New Year Honours for services to drama.[9]

In 2001 she and Kenneth Branagh were both given honorary doctorates and honorary fellowships at the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford.

Her performance in Mary Stuart at the Donmar Warehouse transferred to Broadway, where it was nominated for numerous Tony Awards, including Best Actress nods for her and her co-star Janet McTeer.[10]

Year Nominated work Award Result
1988 A Question of Geography / Twelfth Night / Three Sisters Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Revival Won
1994 Three Birds Alighting on a Field Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play Nominated
2001 Life x 3 Olivier Award for Best Actress Nominated
2005 Mary Stuart Evening Standard Award for Best Actress Won
2006 Mary Stuart Olivier Award for Best Actress Nominated
2009 Mary Stuart Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play Nominated
2014 Julius Caesar Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play Nominated

Stage – notable performances[edit]








  1. ^ Fox, Chloe (2007-02-03). "The world of Harriet Walter, actress". The Daily Telegraph (London) 
  2. ^ : 8 April 2011 07:49 (2011-04-08). "News: Stationers celebrate Times links". InPublishing. Retrieved 2013-02-13. 
  3. ^ Aida Edemariam (15 January 2011). "Life's looking up, Dame Harriet". London: The Guardian. 
  4. ^ a b c "Walter, Harriet Mary". Who's Who. Oxford, England: A & C Black. 1995. 
  5. ^ Shorter, Eric (6 August 2004). "Obituary: Peter Blythe". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 26 November 2010. 
  6. ^ Culture (11 May 2011). "Harriet Walter: 'Why I am getting married at 60'". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 2013-02-13. 
  7. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0092396/
  8. ^ "Dame Harriet Walter | Shakespeare Schools Festival". Ssf.uk.com. Retrieved 2013-02-13. 
  9. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 59647. p. 6. 31 December 2010.
  10. ^ "Billy Elliot musical dominates Broadway's Tony award shortlist". The Guardian (London). 5 May 2009. Retrieved 26 November 2010. 
  11. ^ "Olivier Winners 1988". The Official London Theatre Guide. 24 April 2008. Retrieved 28 November 2010. 
  12. ^ "BBC News report on critical reception". 5 December 2012. Retrieved 6 December 2012. 
  13. ^ http://makingstarwars.net/2015/12/christopher-lees-niece-dame-harriet-mary-walter-cast-in-star-wars-the-force-awakens/
  14. ^ "Scenes of Seduction · British Universities Film & Video Council". Bufvc.ac.uk. 2005-03-07. Retrieved 2013-02-13. 

External links[edit]