OBE, FRGS (born 1 May 1946) is an English actress, voice-over artist and author, best known for her roles in British television series Absolutely Fabulous portraying Edina Monsoon's best friend, Patsy Stone, as well as parts in The New Avengers, Sapphire & Steel, and Sensitive Skin. She is a former model and Bond girl. Her distinctive voice has been supplied for animated characters, film narration, and AOL's "You have email" notification in the UK. She has spoken out as a human rights activist for Survival International and the Gurkha Justice Campaign, and is now considered a "national treasure" of Nepal because of her support. She is an advocate for a number of charities and animal welfare groups such as CIWF and Viva! She has won three BAFTA awards and a British comedy award.
Early lifeJoanna Lamond Lumley was born on 1 May 1946 in Srinagar, in the princely state of Kashmir and Jammu, which was then part of British India. Her parents were Major James Rutherford Lumley, who served in the 6th Gurkha Rifles, a regiment of the British Indian Army, and Beatrice Rose Weir. They married in 1941. After the independence of India in 1947, the Lumleys moved to Malaya (now Malaysia) and later settled in Kent, England. Lumley was educated at St Mary's Convent School in St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, England, and afterwards attended the Lucy Clayton School of modelling. She then went on to train at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). Lumley states RADA rejected her.
Early careerTall, slim and blonde, she spent three years as a photographic model, notably for Brian Duffy by whom she was photographed with her son. She also worked as a house model for Jean Muir. Over forty years later, she participated in another photoshoot - again with her son - for Duffy as part of a retrospective of the photographer's work.
Lumley appeared in an early episode of The Bruce Forsyth Show in 1966. She appeared in a UK television advertisement for Nimble bread first screened in 1969.
Lumley did not receive any formal training at drama school. Her acting career began in 1969 with a small role in the film Some Girls Do and as a Bond girl in On Her Majesty's Secret Service; she played the English girl among Blofeld's 'Angels of Death' and had two lines. She went on to have a brief but memorable role in Coronation Street, in which her character turned down Ken Barlow's offer of marriage.
In the Are You Being Served? episode "His and Hers" (season 1; episode 4), she was featured as Miss French, a perfume representative. In the episode "German Week" (season 3; episode 6), she appeared as "German Lady".
She appeared as "Jessica" on the big screen in The Satanic Rites of Dracula, released in the UK on 13 January 1974, which was the last of Hammer Film's Dracula series starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.
She appeared in the TV series Steptoe and Son in the episode "Loathe Story".
Major rolesThroughout her career, she has specialised in playing upper-class parts, and her distinctive plummy voice has reinforced this. Lumley's first major role was as Purdey in The New Avengers, a revival of the secret agent series The Avengers. Although critical reaction to the series was lukewarm, the casting of Lumley was seen[by whom?] as inspired and following the tradition of iconic Avengers actresses Honor Blackman, Diana Rigg and Linda Thorson.
In 1979, she appeared in another series which acquired a following: Sapphire & Steel, with David McCallum. Conceived as ITV's answer to Doctor Who, Lumley played a mysterious elemental being ('Sapphire') who, with her collaborator 'Steel', dealt with breaches in the fabric of time.
Over a decade later, Lumley's career was boosted by her portrayal of the louche, solipsistic and frequently drunken fashion director Patsy Stone, companion to Jennifer Saunders' Edina Monsoon in the BBC comedy television series Absolutely Fabulous (1992–1996) and (2001–2004).
Other work has included: Lovejoy as widow Victoria Cavero, a film about a journey made by her grandparents in Bhutan - In the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon (1996) - and A Rather English Marriage (nominated for a BAFTA for Best Actress 1999) and Dr Willoughby (1999). In 1995, she provided the voice of Annie the rag doll in the animated series The Forgotten Toys. In 1999, she also provided the voice for Sims the chicken in the BAFTA award winning animated series The Foxbusters. In 2000, she co-produced a new drama series The Cazalets. She has also appeared in a TV series on Sarawak, where she spent time in her childhood. She has demonstrated her ability to go beyond stereotypical images, most notably in the monologue series of playlets Up In Town (2002), written by Hugo Blick, and focusing on a society hostess's realisation that her star is fading.
Lumley stars as the elderly Delilah Stagg in the 2006 sitcom Jam & Jerusalem with Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders and Sue Johnston. In July 2007, she starred in the second series of the drama Sensitive Skin where she played the main character Davina Jackson. The BBC said this will be the final series of the dark comedy.
She starred in David Hirson's La Bête - Comedy Theatre, London, 26 June - 28 August 2010 with David Hyde Pierce and Mark Rylance, directed by Matthew Warchus.She also starred in La Bête at the Music Box Theater, Broadway, New York which opened on the 14 October 2010. She was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play, for her performance.
Media workAs the possessor of one of the most recognised voices in the United Kingdom, Lumley has gained prominence as a voice-over artist. Users of AOL in the United Kingdom are familiar with Joanna Lumley's voice. She recorded the greetings "Welcome" and "You've got e-mail" for that company. She also did a voice over for the BBC series Posh Nosh as a voice-over usually saying "From the Posh Nosh range (a faux product)."
She appeared as a guest host on Channel 4's The Friday Night Project, which aired on 3 August 2007.
From 2005-2006, she appeared in adverts for insurance brokers Privilege.
Lumley has also appeared on the last run of ITV1's Parkinson as a guest, on 27 October 2007, discussing the subject of young girls across the UK and how they need to behave better if they hope to be successful. She was asked to write the introduction to a re-edition in November 2007 of the book called The Magic Key To Charm written by the pioneering female journalist Eileen Ascroft. This is a book of tips to women, first written by Ascroft in 1938 about how to be glamorous. "I thought it was absolutely enchanting, it's how young women were told how to behave in the old days and I think it might be just coming back for a bit of a revival," she explained in the interview.
"Because, I have to say I adore our young ones and I think we have got some of the prettiest and loveliest girls in the world but I think sometimes the behaviour gets a bit bad and I think the girls let themselves down. They are so pretty and so lovely but they should behave better, I think, then they will be more successful."In 1999, she appeared in the Comic Relief Doctor Who parody The Curse of Fatal Death as the final incarnation of the Doctor. She also appeared with Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French and Sienna Miller in the French and Saunders pastiche of Mamma Mia for Comic Relief 2009 in which she played the role of Tanya (Patsy in the spoof).
In 2004, Lumley appeared as the "Woman with the Sydney Opera House Head" in Dirk Maggs's long-awaited radio adaptation of the third book of the Douglas Adams series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
In 2005, she published her autobiography No Room for Secrets which was serialized by The Times, for which she was once a regular contributor.
In September and December 2008, and April 2009, the BBC showed Joanna Lumley in the Land of the Northern Lights, a documentary about her search to see the Northern Lights in northern Norway.
In May 2009, she supported the Green Party during the 2009 European Elections campaign. For Joanna Lumley, the work of Green MEPs in the European Parliament in pursuing human rights and animal rights made the Green Party "the obvious choice", and urged UK voters "to cast a positive vote for a better future by voting Green in the European Elections". Lumley also appeared in literature to support changing the British electoral system from first-past-the-post to alternative vote for electing Members of Parliament to the House of Commons in the Alternative Vote referendum in 2011.
In 2009, she portrayed a rock star, believed to be dead for 35 years, in the "Counter Culture Blues" episode of the British television mystery series Lewis (known in the U.S. as Inspector Lewis).
In 2010, she donated £1,000 to Caroline Lucas's campaign to become the first Green MP during the 2010 General Election campaign.
In 2010, Lumley worked on the show, for ITV, Joanna Lumley's Nile, where she takes a journey down the Nile, from source to sea. This was broadcast in four parts on ITV1 from 28 to 31 December 2010.
Personal lifeFollowing her rise to fame, Lumley revealed that she had been an unmarried mother during the 1960s when it was socially unacceptable; her son, James, was born in 1967. James Lumley's natural father is the photographer Michael Claydon and is of Anglo Indian ethnicity. The first of her two subsequent marriages was to comedy writer Jeremy Lloyd (Are You Being Served? see early career). In 1986, she married conductor Stephen Barlow; they live in London. They also have a house near the village of Penpont in Southern Scotland.
Lumley was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1995. She is also a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (FRGS). She was made an honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of Kent in July 1994. In 2006, she was awarded an honorary degree from the University of St. Andrews and in July 2008, she was also awarded an honorary doctorate from Queen's University Belfast.
Alongside her work for the Gurkhas, Lumley is a supporter of many charities, including Suffolk Family Carers and Kids for Kids. She has been a vegetarian for forty years, and a keen supporter of animal rights charities, including CIWF and Viva!. She has donated signed books for the literacy and international development charity Book Aid International. She is patron of the Born Free Foundation and passionate about the Free Tibet campaign. Other charities supported include Mind, ActionAid and SANE.
Lumley was named an Honorary Patron of the University Philosophical Society, Trinity College, Dublin.
Lumley also supports the Burma Campaign UK, an NGO that aims to stop the oppression of the Burmese people by the military regime.
Lumley was the special guest at the 35th anniversary gala of the theatre company Chickenshed at London's Royal Albert Hall on 17 November 2009.
In February 2010, Lumley was awarded 'The Oldie of The Year Award' by The Oldie Magazine for her work with the Gurkhas.
Year Title Role Notes
1969 Some Girls Do Uncredited
On Her Majesty's Secret Service The English Girl
1970 The Breaking of Bumbo Susie
Games That Lovers Play Fanny Hill
1971 The House That Dripped Blood Uncredited
1973 Don't Just Lie There, Say Something! Giselle Parkyn
The Satanic Rites of Dracula Jessica Van Helsing
1982 Trail of the Pink Panther Marie Jouvet
1983 Curse of the Pink Panther Countess Chandra
1989 Shirley Valentine Marjorie Majors
1995 Innocent Lies Lady Helena Graves
1996 James and the Giant Peach Aunt Spiker
1997 Prince Valiant Morgan le Fay
1999 Parting Shots Freda
Mad Cows Gillian
2000 Maybe Baby Sheila
Whispers: An Elephant's Tale Half Tusk (voice)
2001 The Cat's Meow Elinor Glyn
2004 Standing Room Only Last in Line Short film
EuroTrip Hostel Clerk
Ella Enchanted Dame Olga
2005 The Magic Roundabout Ermintrude
Corpse Bride Maudeline Everglot
2006 Dolls Madame Muscat Short film
2009 Boogie Woogie Alfreda Rhinegold
2010 This Beautiful Fantastic TBA In production
2011 Late Bloomers Charlotte Filming
Year Title Role Notes
1969 The Wednesday Play Elsie Engelfield 1 episode
1971 It's Awfully Bad For Your Eyes, Darling Samantha Ryder-Ross TV series
1972 Steptoe and Son Bunty 1 episode 'Loathe Story'
1973 Coronation Street Elaine Perkins 102 episodes (although some say it was 104)
1973-75 Are You Being Served? Miss French/German Lady 2 episodes 'His and Hers', 'German Week'
1976 The Cuckoo Waltz Harriet Paulden 1 episode 'Babysitter'
1976-77 The New Avengers Purdey 26 episodes. BAFTA win - "Special Award" (2000)
1979 The Plank Hitchhiker
1979-82 Sapphire & Steel Sapphire 34 episodes
1981-85 The Kenny Everett Television Show Various 5 episodes
1982 The Weather in the Streets Kate TV film
1984 Mistral's Daughter Lally Longbridge TV mini-series
The Glory Boys Helen TV film
Oxbridge Blues Gigi 1 episode 'That Was Tory'
1986 The Two Ronnies Miss Dibley 1 episode
1990 A Ghost in Monte Carlo Lady Drayton TV film
1991 A Perfect Hero Loretta Stone TV miniseries
1992 Lovejoy Victoria Cavero 3 episodes
1992–2005 Absolutely Fabulous Patsy Stone 37 episodes. British Comedy Award win - "Best Comedy Actress" (1993)
BAFTA win - "Best Light Entertainment Performance" (1993)
BAFTA win - "Best Comedy Performance" (1995)
BAFTA nomination - "Best Comedy Performance" (1996)
BAFTA nomination - "Best Comedy Performance" (1997)
BAFTA nomination - "Best Comedy Performance" (2002)
1993 Cluedo Mrs. Peacock 6 episodes
1994 Girl Friday TV series
1994-95 Class Act Kate Swift 14 episodes
1995 Cold Comfort Farm Mrs. Mary Smiling TV film
The Forgotten Toys Annie (voice) Animated series
1996 Roseanne Patsy Stone 1 episode 'Satan, Darling'
1998 The Tale of Sweeney Todd Mrs. Lovett TV film
Coming Home Diana Carey-Lewis TV serial
A Rather English Marriage Liz Franks TV film. BAFTA nomination - "Best Actress"
1999 Alice in Wonderland Tiger Lily TV film
Nancherrow Diana Carey-Lewis TV film
Foxbusters Sims (voice) Animation series
Dr Willoughby Donna Sinclair 1 series of 6 episodes
2000 Mirrorball Jackie Riviera Pilot
2002 Up In Town Madison Blakelock TV series. British Comedy Award nomination - "Best Comedy Actress"
2004, 2009 Marple Dolly Bantry 2 episodes 'The Body in the Library' & 'The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side'
2005-07 Sensitive Skin Davina Jackson 12 episodes
2006–2008 Jam & Jerusalem Delilah Stagg 6 episodes
2009 Lewis Esme Ford 1 episode 'Counter Culture Blues'
2010 Mistresses Vivienne 4 episodes
Year Title Role
2008 Joanna Lumley in the Land of the Northern Lights Herself
Ian Fleming: Where Bond Began Herself
2009 Joanna Lumley Catwoman Herself
2010 Joanna Lumley's Nile Herself