The Nightcomers opposite Marlon Brando and becoming more well-known on British television in the BBC series Tenko (1981–84) and the ITV series Connie (1985), her worldwide breakthrough came as a result of playing the very bitchy and very rich Sable Colby in the ABC series The Colbys (1985–87) and in the final season of Dynasty (1988–89).
Early lifeBeacham, one of four children, was born in Barnet, Hertfordshire, England, the daughter of Joan, a housewife, and a father who was an insurance executive and the managing director of the Grosvenor estate.
Shortly after birth, she was diagnosed as being completely deaf in her right ear, as her mother had contracted chickenpox during her pregnancy, She has about 75% of normal hearing capacity in her left ear. She attended a Catholic girls' school (although she was not brought up as a Catholic) and later travelled to Boulogne-Billancourt in Paris, France to study mime with Étienne Decroux, before attending Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London.
CareerHer initial goal was to teach dance movement to deaf children, but she began a career in modelling, and was then cast for several parts in films. During an interview, thinking Barnet sounded uninteresting, she told a reporter from the Darlington Echo she was born in Casablanca, where her favourite Bogart/Bergman film was set.
After many appearances in television series such as The Saint and Jason King, Beacham's first major film role was opposite Marlon Brando in 1971's The Nightcomers directed by Michael Winner. Beacham appeared nude in one scene, during the filming of which under the bed clothes Brando wore Y-fronts and wellington boots to ensure Winner did not film anything lower than was necessary. She was subsequently cast as Jessica Van Helsing in Hammer's Dracula AD 1972 alongside Peter Cushing.
Beacham's next role was as a repertory player with the Nottingham Playhouse, where she played several lead and feature roles, including the role of Nora in the Henrik Ibsen play A Doll's House. In 1973, she played Georgina Layton in Thames Television's first daytime drama Marked Personal. The same year, she made an Italian film; Si può essere più bastardi dell'ispettore Cliff? The film was released in the US in 1977 as Mafia Junction and in the UK as Blue Movie Blackmail. It was later released on home video, now retitled as Super Bitch as the producers of the film attempted to capitalise on the success of the Joan Collins film The Bitch. Other genre films Beacham made included And Now the Screaming Starts (1973), House of Mortal Sin (1974), Schizo (1976) and Inseminoid (1981) – a film she admits taking for the fee.
From 1981–82, Beacham featured as a member of the ensemble cast of the BBC series Tenko, a critically acclaimed series about a group of women prisoners of war held captive by the Japanese after their invasion of Singapore in 1942. Following this, Beacham won the lead role in the 13-part ITV drama series Connie (1985). Her roles in Tenko and Connie helped to springboard her into one of her most well-remembered roles, that of the devious matriarch Sable Colby on the television series The Colbys, for which she was paid a basic salary of £25,000 per week. The Colbys was a spin-off of the opulent prime-time soap Dynasty which had been the highest rating programme in the USA that year. Beacham was cast opposite Charlton Heston as the tent-pole couple of the new show. The Colbys never experienced the success of its parent show and was cancelled after two seasons. In 1988, Beacham was invited to reprise the role of Sable on Dynasty, playing opposite Joan Collins in a season-long "battle of the bitches".
After Dynasty was cancelled, Beacham landed the lead role in the children's fantasy film The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, playing an evil governess. She was then cast in the series Sister Kate, taking the lead role as a nun taking care of children in an orphanage. The series lasted for one season and was cancelled in 1990, although she was nominated for a Golden Globe award. She then returned to Britain to play Mrs. Peacock in an ITV game show version of the board game Cluedo (1990). Reuniting with Dynasty producer Aaron Spelling, Beacham also had a recurring guest role in the popular teen drama Beverly Hills, 90210, playing Iris McKay, the estranged mother of Luke Perry's character. Beacham eventually appeared in at least six different television series produced by Spelling, including Dynasty, The Colbys, The Love Boat, Beverly Hills, 90210, Burke's Law, and Charmed. In 1993, Beacham signed on to play Dr. Kristin Westphalen in the NBC science fiction series seaQuest DSV, produced by Steven Spielberg. Her character was the chief oceanographer and medical doctor for the submarine seaQuest, however Beacham left the programme after its first series. Throughout the 1990s, Beacham continued to make guest appearances on television programmes, working in both the UK and the US. In 1996, she starred in the BBC wartime drama No Bananas which was set during the war years.
In 2003, Beacham returned to the UK to take a role in the ITV prison drama Bad Girls. She played inmate Phyllida "Phyl" Oswyn for four years, partnered with Beverly "Bev" Tull (played by Amanda Barrie) as the "Costa Cons", first appearing in series five, until the final series in 2006. She also appeared in the 2006 movie Love and Other Disasters. She returned to stage work and toured the UK as a lead in the Noël Coward play Hay Fever. She competed in the 2007 series of the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing with professional partner Vincent Simone; she was the first female celebrity voted out of the competition.
On 27 November 2008, it was announced that Beacham had joined the cast of ITV's Coronation Street portraying Martha Fraser, a love interest for Ken Barlow. She made her first appearance on 26 January 2009 her last appearance on 4 May 2009. Beacham was reportedly paid a six-figure sum for this 3-month stint.
On 17 February 2010 Beacham appeared in the final episode of Material Girl broadcast on BBC One as Sylvie Montrose. On 3 April 2010, Beacham made a guest appearance in the long-running BBC1 hospital drama series Casualty as Monica Shapiro.
Celebrity Big Brother (2010)On 3 January 2010, Beacham entered the U.K. TV series Celebrity Big Brother as a housemate; she was the only female to make it to the final and finished in 5th place on 29 January 2010.
Other workBeacham was involved in launching the Sense-National Deafblind and Rubella Association Fill in the Gaps campaign which aims to give the elderly the support they need to maintain a good quality of life. She also attended a parliamentary launch of the campaign in June 2006.
Personal lifeBeacham was married to actor John McEnery between 1973 and their divorce in 1978. They had two daughters together, Phoebe and Chloe, whom she brought up from toddlers on her own. In 2008, Beacham was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma, which was removed.
The Queen's Traitor (1967)
The Saint (1967)
The Jazz Age (1968)
Armchair Theatre (1969)
Public Eye (1969)
The Games (1970)
Sentimental Education (1970)
ITV Saturday Night Theatre (1971)
The Nightcomers (1971)
The Aries Computer (1972)
Jason King (1972)
Dracula AD 1972 (1972)
Man at the Top (1972)
The Adventurer (1973)
Si può essere più bastardi dell'ispettore Cliff? (1973)
The Protectors (1973)
And Now the Screaming Starts! (1973)
Special Branch (1973)
Jane Eyre (1973)
Ego Hugo (1973)
Napoleon and Love (1974)
Marked Personal (1973–74)
Prometheus: The Life of Balzac (1975)
House of Mortal Sin (1976)
Sorrell and Son (1984)
Dynasty (1985, 1988–89)
The Colbys (1985–87)
Love Boat (1 episode - 1986)
Napoleon & Josephine: A Love Story (1987)
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (film) (1989)
Troop Beverly Hills (1989)
Sister Kate (1989–90)
Lucky Chances (1990)
Beverly Hills, 90210 (occasional - 1991-98)
Star Trek: The Next Generation (1 episode - 1993)
Foreign Affairs (1993)
Blossom (1 episode - 1993)
Burke's Law (1 episode - 1994)
seaQuest DSV (1993–94)
A Change of Place (1994)
Legend (1 episode - 1995)
No Bananas (1996)
Wedding Bell Blues (1996)
Charmed (1 episode - 2000)
Relative Values (2000)
Having It Off (1 episode - 2002)
Unconditional Love (2002)
The Witches Hammer (2006)
Seven Days of Grace (2006)
Love and Other Disasters (2006)
Bad Girls (2003–06)
New Tricks (1 episode - 2006)
Plot 7 (2007)
Free Agents (1 episode - 2009)
Coronation Street (2009)
Celebrity Big Brother (2010)
Material Girl (1 episode - 2010)
Casualty (1 episode - 2010)