Miriam Margolyes, /ˈmɑːrɡəliːz/; born 18 May 1941) is a British-Australian actress and voice artist. Her earliest roles were in theatre and after several supporting roles in film and television she won a BAFTA Award for her role in The Age of Innocence (1993) and was cast in the role of Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter film series.(
For many years she has divided her time between England and Australia, and she has starred in productions in both countries, including the Australian premiere of the 2013 play I'll Eat You Last. In 2013, she became an Australian citizen, thereby holding dual British and Australian citizenship.
Margolyes was born in Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, on 18 May 1941, the only child of Ruth (née Walters; 1905–1974), a property investor and developer, and Joseph Margolyes (1899–1995), a physician from Glasgow. She grew up in a Jewish family; her ancestors migrated to the UK from Poland and Belarus. Her great-grandfather, Symeon Sandmann, was born in the town of Margonin in central-western Poland, which Margolyes visited in 2013.
She attended Oxford High School and then Newnham College, Cambridge, where she read English. There, in her twenties, she began acting and appeared in productions by the Cambridge Footlights comedy troupe. She represented the university in the first series of University Challenge, where she may have been one of the first people to say "fuck" on British television; she claims to have used the word in frustration on the show in 1963. However, at least two others said it on British television before that: Brendan Behan on Panorama in 1956 (although his drunken slurring was not understood), and an anonymous man who painted the railings on Stranmillis Embankment alongside the River Lagan in Belfast, who in 1959 told Ulster TV's magazine show, Roundabout, that his job was "fucking boring".
With her distinctive voice, Margolyes first gained recognition for her work as a voice artist. In the 1970s she recorded a soft-porn audio called Sexy Sonia: Leaves from my Schoolgirl Notebook. She performed most of the supporting female characters in the dubbed Japanese action TV series Monkey. She also worked with the theatre company Gay Sweatshop and provided voiceovers in the Japanese TV series The Water Margin (credited as Mirium Margolyes).
Margolyes' first major role in a film was as Elephant Ethel in Stand Up, Virgin Soldiers (1977). In the 1980s, she made appearances in Blackadder opposite Rowan Atkinson: these roles include the Spanish Infanta in The Black Adder, Lady Whiteadder in Blackadder II and Queen Victoria in Blackadder's Christmas Carol. In 1986 she played a major supporting role in the BBC drama The Life and Loves of a She-Devil. She won the 1989 LA Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Flora Finching in the film Little Dorrit (1988). On American television, she headlined the short-lived 1992 CBS sitcom Frannie's Turn. In 1994 she won the BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Mrs Mingott in Martin Scorsese's The Age of Innocence (1993).
In 1989, Margolyes co-wrote and performed a one-woman show, Dickens' Women, in which she played 23 characters from Dickens' novels.
Margolyes came to the notice of younger audiences when she starred as Aunt Sponge in James and the Giant Peach (1996); she also provided the voice of the Glowworm in the same film. During the same time she played the Nurse in Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet (1996). Around this time, she voiced the rabbit character in the animated commercials for Cadbury's Caramel bars and provided the voice of Fly the dog in the Australian-American family film Babe (1995).
She played Professor Sprout in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets released in 2002. In a 2011 interview on The Graham Norton Show, in regard to her fellow castmembers, Margolyes claimed that she liked Maggie Smith, but rather bluntly admitted that she, "didn't like the one that died", meaning Richard Harris.
In 2004, Margolyes played the role of Peg Sellers, the mother of Peter Sellers, in the Golden Globe winning film The Life and Death of Peter Sellers.
She was one of the original cast of the London production of the musical Wicked in 2006, playing Madame Morrible opposite Idina Menzel, a role she also played on Broadway in 2008.
In 2009, she appeared in a new production of Endgame by Samuel Beckett at the Duchess Theatre in London's West End.
Margolyes voiced the role of Mrs. Plithiver, a blind snake in 3D-animated-epic film Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole (2010). Margolyes reprised her role as Professor Sprout in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (2011).
She played recurring character Prudence Stanley in the Australian-based TV series Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries from 2012 to 2015.
In 2014, she voiced Nana in the Disney Junior animated series for pre-school-age viewers Nina Needs to Go!
In January 2016 she appeared in The Real Marigold Hotel, a travel documentary in which a group of eight celebrities travel to India to see whether retirement would be more rewarding there than in the UK. The series was reprised for two Christmas Specials The Real Marigold On Tour, from Florida and Kyoto. She narrated the 2016 ITV documentary about Lady Colin Campbell entitled Lady C and the Castle.
In December 2017 Margolyes appeared in the second season of The Real Marigold On Tour to Chengdu and Havana. She appeared in the first episode of the third season when she travelled to St Petersburg, Russia with Bobby George, Sheila Ferguson and Stanley Johnson
In January 2018 Margolyes hosted a three-part series for the BBC titled Miriam's Big American Adventure, highlighting the citizens of the US and the issues facing the nation.
Since 2018, Margolyes has portrayed Mother Mildred in the BBC One drama, Call The Midwife.
She played Miss Shepherd in a 2019 production of The Lady in the Van for the Melbourne Theatre Company in Melbourne in Australia.
Margolyes is a supporter of Sense (the National Deafblind and Rubella Association) and was the host at the first Sense Creative Writing Awards, held at the Charles Dickens Museum in London in December 2006, where she read a number of works written by talented deafblind people.
In 2011, Margolyes recorded a narrative for the album The Devil's Brides by klezmer musician-ethnographer Yale Strom.
Margolyes is a member of the British-based ENOUGH! coalition, which seeks the boycott of Israel. She is also a signatory of Jews for Justice for Palestinians. "What I want to try to do is to get Jewish people to understand what's really going on", she has said, "and they don't want to hear it. If you speak to most Jews and say 'Can Israel ever be in the wrong?' they say 'No. Our duty as Jews is to support Israel whatever happens.' And I don't believe that. It is our duty as human beings to report the truth as we see it." Margolyes is a campaigner for a respite care charity, Crossroads.
Margolyes is a member of the Vauxhall Constituency Labour Party. In August 2015, she was a signatory to a letter criticising The Jewish Chronicle's reporting of Jeremy Corbyn's alleged association with antisemites.
In November 2019, Margolyes endorsed the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in the 2019 UK general election because he "is going to protect the NHS". Later in the month, along with other public figures, she signed a letter supporting Corbyn describing him as "a beacon of hope in the struggle against emergent far-right nationalism, xenophobia and racism in much of the democratic world" and endorsed him in the 2019 UK general election.
Margolyes is a lesbian. On becoming an Australian citizen, on Australia Day 2013, Margolyes referred to herself as a "dyke" live on national television and in front of the then prime minister, Julia Gillard.
Since 1967 her partner has been Heather Sutherland, a retired Australian professor of Indonesian studies. Margolyes divides her time between homes in London and Kent in the UK, Tuscany in Italy and Robertson, New South Wales, in Australia.
Author and comedian David Walliams says he used Margolyes as a model for the title character in his children's book Awful Auntie after a rude exchange with the actress during a stage production. He stresses that he has nothing against Margolyes and is a fan of her work.
TV and filmography
|1965||Theatre 625||Rita||1 episode ("Enter Solly Gold")|
|1967||Boy Meets Girl||Maria||1 episode|
|1968||Dixon of Dock Green||Anna||1 episode|
|1973||Doctor in Charge||Doris||1 episode|
|1974||World of Laughter||Various parts||TV series|
|1974||Fall of Eagles||Anna Vyrubova||TV miniseries|
|1975||Rime of the Ancient Mariner||Dorothy Wordsworth|
|1975||The Girls of Slender Means||Jane Wright||TV|
|1976||Christmas Box||Maurie Kaplan's Mother||TV|
|1976||Angels||June Morris||2 episodes|
|1976||Kizzy||Mrs Doe||2 episodes|
|1976||The Glittering Prizes||Olive Wise||TV miniseries|
|1976||The Battle of Billy's Pond||Tour Guide|
|1976–1982||Crown Court||Marilyn Munro (1976)
Mrs King (1982)
|1977||Play for Today||Veronica||1 episode|
|1977||Stand Up, Virgin Soldiers||Elephant Ethel|
|1978||Monkey||English dub of Japanese TV series Saiyûki|
|1978||On a Paving Stone Mounted|
|1980||The Lost Tribe||Queenie||TV miniseries|
|1980||The Awakening||Dr Kadira|
|1980||Tales of the Unexpected||Mary Burge||1 episode|
|1981||Reds||Woman writing in notebook||Uncredited|
|1981||Take a Letter, Mr. Jones||Maria||6 episodes|
|1981||A Kick Up the Eighties||Various roles||TV series|
|1981||The History Man||Melissa Tordoroff||TV|
|1983||The Black Adder||Infanta Maria Escalosa of Spain||1 episode|
|1984||Electric Dreams||Ticket Girl|
|1985||The Good Father||Jane Powell|
|1985||Oliver Twist||Mrs Corney||TV miniseries|
|1985||Morons from Outer Space||Doctor Wallace|
|1986||Little Shop of Horrors||Dental Nurse|
|1986||The Life and Loves of a She-Devil||Nurse Hopkins||2 episodes|
|1986||Blackadder II||Lady Whiteadder||1 episode|
|1986||A Little Princess||Miss Amelia||TV|
|1986||Scotch and Wry||Various||TV|
|1987||Poor Little Rich Girl: The Barbara Hutton Story||Elsa Maxwell||TV|
|1987||Body Contact||Tony's Mother|
|1988||Little Dorrit||Flora Finching|
|1988||Blackadder's Christmas Carol||Queen Victoria||TV|
|1988||Mr Majeika||Wilhelmina Worlock||TV series, Seasons 1 and 2|
|1989||Murderers Among Us: The Simon Wiesenthal Story||Mrs Rajzman||TV|
|1990||Orpheus Descending||Vee Talbot||TV|
|1990||I Love You to Death||Joey's Mother|
|1990||The Fool||Mrs Bowring|
|1991||Tonight at 8.30||Mrs Wadhurst||2 episodes|
|1991||The Butcher's Wife||Gina|
|1992||As You Like It||Audrey|
|1992||Frannie's Turn||Frannie Escobar||TV series|
|1993||The Age of Innocence||Mrs Mingott|
|1993||The Comic Strip Presents...||Mother||1 episode|
|1993||Ed and His Dead Mother||Mabel Chilton|
|1994||Just William||Miss Polliter||1 episode|
|1994||Immortal Beloved||Nanette Streicherová|
|1994||Moonacre||Old Elspeth||TV series|
|1995||Balto||Grandma Rosy/Extra Voices|
|1995||Babe||Fly the Female Sheepdog (voice)|
|1995||Cold Comfort Farm||Mrs Beetle||TV|
|1996||Different for Girls||Pamela|
|1996||Romeo + Juliet||The Nurse|
|1996||James and the Giant Peach||Aunt Sponge/Glowworm (voice)|
|1997||The IMAX Nutcracker||Sugar Plum|
|1997||Castle Ghosts of Wales||Hag ghost|
|1997||The Phoenix and the Carpet||Cook||TV miniseries|
|1997||The Place of Lions||Miss Cole||TV|
|1998||Babe: Pig in the City||Fly the Female Sheepdog (voice)|
|1998||Vanity Fair||Miss Crawley||TV miniseries|
|1998–2001||Rugrats||Shirley Finster (voice)||3 episodes: The Family Tree, Parts One and Two; Finsterella|
|1998||Mulan||The Matchmaker (voice)|
|1998||Left Luggage||Mrs Goldman|
|1998||The First Snow of Winter||Sean Seamus Aloysius Dermot Duck (voice)||UK version|
|1998||Supply & Demand||Edna||TV miniseries|
|1999||End of Days||Mabel|
|1999||Dreaming of Joseph Lees||Signora Caldoni|
|2000||Dharma & Greg||Chloe||1 episode|
|2001||Cats & Dogs||Sophie the Castle Maid|
|2001||Not Afraid, Not Afraid|
|2002||Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets||Professor Pomona Sprout|
|2002||Plots with a View||Thelma & Selma|
|2004||Agatha Christie's Marple: The Murder at the Vicarage||Mrs Price-Ridley||TV|
|2004||Being Julia||Dolly de Vries|
|2004||Ladies in Lavender||Dorcas|
|2004||The Life and Death of Peter Sellers||Peg Sellers|
|2004||End of the Line||Bag Lady|
|2005||Wallis & Edward||Aunt Bessie||TV|
|2005||Dickens in America||Herself||10 episodes|
|2006||Jam & Jerusalem||Mrs Midge||1 episode|
|2006||Happy Feet||Mrs Astrakhan (Voice)|
|2006||Flushed Away||Rita's Grandma (Voice)|
|2006||Sir Billi the Vet||Baroness Chantal McToff (voice)|
|2007||The Dukes||Aunt Vee|
|2008||How To Lose Friends and Alienate People||Mrs Kowalski||Film|
|2009||A Closed Book||Mrs. Kilbride||Film|
|2009||The Sarah Jane Adventures||Leef Slitheen-Blathereen||2 episodes: The Gift parts 1 and 2, Voice only|
|2010||Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole||Mrs Plithiver (voice)|
|2010||Tinga Tinga Tales||Giraffe and Squirrel (voice)|
|2010||Merlin||Grunhilda||Episode: "The Changeling"|
|2011||Doc Martin||Shirley||Guest appearance|
|2011||Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2||Professor Pomona Sprout|
|2012||The Wedding Video||Patricia|
|2012||The Guilt Trip||Anita|
|2012–2015||Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries||Aunt Prudence|
|2014||Maya the Bee||The Queen (voice)|
|2014||The Legend of Longwood||Lady Thyrza|
|2014||Nina Needs to Go!||Nana Sheila (voice)|
|2016||Plebs||Iona||Episode: "The Cupid"|
|2016||The Real Marigold Hotel||Herself||BBC TV documentary series|
|2016–2017||Bottersnikes and Gumbles||Weathersnike||3 episodes|
|2017||The Man Who Invented Christmas||Mrs Fisk|
|2017||Family Guy||Right Eyeball (voice)||Episode: "Emmy-Winning Episode"|
|2017||The Little Vampire 3D||Wulftrud (voice)|
|2018||Miriam's Big American Adventure||Herself||BBC TV documentary series|
|2018||Early Man||Queen Oofeefa (voice)|
|2018–present||Call the Midwife||Sister Mildred/Mother Mildred||6 episodes|
|2018||Postcards from the 48%||Herself||Documentary|
|2019||Miriam's Dead Good Adventure||Herself||BBC TV documentary series|
|2020||The Windsors||Queen Victoria|
- Sydney & The Old Girl (Nell Stock) – Park Theatre, London (2019)
- The Lady in the Van (Miss Shepherd) – Melbourne Theatre Company (2019)
- Madame Rubinstein (Helena Rubinstein) – Park Theatre, London (2017)
- The Importance of Being Miriam – Australian Tour (2015)
- I'll Eat You Last (Sue Mengers) – Melbourne Theatre Company (2014)
- Neighbourhood Watch (Ana) – Adelaide State Theatre (2014)
- Dickens' Women – World Tour (2012)
- A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (Grace) – Citizens' Theatre, Glasgow (2011)
- Me and My Girl (The Duchess) – Crucible Theatre, Sheffield (2010)
- Endgame (Nell) – Duchess Theatre, London (2009)
- Realism – Melbourne Theatre Company (2009)
- Wicked (Madame Morrible) – George Gershwin Theater, New York (2008)
- Wicked (Madame Morrible) – Apollo Victoria Theatre, London (2006)
- The Importance of Being Earnest (Miss Prism) – Ahmanson Theater, Los Angeles/Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York (2006)
- Blithe Spirit (Madame Arcati) – Melbourne Theatre Company (2004)
- The Way of the World (Lady Wishfort) – Sydney Theatre Company (2003)
- The Vagina Monologues – Arts Theatre, London (2001)
- Romeo and Juliet (Nurse) – Ahmanson Theater, Los Angeles (2001)
- The Cherry Orchard (Madame Ranevskaya) – Theatre Royal, York (1999)
- The Killing of Sister George (June Buckridge) – West End (1995)
- She Stoops to Conquer (Mrs Hardcastle) – West End (1993)
- Dickens' Women – Edinburgh Festival (1989)/Hampstead Theatre and Duke of York's Theatre, London (1991)
- Orpheus Descending (Vee Talbot) – Haymarket Theatre, London (1989)
- Man Equals Man (Widow Begbick) – Almeida Theatre, London (1986)
- Gertrude Stein and a Companion (Gertrude Stein) – International Tour (1985)
- 84 Charing Cross Road (Helen Hanff) – Colchester (1984)
- Flaming Bodies (Psychiatrist) – ICA (1979)
- Cloud Nine – Joint Stock/Royal Court (1978)
- The White Devil – Old Vic Theatre, London (1976)
- Kennedy's Children – Arts Theatre, London (1975)
- Canterbury Tales (Wife of Bath) – Bristol Old Vic (1974)
- Threepenny Opera – Piccadilly Theatre, London (1972)
- Fiddler on the Roof (Matchmaker) – UK Tour (1970)
Awards and nominations
- Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for Services to Drama, 2002 New Year Honours
- Winner: Audiofile's Earphones Award 2018 for Bleak House
- Winner: Theatregoer's Choice Awards 2010 Best Supporting Actress in a Play for Nell in Endgame
- Winner: Theatregoer's Choice Awards 2007 Best Supporting Actress in a Musical for Madame Morrible in Wicked
- Winner: Audiofile's Earphones Award 2001 for A Christmas Carol
- Winner: Prix Jeunesse Best Children's Programme (0–6 fiction) 2000 for The First Snow of Winter
- Winner: The Talkies Performer Of The Year 1997 for Oliver Twist
- Winner: Sony Radio Awards Best Actress On Radio 1993 for The Queen and I
- Winner: BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role 1993 for The Age of Innocence
- Nominated: Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical 1991 for Dickens' Women
- Winner: Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle 1989 Best Supporting Actress for Little Dorrit (shared with Geneviève Bujold)