You know British actor Toby Jones, but because he’s a “character actor,” you may not recognize the name. But this incredibly talented actor has played both supporting and lead roles in many excellent films, often historical! And because he’s a character actor, he’s had a long career. Let’s celebrate his work!
Jones plays a “Valet” in the 17th-century scene where Orlando won’t wake up:
Performance: Henry IV (1995)
A UK series of classic and contemporary plays. Jones played “Wart” in this adaptation.
Cadfael: The Sanctuary Sparrow (1994)
He was in one episode of the medieval mystery series.
Les Misérables (1998)
Jones played “Door Keeper” (which door?) in the Liam Neeson-starring Victor Hugo adaptation about the Paris Uprising of 1832.
Cousin Bette (1998)
Jones was the “Man in Café des Artistes” in the 1840s Paris-set Balzac adaptation.
Ever After: A Cinderella Story (1998)
Jones played the “Royal page” in the Southern Renaissance France-set Cinderella movie.
The fabulous adaptation of the fabulous biography of the four Lennox sisters, who led society in mid-18th century England and Ireland. Jones has a star turn as Ste, ridiculously spoiled son of the eldest sister.
The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999)
Jones plays “English Judge,” I’m guessing the one who sentences Joan of Arc in this biopic.
Simon Magus (1999)
“A Jew tries to revive his dwindling village by building a railway station next to it,” per Wikipedia. Jones plays “Buchholz.”
In Love and War (2001)
A TV adaptation of a World War II memoir set in Italy. Jones plays “Bolo.”
The Way We Live Now (2001)
An 1870s-set Anthony Trollope adaptation. Jones plays a lawyer named Squercum.
Victoria & Albert (2001)
Jones had a small part as Edward Oxford, who tried to assassinate Queen Victoria, in this TV biopic.
Finding Neverland (2004)
Jones plays Smee in the stage production of Peter Pan, which is set within this larger biopic about playwright J.M. Barrie.
Ladies in Lavender (2004)
Sisters, a Polish violinist, and more things that would entertain your grandmother. Set in Cornwall in 1936. Jones plays “Hedley.”
Mrs. Henderson Presents (2005)
A British socialite opens a variety theatre in 1931. Jones plays “Gordon.”
Elizabeth I (2005)
Jones played Robert Cecil, son of William Cecil and advisor to Queen Elizabeth I.
A Harlot’s Progress (2006)
Jones plays English artist William Hogarth in this film about the painter’s relationship with a prostitute and resulting works.
Amazing Grace (2006)
A biopic about William Wilberforce and the fight to end the slave trade in Britain in the 1780s-1800s. Jones plays the poncy Duke of Clarence, who is on the opposing side.
Jones played American novelist Truman Capote to rave reviews.
The Painted Veil (2006)
Doctors in 1930s China fight cholera; Jones plays “Waddington.”
Dutch artist Rembrandt creates his 1642 painting “The Night Watch.” Jones plays fellow painter Gerrit Dou.
The Old Curiosity Shop (2007)
A Dickens adaptation. Jones plays Daniel Quilp, who is one of the story’s antagonists.
Charles Darwin’s relationship with his wife as he writes On the Origin of Species. Jones plays Thomas Henry Huxley, a biologist and anthropologist who was a fierce supporter of Darwin.
Poirot: Murder on the Orient Express (2010)
The David Suchet-led 1930s Agatha Christie murder mystery series. Jones plays Samuel Ratchett / Lanfranco Cassetti.
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
A Marvel movie set during World War II. Jones plays a Nazi biochemist.
Christopher and His Kind (2011)
A TV miniseries about novelist Christopher Isherwood, who moved to Germany during the 1930s and fell in love while experiencing the rise of Nazism. Jones plays the real-life Gerald Hamilton, memoirist and critic.
My Week with Marilyn (2011)
Jones plays real-life Marilyn Monroe publicist Arthur P. Jacobs.
Your Highness (2011)
Jones plays “Julie” in this stoner medieval comedy. I like stupid historical comedies, and even I won’t touch this one!
The Girl (2012)
A TV film about film director Alfred Hitchcock’s (Jones) relationship with actress Tippi Hedren.
The Julian Fellowes-authored TV miniseries. Jones plays what I think is a steerage character.
A film about a couple running a timber business in 1930s North Carolina. Jones plays the local sherriff who gets involved when someone dies.
Tale of Tales (2015)
The 17th-century-set Italian horror fairytale film. Jones plays “the King of Highhills” in the third segment which involves a flea and a daughter who marries an ogre.
The Man Who Knew Infinity (2015)
A biopic about Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan. Jones plays British mathematician John Edensor Littlewood.
A film about the assassination of Nazi Reinhard Heydrich during World War II. Jones plays a resistance leader.
Dad’s Army (2016)
A World War II comedy about the older men who defended Britain. Jones plays a character named Captain Mainwaring who has become a classic in British comedy.
The Secret Agent (2016)
An adaptation of a 1907 Joseph Conrad novel about British spies. Jones plays “Mr Anton Verloc, a businessman running a sex shop in London’s Soho who is being secretly paid by the Russian embassy to spy on revolutionary groups,” per Wikipedia.
Journey’s End (2017)
A film set during World War I. Jones plays an army cook.
The Witness for the Prosecution (2016)
Jones plays a lawyer defending a man accused of murder in this Agatha Christie adaptation.
During World War II, a family tries to protect a zoo elephant in Belfast. Jones plays a security guard.
First Cow (2019)
Set in 1820, “A skilled cook has traveled west and joined a group of fur trappers in Oregon, though he only finds true connection with a Chinese immigrant also seeking his fortune. Soon the two collaborate on a successful business,” per Wikipedia. Jones plays a wealthy English trader.
The Electrical Life of Louis Wain (2021)
A biopic about cat painter Louis Wain. Jones plays Sir William Ingram, a real-life baronet, managing director of a newspaper, and politician.
The Wonder (2022)
In 1862, a nurse observes an Irish girl who hasn’t eaten in months. Jones plays a doctor.
The English (coming 2022)
Emily Blunt will star as an Englishwoman who in 1890 seeks revenge for the death of her son in this Western. Jones will play a supporting role.
The Pale Blue Eye (coming 2022)
A gothic horror story set in 1830. Jones plays a doctor.
Indiana Jones (coming 2023)
Jones will play a supporting role in the forthcoming Indy sequel.
What’s your favorite of Toby Jones’s numerous historical roles?
Thanks, Kendra! I can’t believe he’s done so many historical roles. He was also the voice of Dobby in the Harry Potter movies. :)
He gets a sock!
Okay, I love Toby Jones, starting with Ever After (he was hilarious), but I randomly love him most in the Captain America movies. He plays a delightful villain.
And I am totally distracted by that promo pic of him with Gillian Anderson.
His best role was in the “The Detectorists”… not a historical role but still his very best work IMHO.
Oooh…The Dectorists was so good, so well executed by all involved, including Toby Jones who was excellent!
Now I realize why I’ve had a lifelong knee-jerk reaction to him, even though he’s a fabulous actor; his character in Ever After (which I watched repeatedly as a wee one) is so slimy, it clearly formed an early impression on me.
That’s a whole lot of forehead! I remember him from Captain America.
That is Jonathan Firth, Colin’s younger brother, in the Henry IV photo not Hugh Dancy. I was lucky enough to study with Toby Jones for 3 weeks in London when I was still acting. He was lovely.
WHY DO I NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS BEAUTY’S EXISTENCE?? (Jonathan Frith)
I’m so glad to hear Toby was lovely!
I had no idea Colin Firth had a brother either, until now. When I saw the picture, I thought the guy on the right WAS Colin Firth. Apparently there’s no shortage of handsome in that family.
Never mind Firth junior, would love to hear more about your experience acting with Toby Jones! Whose best work, for me as well, was Detectorists.
When Jones is good, which is usually, he is close to perfect. Such happy memories of T.J. in “Aristocrats,” as Robert Cecil, and others. (Any chance of a deep dive or longish article about “Aristocrats”? It seems tricky to get hold of.)
We’ve had it on the shortlist for a while! I promise we’ll get around to it soon.
Aristocrats the 1999 miniseries has been available on BritBox in the U.S. for a while now.
Useless info: Toby is the son of character actor Freddie Jones, who is probably best remembered as the showman Bytes in ‘The Elephant Man’.
He is a great actor – underrated as a leading man actually. I know he’s prolific, including period films, but damn I didn’t realize haha.
As for Les Misérables (1998), Jones plays a guard outside of the courtroom, where a man is mistaken for the escaped convict Valjean. Around 20 seconds in:
In The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999), Jones plays one of the judges who berates Joan of Arc about whether or not she had killed anyone in battle. Cameo role but memorable for its histrionics. I don’t know of a solo clip online.
Even though Toby Jones is a character actor, he’s one I know by name. Somebody already said that he’s usually always excellent, and I agree. Even though, 90% of the time when he shows up on screen I think, “Oh, he isn’t going to be able to pull this one off.” But he does! I should’ve learned my lesson by now. Also, he’s giving me Paul Giamatti vibes in the Journey’s End picture. Is this the MCM post with the most omitted pictures of the featured man?
I hope you’ll tackle The English. Jones’ role (and Ciarhan Hinds’) is small but vivid. Would love your take on Emily Blunt’s main attire. My favorite FF is Painted Veil but Detectorists is must see TV.
He’s such a fantastic actor. I used to question why he’d be in something, but no more. He somehow seems to both disappear into a role and stand out at the same time. It’s a fascinating trait to have.I’ll now go hunt down some of these based on the suggestions of others.
I agree with Kathy here, I do hope you look at The English. I don’t like Westerns, but this series felt like it transcended and transformed the genre a bit. All the acting in it was superb — from Emily Blunt (as Lady Cornelia Locke), Chaske Spencer (Sgt Eli Whipp), to the smaller roles like Toby Jones’ (Sebold Cusk). The writing and the cinematography were outstanding.