WCW: Imelda Staunton


She’s so much more than Dolores Umbridge, everybody! Imelda Staunton is a theatrically trained actor with a huge resume of work on stage and screen, doing everything from British sitcoms to musicals to adventurous indie films and, yes, our fave, the costume dramas. She’s also married to Jim Carter, aka Carson from Downton Abbey, so it’s surprising she didn’t get a cameo in that until the big-screen frock flick. But she has tons of credits to her name and is still going strong. As she says of herself: “I am a character actress, well, let’s say, I am a leading character actress who does interesting, odd parts.”



Margaret in Much Ado About Nothing (1993)

Much Ado About Nothing (1993)

Looking sun-drenched as everyone was in this fun Shakespeare flick.


Charlotte Palmer in Sense and Sensibility (1995)

Imelda Staunton, Sense and Sensibility (1995)

A delightfully dotty pairing with Hugh Laurie.


Maria in Twelfth Night or What You Will (1996)

Imelda Staunton, Twelfth Night or What You Will (1996)

Couldn’t find decent screencaps of this enjoyable Kenneth Branagh Shakespeare adaptation, alas.


Nurse in Shakespeare in Love (1998)

Imelda Staunton, Shakespeare in Love (1998)

Imelda Staunton plays a very comedic version of the nurse in Romeo & Juliet in this broad riff on R&J and the Elizabethan period as a whole.


Ethel Graydon in Another Life (2001)

Imelda Staunton, Another Life (2001)

A 1920s crime drama.


Lady Brown in Bright Young Things (2003)

Imelda Staunton, Bright Young Things (2003)

Based on a novel by Evelyn Waugh and set in the 1930s.


The Queen in Cambridge Spies (2003)

Imelda Staunton, Cambridge Spies (2003)

Since this thriller miniseries is set in the 1930s, she must be playing the previous Queen Elizabeth (that is, QEII’s mum).


Vera in Vera Drake (2004)

Imelda Staunton, Vera Drake (2004)

Imelda Staunton was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for this role as a 1950s abortionist.


Mrs. Sucksby in Fingersmith (2005)

Imelda Staunton, Fingersmith (2005)

She plays the pickpocket mother figure who both uses & stands up for her girls.


Miss Pole in Cranford (2007-2009)

Imelda Staunton, Cranford (2007-2009)

Yes, it’s biddies upon biddies, but it’s still SO GOOD.


Maud Hill in The Awakening (2011)

Imelda Staunton, The Awakening (2011)

A thriller set in a 1920s boarding school.


Alma Reville Hitchcock in The Girl (2012)

Imelda Staunton, The Girl (2012)

Playing Alfred Hitchcock’s wife in a TV movie about his relationship with Tippi Hedren when making The Birds.


Maud Bagshaw in Downton Abbey (2019)

Imelda Staunton, Downton Abbey (2019)

All blinged up & part of the plot turns on her role.


Coming soon — Queen Elizabeth II in The Crown (2022-)

Imelda Staunton will take over from Olivia Colman as the Queen in the fifth and sixth (final) seasons of this Netflix series.



What’s your favorite historical costume movie or TV role of Imelda Staunton’s?

18 Responses

  1. Shashwat

    I loved her in everything she does.Her Dolores is perhaps my favourite part of the Harry Potter series,the character we love to hate.
    Wonderful to have her play E-II in The Crown.So basically all actresses who essayed the role of E-II have played atleast one more English Queen.

    • Catharine Emma Hershey

      I remember thinking to myself while reading The Order of the Phoenix that Imelda Staunton would be perfect as Umbridge. I’m still wondering if I should request a finders fee or something for that idea… :D

  2. Damnitz

    I loved her in all productions.

    It’s so much more of an improvement for a film, if the actors of the smaller roles are so great like Imelda Staunton or Hugh Laurie in “S&S” for example.

  3. Sarah Walsh

    I love her SO MUCH. She’s going to be amazing as QEII. Good for her – it’s about time!

  4. Susan Pola Staples

    All of them. She brings a subtle humour to S&S, Shakespeare in Love and as Lady Bagshaw she holds her own and at times wins against the Dowager Countess Grantham. But she is so poignant in Vera Drake that imo the Oscar should have gone to her and not Swank.

  5. Saraquill

    I enjoyed her and the other older women in Cranford. Their outfits were charmingly out if date in universe.

  6. Kelly

    So hard to choose! Scrolling through this, I kept thinking, oh yeah, I love her in that! She’s also a musical theatre star–first London cast of Into the Woods (Baker’s Wife), Miss Adelaide, and she was stunning as Mrs. Lovett with Michael Ball as Sweeney Todd.

    • M.E. Lawrence

      Very hard to choose. Not a period film, but I loved her in “Pride” (and everyone else in the cast, especially the dotty old lady who asked in a precise Welsh accent, “And where are my young lesbians? Have my lesbians not come to see me?”) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pride_(2014_film)

  7. Lily Lotus Rose

    Gotta echo everyone else here: It’s hard to choose because I love her in everything (and I’ve seen most of these)! She is totally amazeballs all of the time!

  8. Sharon in Scotland

    BBC showed a live performance of “Gypsy” a few Christmas ago. She played Rose and was magnificent. I heard her talk about the creative process of filming “Vera Drake” and how she had never done the arrest scene with the actors playing the police until it was filmed. The reaction you see when the police knock on the door are in the moment and real.

    • SarahV

      Vera Drake is one of the viscerally depressing movies I’ve ever seen. I mean, Imelda is sympathetic and compelling, but what a bleak, bleak story.

  9. Lee Jones

    I especially enjoyed her performances in “Sense and Sensibility”, “Vera Drake” and “Cranford”.

  10. Roxans

    Oh my, I loved her in Much Ado and Cranford and completely failed to recognize her as Dolores Umbridge because she was so convincingly evil I could barely look at her! What an actress!

  11. Mab

    She’s always so brilliant in everything she does but definite soft spot for her in Twelfth Night.

  12. Karen K.

    Love her in everything but honestly, she’s far too pretty to be Dolores Umbridge! Of course she absolutely killed it. I do have a soft spot for Cranford and for that version of Sense & Sensibility. I’m really looking forward to seeing her as QEII in The Crown!

  13. Blaize

    It’s very important to note that the Twelfth Night she’s in is directed by Tevor Nunn and does not involve Kenneth Branaugh in any way shape or form and you can sense his absence by the fact that the movie doesn’t suck. Branaugh should be barred from ever doing Shakespeare. That Twelfth Night is really very good.

    • Gill

      Not fair. His Twelfth Night is also wonderful. Richard Briers as Malvolio is superb. And Much Ado and Henry V are excellent. Branagh himself is capable of real greatness. His Hamlet with the RSC was brilliant. He gets delusions of grandeur when he’s allowed to do things on a huge scale, but he has a great deal of both skill and talent.

  14. Cinci

    My favorite is Mama Rose in Gypsy. I didn’t see it live but even in the filmed version she commands your attention. Such a tiny woman but she packs a wallop.