Miriam Margolyes

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Miriam Margolyes

Miriam Margolyes 2008.jpg
Margolyes in 2008
Born (1941-05-18) 18 May 1941 (age 78)
  • British
  • Australian
EducationOxford High School, Oxford
Alma materNewnham College, Cambridge
Years active1965–present
Notable work
Mrs. Mingott in The Age of Innocence (1993)
Voice of Fly the Border Collie in Babe (1995) and its 1998 sequel
Professor Pomona Sprout in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (2011)
TelevisionCall the Midwife (2018–2019)
Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries (2012–2015)
Blackadder's Christmas Carol (1988)
Blackadder II (1986)
The Black Adder (1983)
Tales of the Unexpected (1980)
Political partyLabour
Partner(s)Heather Sutherland

Miriam Margolyes, OBE (/ˈmɑːrɡəlz/; 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 Martin Scorsese's 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.[1]

Early life[edit]

Margolyes was born in Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, on 18 May 1941,[2] the only child of Ruth (née Walters; 1905–1974), a property investor and developer, and Joseph Margolyes (1899–1995), a physician from Glasgow.[3] She grew up in a Jewish family;[4][5][6] 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.[7] There, in her twenties, she began acting and appeared in productions by the Cambridge Footlights comedy troupe.[8] 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.[9] 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".[10][11]

Acting career[edit]

Margolyes reading an extract from Oliver Twist at the Express Yourself creative writing awards, 2006

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.[12] 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).

In 1974 she appeared with Kenneth Williams and Ted Ray in the BBC Radio 2 comedy series The Betty Witherspoon Show.[13]

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.[14]

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[15] and provided the voice of Fly the dog in the Australian-American family film Babe (1995).[16]

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.[17]

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.[18]

In 2009, she appeared in a new production of Endgame by Samuel Beckett at the Duchess Theatre in London's West End.[19]

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![20]

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.[21] The series was reprised for two Christmas Specials The Real Marigold On Tour, from Florida and Kyoto.[22] She narrated the 2016 ITV documentary about Lady Colin Campbell entitled Lady C and the Castle.[23]

In December 2017 Margolyes appeared in the second season of The Real Marigold On Tour to Chengdu and Havana.[24] 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.[25]

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.[26]

Other work[edit]

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.[27]

In 2011, Margolyes recorded a narrative for the album The Devil's Brides by klezmer musician-ethnographer Yale Strom.[28]

Political activism[edit]

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.[29] "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." [30] Margolyes is a campaigner for a respite care charity, Crossroads.[31]

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.[32]

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".[33][34] 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.[35]

Personal life[edit]

Margolyes shortly after being presented with her Australian citizenship certificate by Prime Minister Julia Gillard, during the 2013 National Flag Raising and Citizenship ceremony in Canberra

Margolyes is a lesbian.[36] On becoming an Australian citizen,[31] 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.[37]

Since 1967 her partner has been Heather Sutherland,[16][38] a retired Australian professor of Indonesian studies.[39] Margolyes divides her time between homes in London and Kent in the UK, Tuscany in Italy and Robertson, New South Wales, in Australia.[40][41][42][43]

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.[44]


Year Title Role Notes
1965 Theatre 625 Rita 1 episode ("Enter Solly Gold")
1967 Boy Meets Girl Maria 1 episode
1968 Jackanory Storyteller 5 episodes
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)
2 episodes
1977 Play for Today Veronica 1 episode
1977 Spasms Rose Finn TV
1977 Stand Up, Virgin Soldiers Elephant Ethel
1978 Monkey English dub of Japanese TV series Saiyûki
1978 On a Paving Stone Mounted
1980 The Apple Landlady
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
1982 Crystal Gazing Newsreader
1983 Yentl Sarah
1983 The Black Adder Infanta Maria Escalosa of Spain 1 episode
1983 Scrubbers Jones
1984 Freud Baroness TV mini-series
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 Pacific Heights Realtor
1990 Orpheus Descending Vee Talbot TV
1990 The Finding Poll TV
1990 I Love You to Death Joey's Mother
1990 Old Flames Nellie TV
1990 The Fool Mrs Bowring
1991 Tonight at 8.30 Mrs Wadhurst 2 episodes
1991 The Butcher's Wife Gina
1991 Dead Again Lady Uncredited
1992 Stalin Krupskaya TV
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 Candy Gisella
1998 Supply & Demand Edna TV miniseries
1999 Magnolia Faye Barringer Uncredited
1999 End of Days Mabel
1999 Dreaming of Joseph Lees Signora Caldoni
1999 Sunshine Rose Sonnenschein
2000 Dharma & Greg Chloe 1 episode
2000 House! Beth
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
2002 Alone Caseworker
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 Modigliani Gertrude Stein
2004 End of the Line Bag Lady
2004 Chasing Liberty Maria
2005 Wallis & Edward Aunt Bessie TV
2005 Dickens in America Herself 10 episodes
2005 Inconceivable Malva 1 episode
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
2008 Kingdom Henny 1 episode
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[45] 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
2013 Hebburn Millie Christmas special
2014 Maya the Bee The Queen (voice)
2014 The Legend of Longwood Lady Thyrza
2014 Nina Needs to Go! Nana Sheila (voice)
2014 Trollied Rose Series 4
2016 Plebs Iona Episode: "The Cupid"
2016 Rake Huntley-Brown 2 episodes
2016 The Real Marigold Hotel Herself BBC TV documentary series
2016–2017 Bottersnikes and Gumbles Weathersnike 3 episodes
2017 Bucket Mim 4 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 Mirette Meme Gateau Short film
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
2019 H is for Happiness Miss Bamford Film
2019 101 Dalmatian Street Bessie (voice) 1 episode
2020 The Windsors Queen Victoria
2020 Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears Prudence Stanley Film
2020 Miriam's Big Fat Adventure Herself BBC TV documentary series


  • The Thief and the Cobbler (1993) – the voice of the Maiden from Mombasa (original version only; the character was not heard at all in the re-edited versions and another actor was never available in all the re-edited versions).
  • The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (2004) – Peg Sellers – note this film was shown in cinemas in the UK and Australia – it aired on cable television on the HBO network in the US.


Awards and nominations[edit]


  1. ^ Margolyes, Miriam. "Miriam Margolyes » Bio". Miriam Margolyes' official website.
  2. ^ Empire. "Miriam Margolyes". Empire. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  3. ^ Miriam Margolyes Biography (1941–). Filmreference.com. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  4. ^ "Harry Potter actress Miriam Margolyes on her Gorbals roots, women in comedy and how Monty Python stars shunned her". The Daily Record. 2 November 2011. Retrieved 21 December 2011.
  5. ^ Farndale, Nigel (11 October 2009). "Miriam Margolyes: 'I'm still a naughty schoolgirl at heart'". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  6. ^ Chitra Ramaswamy (6 August 2012). "As Miriam Margolyes prepares to perform her one-woman show, dedicated to the women in the victorian novelist's fiction, she reflects on her own fascinating life story". The Scotsman.
  7. ^ Famous alumnae. Newn.cam.ac.uk. Retrieved 3 January 2016.
  8. ^ Footlights Alumni Archived 14 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine. Footlights.org. Retrieved 25 August 2011.
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ Moran, Joe (16 August 2013). "Television's magic moments". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 31 August 2014.
  11. ^ Brandreth, Gyles (2018). Have You Eaten Grandma?. Penguin. p. 135. ISBN 978-0241352656. Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  12. ^ "Enough Rope". Retrieved 5 January 2011.
  13. ^ "The Betty Witherspoon Show Series and Episode Guides - TV from RadioTimes". Radio Times. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  14. ^ Helen Sims (30 November 2007). "Miriam Margolyes on Dickens' Women". The Lumière Reader. Archived from the original on 23 April 2008. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
  15. ^ "Margolyes: Voice of a movie star" 31 December 2001, BBC News
  16. ^ a b Leah O'Brien (11 May 2010). "At home with Harry Potter star, Miriam Margolyes – Local News – News – Entertainment". Southern Highland News. Retrieved 21 December 2011.
  17. ^ "The Graham Norton Show: the 15 funniest guests". The Telegraph. 29 September 2017. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  18. ^ Margolyes to Join Broadway's Wicked Jan. 22. Playbill.com. Retrieved 11 June 2012.
  19. ^ Brief Encounter With … Miriam Margolyes – Endgame at Duchess Theatre – London – Interviews. Whatsonstage.com. Retrieved 11 June 2012.
  20. ^ Jennifer Wolfe (13 December 2013). "Disney Junior Greenlights 'Nina Needs to Go'". Animation World Network.
  21. ^ 02:10. "BBC Two – The Real Marigold Hotel". BBC. Retrieved 20 February 2016.
  22. ^ "The Real Marigold on Tour – BBC Two". BBC.
  23. ^ "Lady C and the Castle". Archived from the original on 16 September 2016. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  24. ^ "The Real Marigold on Tour gets a "bumper" BBC1 run". RadioTimes. 24 August 2017. Retrieved 23 November 2017.
  25. ^ "Miriam's Big American Adventure – BBC One". BBC. Retrieved 28 January 2018.
  26. ^ The Lady in the Van - Melbourne Theatre Company
  27. ^ Celebrity supporters | Miriam Margolyes Archived 23 October 2008 at Archive.today. Sense. Retrieved 25 August 2011.
  28. ^ Michael Church (15 January 2012). "Album: Yale Strom and Hot Pstromi, The Devil's Brides: Yiddish and Klezmer Song (Arc Music) – Reviews – Music". The Independent. Retrieved 26 January 2012.
  29. ^ "JFJFP Signatories" Jews for Justice for Palestinians Signatory List 11 August 2012
  30. ^ The Guardian, 5 November, 2014
  31. ^ a b Late Night Live – 10September2007 – Miriam Margolyes and Dickens' Women. Abc.net.au (10 September 2007). Retrieved 25 August 2011.
  32. ^ Dysch, Marcus (18 August 2015). "Anti-Israel activists attack JC for challenging Jeremy Corbyn". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
  33. ^ Siobhan, McNally (14 November 2019). "Call The Midwife star Miriam Margolyes backs Labour to help save the NHS". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 27 November 2019.
  34. ^ Thorpe, Vanessa (24 November 2019). "Celebrities turn out to support Labour's vision for the arts". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 November 2019.
  35. ^ Neale, Matthew (16 November 2019). "Exclusive: New letter supporting Jeremy Corbyn signed by Roger Waters, Robert Del Naja and more". NME. Retrieved 27 November 2019.
  36. ^ Desert Island Discs – 28 September 2008 – Miriam Margolyes. BBC. (28 September 2008). Retrieved 25 August 2011.
  37. ^ Groves, Nancy (6 November 2014). "Miriam Margolyes: 'I do say things possibly other people don't say'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  38. ^ Property Observer, "Andrew Denton and Jennifer Byrne blaze a trail to Southern Highlands retreat". Retrieved 7 December 2015
  39. ^ Sharon Verghis, "Miriam Margolyes: The ultimate character actress for Dickens", The Australian, 4 February 2012. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
  40. ^ Gabriella Coslovich, "Lunch with Miriam Margolyes", Canberra Times, 7 April 2012. Retrieved 7 December 2015
  41. ^ Jane Cadzow, "Miss Margolyes Mysteries"
  42. ^ Lyell, Carrie (09 February 2016). "Miriam Margolyes: My Mother Was Utterly Appalled When I Came Out" Archived 3 August 2016 at the Wayback Machine, Diva Magazine. UK. Retrieved on 05 Aug 2016.
  43. ^ "At home with Harry Potter star Miriam Margolyes" 11 May 2010, Southern Highland News
  44. ^ Tim Walker, "David Walliams: Miriam Margolyes is the real-life Awful Auntie", The Daily Telegraph, 2 October 2014.
  45. ^ Truitt, Brian (23 June 2010). "'Merlin' star Colin Morgan talks dragons and guest stars". USA Weekend. Archived from the original on 5 January 2013. Retrieved 24 June 2010.
  46. ^ "No. 56430". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2001. p. 11.

External links[edit]