Lily Chloe Ninette Thomson (born 5 April 1989), better known by her stage name Lily James, is an English actress. She is best known for her role as Lady Rose Aldridge in the period drama Downton Abbey and the title role in the 2015 Disney film Cinderella.
James began her professional acting career as Ethel Brown in the 2010 BBC production Just William. In 2011 and 2012, she earned warm reviews in several London theatre productions. She began to appear in Hollywood films in 2012, with roles in Wrath of the Titans and Fast Girls, and was seen in further television roles.
James was born in Esher, Surrey, the daughter of Ninette V. A. (née Mantle) an actor and musician James (Jamie) S. Thomson. Her grandmother, Helen Horton, was an American actress. She began her education at Arts Educational School in Tring and subsequently went on to study acting at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, graduating in 2010.
In 2011, James played Taylor at the Young Vic Theatre in Tanya Ronder’s stage adaptation of the novel Vernon God Little directed by Rufus Norris, Nina in a modern adaptation of The Seagull at Southwark Playhouse, and Desdemona in Daniel Evans’s production of Othello at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, alongside Dominic West and Clarke Peters. Quentin Letts wrote in The Daily Mail: “We may have a new star actress on our hands. … She left drama school only last year, yet she practically sweeps all before her as Desdemona in this Othello. Poise, diction, allure – she has them all. … Her character’s love affair with a much older husband is completely believable”. In 2012, James played the role of Katrina in Play House and Marijka in Definitely the Bahamas in a double-bill written and directed by Martin Crimp at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond, London as part of the theatre’s fortieth anniversary. Charles Spencer of The Telegraph wrote that “it is performed with a persuasive mixture of mischief and deeper feeling by Obi Abili and Lily James, the latter combining a mixture of neuroticism and glowing sexual allure that proves extraordinarily potent.”
Also in 2012, James played the role of Korrina in the Warner Brothers film Wrath of the Titans and starred in Fast Girls, written by Noel Clarke, centered around a group of young female athletes competing in the World Championships. Her television credits include Ethel Brown in the 2010 BBC production of Richmal Crompton’s Just William, Poppy in the fourth series of ITV’s Secret Diary of a Call Girl (2011), and the rebellious Lady Rose in the last episode of series three of Downton Abbey. Lady Rose later became a main character in the fourth and fifth series of the programme. James also appeared as Lady Rose in the series finale.
James played the title character in the 2015 live-action Disney film Cinderella. The film was released on 13 March 2015. James, as Cinderella, was photographed by Annie Leibovitz, in the blue gown that she wears to the ball, for the December 2014 issue of Vogue. James also made her singing debut in the film’s end credits, covering “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” from the 1950 animated film.
It was confirmed in 2015 that James is in a relationship with her Pride and Prejudice and Zombies co-star Matt Smith, famous for playing the Eleventh Doctor in the long-running show Doctor Who.
|2012||Wrath of the Titans||Korrina|
|2012||Fast Girls||Lisa Temple|
|2015||Cinderella||Cinderella||Also playback singer for ‘A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes’|
|2016||Pride and Prejudice and Zombies||Elizabeth Bennet||Post-production|
|2016||The Kaiser’s Last Kiss||Mieke||Filming|
|2010||Just William||Ethel Brown||4 episodes|
|2011||Secret Diary of a Call Girl||Poppy||8 episodes|
|2012–2015||Downton Abbey||Lady Rose MacClare||21 episodes
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
|2016||War and Peace||Natasha Rostova|
Awards and nominations
|Year||Festival||Prize||Film or TV series||Result|
|2014||Screen Actors Guild Awards||Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series||Downton Abbey||Won|
|2015||Teen Choice Awards||Choice Movie Actress: Sci-Fi/Fantasy||Cinderella||Nominated|
|2015||Harper’s Bazaar Women of the Year Awards||Breakthrough Award||Cinderella||Won|