British Actor I Spy

As I work my way through British period dramas on Amazon Prime and Netflix, it’s fun to spot the same actors popping up in different productions.

British Actor I Spy

For instance, Michael Gambon might be best known by US audiences as Albus Dumbledore, but he has also done a turn as Mr. Holbrook in Cranford and Squire Hamley in Wives & Daughters.

Michael Gambon

Actor Brendan Coyle has won the hearts of many as Mr. Bates of Downton Abbey, but has a host of troubled-yet-earnest roles under his belt, including Nicholas Higgins in North and South and Robert Timmins in Lark Rise to Candleford.

Brendan Coyle

In Wives and Daughters, actresses Barbara Flynn and Deborah Findlay play the spinster Miss Brownings, sisters with a penchant for town gossip. In Cranford, the two women play bristly neighbors – the snobbish Mrs. Jamieson and proud Miss Tompkinson.

sisters to neighbors

Another actor takes a sharp turn from Wives and Daughters to Cranford, as Francesca Annis plays the frivolous, often whining Mrs Gibson in one, and the exacting, powerful Lady Ludlow in the other.

Francesca Annis

These are only a few examples I’ve listed – I could go on and on! I know American actors take on a number of different roles during their careers, too, but there seems to be something unique to the British experience of appearing in so many period pieces.

Tell me: are you a fan of British period dramas? Do you have any favorites, or any favorite actors from among them?


  • Liz

    Yay! I do this ALL THE TIME. We are rewatching all of the Harry Potter movies at the moment and my British nerdiness is WAY worse than it was at first watching. It’s hilarious.

    I was so mad at myself when I *didn’t* recognize someone from Robin Hood!

    • Liz

      Posted too soon!

      Cranford is next on my list. My husband and I started part of it a while back and just never finished it.

      • Sadly, Cranford was not my favorite. It has a surprisingly high body count and was overall just more…well, kind of depressing…than a lot of the other shows I’ve been watching lately. I do hope you get it finished, though – it’s still worth a watch!

    • I am SOOOOO happy I’m not alone! Honestly, I posted this then wondered “Am I the only one who does this?” 😉 ha!

  • Lissa

    My mom and I have noticed the same thing! Gotta love British period dramas! Cranford the movie is VERY different from the book–in fact, it is actually several books combined under one title. Even then, it’s not very true to the stories.

  • Nancy

    LOVE this post! Have been eating up British dramas as well. Because my household is VERY familiar with HP – it is difficult to see the actors in something else. Especially ones like Dolores Umbridge. And Cedric will NEVER be Edward to me. Have you seen The Calendar Girls? Several well known Brits there including Ciaran Hinds – who played my favorite of the Mr. Rochesters from my all time fav Jane Eyre as well as Aberforth Dumbledore in HP.