Alex Jennings

Alex Jennings (born 10 May 1957) is an English actor, who has worked extensively with the Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre. A three-time Olivier Award winner, he won for Too Clever by Half (1988), Peer Gynt (1996), and My Fair Lady (2003). He is the only performer to have won Olivier awards in the drama, musical and comedy categories.[1][2][3] He played Prince Charles in the 2006 film The Queen. His other film appearances include The Wings of the Dove (1997), Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004), Babel (2006) and The Lady in the Van (2015). He also played Edward VIII, the Duke of Windsor, in the critically acclaimed Netflix series The Crown.[4]

Alex Jennings
Alex Jennings

(1957-05-10) 10 May 1957
Essex, England
Years active1978–present

Early life

Jennings was born in Essex, the son of Peggy Patricia (née Mahoney) and Michael Thomas Jennings. He attended Abbs Cross Technical High School in Hornchurch and then studied English and Theatre studies at the University of Warwick, graduating in 1978. He said he saw his first theatre when he was in high school and went to the Old Vic Theatre, which led him to be inspired to be an actor.[5]

He trained as an actor for two years at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.[6]



Jennings began his career in regional repertory theatre, in 1985 playing a range of roles including Maximilien Robespierre in The Scarlet Pimpernel. Jennings met director Nicholas Hytner during this production and has worked with him many times since.[1]

For his performance as Gloumov in Too Clever by Half at the Old Vic, he won the Olivier Award for Best Comedy Performance in 1988. He was nominated in the same category the following year for portraying Dorante in The Liar.

He has performed for the Royal National Theatre in a number of plays, including Leontes in The Winter's Tale and the title role in Albert Speer.

His Royal Shakespeare Company roles include the title role in Peer Gynt (for which he won an Olivier Award 1995-06 for Best Actor), the title role in Richard II (opposite Anton Lesser as Henry Bolingbroke), Theseus/Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream (UK, American tour and Broadway),[7] Angelo in Measure for Measure, and the title role in Hamlet.[8]

In 2002, he appeared in the Cameron Mackintosh/Trevor Nunn revival of My Fair Lady at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and won an Olivier Award as Best Actor in a Musical. He was an Associate Artist at the Royal Shakespeare Company.[7]

In 2007, he played the role of Garry Essendine in Noël Coward's Present Laughter at the NT.[1]

In 2011, he played Mikhail Bulgakov in the National Theatre's production of Collaborators.

In 2014, he played the role of Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the Musical, which was directed by Sam Mendes and was performed on London's West End theatre district.[2][9] He took over the role from Douglas Hodge in 2014.[6]

In 2016, he reprised his role as Professor Henry Higgins in the Australian 60th Anniversary production of My Fair Lady, directed by Julie Andrews.[10]


Jennings' work in film includes a portrayal opposite Helen Mirren as Charles, Prince of Wales in the Stephen Frears directed film, The Queen.[1]

He also appeared in War Requiem, the RSC's film version of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Lord Mark in the Oscar-nominated movie The Wings of the Dove, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and The Four Feathers.

Jennings portrays playwright Alan Bennett in the 2015 film The Lady in the Van opposite Academy Award winner Maggie Smith in the title role.[11] The film is directed by Nicolas Hytner, who is a long-time collaborator from the theatre.[1]


Jennings' work in television includes appearances in The State Within, Smiley's People, The Franchise Affair, Inspector Morse, Lewis, Alfonso Bonzo, the title role in Ashenden, Dead Poets Society, Inspector Alleyn, Hard Times, Bad Blood, and Peter Ackroyd's London. His many radio credits include Casino Royale, The Way of the World, Strange Meeting, Vorbis in Small Gods, and The Old Curiosity Shop.

In 2007, he portrayed the Rev Hutton in the BBC series Cranford. He also played John Le Mesurier in the one-off BBC drama Hancock and Joan.

In 2009, he appeared in The Habit of Art as Benjamin Britten.

In 2010, he played Captain Shipshape in the CBeebies second series of Grandpa In My Pocket and starred in the film Belle. After that, he played Henry Tizard in Castles in the Sky.

From 2011 to 2014, Jennings played Alan Cowdrey QC in the BBC One legal drama Silk. In 2016, he appeared in the Netflix series The Crown as Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor (former Edward VIII), great uncle to Prince Charles (whom Jennings played in The Queen), as well as Leopold I of Belgium in the ITV series Victoria. In 2018 he played Liberal MP Peter Bessell in A Very English Scandal, a miniseries about the Jeremy Thorpe affair by Stephen Frears.[12]


In June 2008, he made his operatic debut at the ENO in Robert Carsen's production of Bernstein's Candide, in which he played Voltaire and Doctor Pangloss.

Audiobooks and narrations

He has recorded the audio versions of the booksThe Kraken Wakes, The Horse and His Boy, Out of the Silent Planet, and Perelandra by C.S. Lewis, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, and Attention All Shipping by Charlie Connelly, which was selected in June 2008 as one of the top 40 audiobooks of all time. In 2006, he recorded an abridgement of A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon. He is also a regular narrator on BBC Radio 4's Book at Bedtime.

He was also a member of the BBC's Radio Drama Company.[13]


Jennings has won three Olivier Awards:[2]



Theatre (filmed)

  • 1999: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat as Butler
  • 2010: National Theatre Live: The Habit of Art as Henry / Benjamin Britten
  • 2011: National Theatre Live: Collaborators as Mikhail Bulgakov
  • 2013: National Theatre Live: 50 Years on Stage as Henry Higgins


Mini-series and TV films

  • 1982: Smiley's People (TV Mini-Series) as P.C. Hall (1 episode: "Episode No. 1.1")
  • 1991: Ashenden (TV Mini-Series) as John Ashenden (4 episodes)
  • 1991: Bye Bye Columbus (TV film) as King Ferdinand
  • 1994: Hard Times (TV Mini-Series) as Bitzer (1 episode: "Episode No. 1.1")
  • 1997: Liberty! The American Revolution (TV Mini-Series) as King George III (6 episodes)
  • 1999: The Hunley (TV film) as Lt. Alexander
  • 2001: Bad Blood (TV film) as Joe Harker
  • 2002: Great Britons (TV Mini-Series documentary) as Churchill (voice) (1 episode: "Sir Winston Churchill")
  • 2004: London (TV film) as Stephen Spender
  • 2005: A Very Social Secretary (TV film) as Alastair Campbell
  • 2005: Riot at the Rite (TV film) as Sergei Diaghilev
  • 2008: Fairy Tales (TV Mini-Series) as Roger Bateman (1 episode: "Rapunzel")
  • 2008: Hancock & Joan (TV film) as John Le Mesurier
  • 2008: The 39 Steps (TV film) as Captain Kell
  • 2009: The Last Days of Lehman Brothers (TV film) as Timothy 'Tim' Geithner
  • 2010: On Expenses (TV film) as Andrew Walker
  • 2012: We'll Take Manhattan (TV film) as John Parsons
  • 2013: The Lady Vanishes (TV film) as The Professor
  • 2015: Churchill's Secret (TV film) as Anthony Eden



  1. Costa, Maddy (19 September 2007). "'I wanted to be Fred Astaire'". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
  2. "Alex Jennings takes on Willy Wonka role". BBC News. 7 February 2014. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
  3. Shenton, Mark (7 February 2014). "Bold casting choices and versatile actors". The Stage. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
  4. Lawson, Richard. "The Crown Season 2 Review: A Stately Soap Opera We Just Can't Resist".
  5. Rosenthal, Daniel (2 October 2013). "National Histories: Nancy Carroll and Alex Jennings". Royal National Theatre. Archived from the original on 8 November 2015. Retrieved 1 November 2015.
  6. Evans, Lloyd (21 June 2014). "Alex Jennings interview: the new Willy Wonka on Roald Dahl's 'child killer'". The Spectator. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
  7. "Who's Who in the Cast: Who's Who - Alex Jennings; A Midsummer Night's Dream - Opening Night: March 31, 1996". Playbill. 31 March 1996. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
  8. Jennings, Alex (22 October 2011). "5 days in the life of ... Alex Jennings". The Independent. Retrieved 1 November 2015.
  9. Mitford, Oliver (17 February 2014). "Alex Jennings to take over from Douglas Hodge as Willy Wonka". Best of Theatre. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  10. "Alex Jennings is Henry Higgins in 'My Fair Lady'". 19 August 2016.
  11. Telegraph Film (27 May 2015). "The Lady in the Van: Maggie Smith as you've never seen her". The Telegraph. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
  12. Mangan, Lucy (20 May 2018). "A Very English Scandal review: funny and confident – like Jeremy Thorpe". Guardian. Retrieved 11 July 2018.
  13. "Radio and audio book companies", in Lloyd Trott, ed., Actors and Performers Yearbook 2016, pp. 353-354
  14. "A Midsummer Night's Dream". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
  15. Lukowski, Andrzej (4 September 2019). "'Hansard' review". Time Out. London.
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