James Purefoy

James Brian Mark Purefoy[1] (born 3 June 1964) is an English actor. He played Mark Antony in the HBO series Rome, former college professor-turned-serial-killer Joe Carroll in the series The Following, and Solomon Kane in the feature film Solomon Kane. In February 2018 he starred as Laurens Bancroft in Altered Carbon, a Netflix original series.

James Purefoy
Purefoy at the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con.
James Brian Mark Purefoy

(1964-06-03) 3 June 1964
Taunton, Somerset, England
Years active1987–present
Jessica Adams (m. 2014)

He was born in Somerset and attended Sherborne School before training at the Central School of Speech and Drama. His appearances in stage plays and a variety of television roles in the UK and USA have grown since the 1980s.

Early life

Purefoy was born in Taunton, Somerset,[2] the eldest son of Anthony Chetwynd and Shirley (née Taylor) Purefoy. The Purefoy family were landed gentry, of Shalstone, Buckinghamshire; the family name passed in the female line through Anthony Chetwynd Purefoy's mother, Mary Lilias Geraldine, daughter of Admiral Richard Purefoy (who had changed his surname from Fitzgerald as his mother was the heir and niece of the politician George Purefoy-Jervoise, head of the family); she married Rev. Brian Mews, vicar of Tewkesbury, who changed his name to Purefoy.[3]

Purefoy boarded at Sherborne School, which he left with only one O-level. He later went to night school and received 11 more O-levels, before taking his A-levels[4] at Brooklands College in Weybridge. He worked as a porter at Yeovil District Hospital before studying acting at the Central School of Speech and Drama.[4]


Stage work

Purefoy's early professional roles included Romeo in Romeo and Juliet in Leatherhead, Walter in Mary Morgan at the Riverside Studios and Alan Strang in Equus on tour. He subsequently joined the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) in 1988 and appeared in The Constant Couple, Macbeth, The Tempest, The Man Who Came to Dinner (Gene Saks, Barbican) and King Lear as Edgar.

Elsewhere, he has also appeared as Laertes in Hamlet at the Bristol Old Vic (1991) Brian in William Gaminara's Back Up the Hearse and Let them Sniff the Flowers at the Hampstead Theatre (1992), Roland Maule in Noël Coward's Present Laughter at the Globe Theatre (1993), Biff in Death of a Salesman, alongside Ken Stott and Jude Law, at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds (1994), Tony in The Servant at the Birmingham Rep (1995). He returned to the RSC for Simon Callow's stage adaptation of the film classic, Les enfants du paradis at the Barbican. He also played Hugh de Morville in Paul Corcoran's Four Nights in Knaresborough at the Tricycle Theatre, (1999) and Loveless in Trevor Nunn's production of The Relapse at the National Theatre in 2001.

Between March and June 2011 he starred as Peter in Trevor Nunn's production of Flare Path at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, alongside Sheridan Smith and Sienna Miller, as part of the playwright Terence Rattigan's centenary year celebrations.[5]

Film and television

Purefoy was screen tested for the role of James Bond in 1995 for GoldenEye,[2] but ultimately lost the role to Pierce Brosnan. Throughout 2004 and 2005 Purefoy's name was rumoured as a possible candidate to replace Brosnan as Bond in future films. He played James McCarthy, a young man accused of murdering his father, in "The Boscombe Valley Mystery," in Granada's The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes. One of his notable roles was as Nicholas Jenkins in the eight-part miniseries A Dance to the Music of Time for Channel 4 in 1997. He played Edward, the Black Prince in the film A Knight's Tale, Rawdon Crawley in Vanity Fair with Reese Witherspoon and Tom Bertram in the 1999 production of Mansfield Park.

He has played major roles in several television costume dramas, including Sharpe's Sword, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, The Prince and the Pauper, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Blackbeard: Terror at Sea, Beau Brummell: This Charming Man, The Tide of Life, Camelot and Rome.

He was originally the actor for V in the 2006 Film V for Vendetta but had creative differences with the production team and left the film six weeks into filming. Parts of the film contain (dubbed) scenes of Purefoy. Speculation suggested that his departure was due to an opportunity to play James Bond in the 2006 film Casino Royale.[6]

He played Mark Antony in the HBO/BBC original television series, Rome. At the time there were rumours that at least one nude body in the show had been digitally enhanced. When his Wikipedia entry, which at that time referred to the rumours, was brought up in an interview with Alastair McKay, published in the January 2007 issue of Out magazine, Purefoy said, "I won't say whose it was, but there was a penis in the series that may have been slightly enhanced. But it wasn't mine. Mine's all mine."[7]

Producer William J. MacDonald announced that James Purefoy would play Simon Templar in a new TV series of The Saint. The new series was scheduled to start shooting in Berlin and Australia in April 2008.[8] However, production ultimately did not occur and in August Purefoy was reported as negotiating with NBC to star in another series,[9] The Philanthropist.

He starred as Teddy Rist in the summer television series, The Philanthropist, which aired on NBC beginning on June 2009. His character is a billionaire playboy who decides to use his wealth and power to help others in need.

In 2013, The Following debuted, starring Purefoy as the lead antagonist of the series. He portrays Joe Carroll, a former professor who becomes a serial killer and leads a cult of followers, all whom help create Carroll's "story".

It was announced in June 2014 that Purefoy would join the cast of the upcoming film High-Rise with Tom Hiddleston and Jeremy Irons.[10] Later in 2014, Purefoy co-starred in the Formula 1-themed music video for David Guetta's song "Dangerous".

In February 2019, Hybrid (who provided the score to Interlude in Prague) released a short film to accompany their single "Hold Your Breath" from the album Light of the Fearless. The film starred Purefoy as the brooding 'Mr Black'.

Personal life

Purefoy has a son, Joseph (born 1997), with the actress Holly Aird. He also has a daughter, Rose (born 2012) and two sons, Ned and Kit, (born 2017) with documentary director and producer Jessica Adams. He married Adams in Somerset in July 2014.

Purefoy is a supporter of Yeovil Town FC.[11]



1995 Feast of July Jedd Wainwright
1997 Jilting Joe Joe
1998 Bedrooms and Hallways Brendan
1999 Mansfield Park Tom Bertram
Women Talking Dirty Daniel
2000 Lighthouse Richard Spader
Maybe Baby Carl Phipps
The Wedding Tackle Hal
2001 Tomorrow Andrew Spender
A Knight's Tale Edward, the Black Prince of Wales/Sir Thomas Colville
2002 Resident Evil Spence Parks
2003 Photo Finish James Jury Award for Best Actor
2004 George and the Dragon George
Blessed Craig Howard
Vanity Fair Colonel Rawdon Crawley
2005 V for Vendetta V Uncredited;

Left six weeks into filming; Few opening scenes of a masked V are of James Purefoy but are dubbed by Hugo Weaving.

2006 Goose on the Loose Kenneth Donnelly
2008 Lena: The Bride of Ice Dr Harper
2010 Solomon Kane Solomon Kane UK release
2011 Ironclad Marshall[12]
2012 John Carter Kantos Kan[13]
2013 Wicked Blood Wild Bill
2015 Momentum Mr Washington
High-Rise Pangbourne
2016 Equity Michael Connor
2017 Churchill King George VI
2019 Fisherman's Friends Jim


1990 Coasting Mike Baker Lead role
1991 The Case-book of Sherlock Holmes James McCarthy Episode: "The Boscombe Valley Mystery"
Boon Alan Bridges Episode: "Houseguests"
1992 Bye Bye Baby Television film
The Cloning of Joanna May Oliver Television film
Angels Victor
1993 Calling the Shots Brian Summers Television film
Rides Julian 4 episodes
Crime Story Darius Guppy Episode: "The Prince"
1995 Tears Before Bedtime Jimmy Turner
Sharpe's Sword Captain Jack Spears Television film
1996 The Tide of Life Nick Stuart Television miniseries
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall Mr. Lawrence Television miniseries
The Prince and the Pauper Miles Hendon
1997 Have Your Cake and Eat It Ben Television miniseries
Bright Hair David Miles Television film
A Dance to the Music of Time Nicholas Jenkins Television miniseries
2000 Don Quixote Sansón Carrasco Television film
Metropolis Nathan Television miniseries
2003 The Mayor of Casterbridge Donald Farfrae Television film
2005 Blackbeard: Terror at Sea Edward Teach/Blackbeard Television film
2005–07 Rome Mark Antony Lead role
2006 Beau Brummell: This Charming Man Beau Brummell Television film
2007 Manchild Joe Television film
Frankenstein Dr. Henry Clerval Television film
2008–10 The Summit Thom Lightstone Television miniseries
2009 Diamonds Lucas Denmont Television film
The Philanthropist Teddy Rist Lead role
2011 Camelot King Lot Episodes: "Homecoming", "The Sword and the Crown", "Lady of the Lake"
Injustice William Travers[14] Television miniseries
Rev. Richard Episode: "#2.6"
Revenge Dominik Wright Episodes: "Doubt", "Justice"
2012 The Hollow Crown Thomas Mowbray Episode: "Richard II"
Episodes Rob 4 episodes
2013–15 The Following Joe Carroll Lead role; 30 episodes
2016–18 Hap and Leonard Hap Collins Lead role
2016 Roots John Waller Television miniseries
2016–18 Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia Kanjigar the Courageous Animated series, voice role, replaced Tom Hiddleston
2018 Altered Carbon Laurens Bancroft Lead role; 10 episodes
2019 Sex Education Remi Milburn Supporting role
3Below: Tales of Arcadia Kanjigar the Courageous Animated series, voice role, 2 episodes
TBA A Discovery of Witches Philippe de Clermont Season 2


2002 Afternoon Play: The Tears of War[15] Bevil Quiller-Couch BBC Radio 4, lead role
2014 Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Rick Deckard BBC Radio 4, lead role
2016 Le Cid Don Rodrigue BBC Radio 3, lead role
2017 The Scarlet Pimpernel Sir Percy Blakeney BBC Radio 4, lead role


  1. Profile, Film Reference.com; accessed 12 February 2014.
  2. James Purefoy on IMDb
  3. Burke's Landed Gentry, 17th ed., ed. L. G. Pine, 1952, Purefoy of Shalstone pedigree
  4. "When in Rome..." interview with Hannah Pool. The Guardian. 6 January 2007.
  5. "Official Press Release: James Purefoy And Sheridan Smith Join Sienna Miller In Terence Rattigan’s Flare Path Directed By Trevor Nunn", 27 January 2011. Retrieved 27 January 2011.
  6. Morris, Clint. McMahon still in the running for 007 Archived 11 June 2005 at the Wayback Machine. MovieHole.com. 10 June 2005.
  7. McKay, Alastair. All Hail James Purefoy. Out.com.
  8. "James Purefoy to play Simon Templar in The Saint", The Saint Club. 5 December 2007.
  9. The Hollywood Reporter: "James Purefoy circles NBC series, 21 July 2008. Retrieved 5 August 2008
  10. Oliver Lyttelton (13 June 2014). "'The Hobbit' Star Luke Evans Joins Tom Hiddleston In Ben Wheatley's 'High Rise'". Indie Wire. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  11. Purefoy supports Yeovil F.C., socceram.com; accessed 12 February 2014.
  12. "Film recreates Rochester castle siege – in Wales Archived 18 December 2009 at the Wayback Machine". Kent News. 14 November 2009. Retrieved 14 November 2009.
  13. "Purefoy, Haden Church, and Strong for Mars". Empire Online.
  14. "Injustice". itv.xom.
  15. BBC Genome Project Radio Times 1923 - 2009
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