Jessica Brown Findlay

Jessica Rose Brown Findlay (born 14 September 1989)[1] is an English actress, most widely known for her role as Lady Sybil Crawley in the ITV television period drama series Downton Abbey, and for her role as Emelia Conan Doyle in the 2011 British comedy-drama feature film Albatross.[2]

Jessica Brown Findlay
Jessica Rose Brown Findlay

(1989-09-14) 14 September 1989
Cookham, Berkshire, England
Years active2009–present

In 2014, she appeared as Beverly Penn in the film adaptation of the Mark Helprin novel Winter's Tale.[3] In 2015, she co-starred in Paul McGuigan's Victor Frankenstein as Lorelei, the Esmerelda-like acrobat.[4] In 2016, she joined the cast of the new biopic feature film, England is Mine, about the early life and career of English singer Morrissey, who co-founded the indie rock band The Smiths.[5]

Beginning in 2017, Brown Findlay portrays Charlotte Wells, a madam's daughter and prostitute, in Harlots, a period drama television series screening on ITV Encore in the U.K. and on Hulu Plus in the U.S. The TV series focuses on Margaret Wells, who runs a brothel in 18th century England and struggles to raise her daughters in a chaotic household.[6][7]

Early life

Brown Findlay grew up in Cookham, Berkshire, United Kingdom, where her mother is a teaching assistant and her father is a financial adviser.[1] She told Vanity Fair in 2012, "I grew up there, as did my Mum. My Nan and Granddad are around the corner. It is a very familiar place and incredibly dear to my heart. It's sort of quiet, but wonderfully so".[8]

She trained with the National Youth Ballet and the Associates of the Royal Ballet, and at age 15, she was invited to dance with the Kirov at the Royal Opera House for a summer season.[9] She attended Furze Platt Senior School in Maidenhead. At the end of her GCSEs, she was accepted to a number of ballet schools, but chose to go to the Arts Educational School, because of the A-level courses it provided and its pastoral care. Brown Findlay attended for two years; in her second year, she had three operations on her ankles, the last of which went wrong. After encouragement from an art teacher, she finished her education at Arts Educational School, Tring Park and then moved on to a Fine Art course at the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design.[1][9] In a 2012 interview with Vanity Fair, Brown Findlay stated, "Growing up, I was completely in love and infatuated with ballet. Ballet was my life completely". However, after three ankle operations, she was forced to leave dancing behind and ended up at university in London, where she discovered the stage, to which she says, "Acting was the element from ballet that I actually loved and missed the most".[8]


Brown Findlay was cast in the lead role of seventeen year-old Emilia Conan Doyle for Albatross, a 2011 British coming-of-age comedy drama film directed by Niall MacCormick, co-starring Julia Ormond, Felicity Jones and Sebastian Koch. The film's premise revolves around a teenage aspiring writer entering the lives of a dysfunctional family living in the south coast of England, with bookish young women meeting up with a peer who lacks any boundaries or inhibitions.[2] Next, she was cast in two episodes of the British science fiction comedy-drama television show Misfits.[8] Brown Findlay appeared in the first-season finale as a wholesome religious girl whose superpower is convincing everyone to abandon their delinquent behaviour in favour of celibacy.[10]

Almost immediately after shooting her first major role, in Albatross, Brown Findlay landed the role of Lady Sybil Crawley in the ITV period drama television series Downton Abbey, which became her breakthrough role, as the youngest of the Grantham daughters. In a 2012 interview with Vanity Fair, Brown Findlay stated, "I thought this character of Sybil was fascinating, and I liked her modern attitude to life".[8] Brown Findlay was the first major cast member to leave the series, when her character, the forward-thinking Lady Sybil, died from pre-eclampsia after giving birth in the third series.[11] During a 2015 interview, Downton Abbey creator, Julian Fellowes, discussed the plot twist, "Jessica [Brown Findlay, who played Sybil,] had said she was going to leave right from the beginning. She said, "I'm doing three years, then I'm leaving", So that was all worked out", Fellowes said of Lady Sybil's death, which occurred shortly after she gave birth to her and Tom Branson's baby daughter.[12]

She next appeared as Abi in the Black Mirror episode "Fifteen Million Merits" with English actor Daniel Kaluuya.[13] The episode imagined a dystopian future where people earn merits on exercise bikes and the only way to escape their slave-like existence is to audition for reality TV judges.[14]

In 2012, Brown Findlay became the face of Dominic Jones' jewellery line, and she was cast in Not Another Happy Ending by John McKay,[15] and in the miniseries Labyrinth, based on the novel of the same name written by Kate Mosse, portraying Alaïs Pelletier.[16] In 2012, Brown Findlay was cast as Beverly Penn in the film adaptation of the novel Winter's Tale (2014) with Colin Farrell and Russell Crowe.[17]

In March 2015, it was confirmed that she had been cast in the remake of The Crow,[18] in which Brown Findlay portrayed Shelly.[19]

In July 2015, Brown Findlay played the role of the emotionally conflicted stepmother Alice Aldridge in The Outcast, the BBC's two-part television adaptation of Sadie Jones’ novel.[20]

In May 2015, Brown Findlay made her theatre debut at the Almeida Theatre, London, as Electra in a new adaptation of The Oresteia to positive reviews.[21] The production later transferred to the Trafalgar Theatre in London's West End. The writer and director was Robert Icke, who cast Brown Findlay in his production of Uncle Vanya at the same venue in February of the following year.[22]

In September 2016, it was announced that she would play Ophelia in a new production of Hamlet at the Almeida Theatre in London.[23] The production was critically acclaimed and later transferred to the West End, where it ran until September 2017 with award-winning "Sherlock" actor Andrew Scott as Hamlet.

In 2016, she joined the cast of the biopic feature film, Steven, about the early life and career of English singer Morrissey, who co-founded the indie rock band The Smiths.[5] The film, renamed England is Mine, premiered at the Edinburgh Film Festival in 2017, with Dunkirk actor Jack Lowden in the lead role.

In 2017, Brown Findlay portrayed Charlotte Wells, a brothel owner's daughter and famed courtesan, in Harlots, a period drama television series created by Alison Newman and Moira Buffini. The series premiered on 27 March 2017 on ITV Encore in the U.K. and on 29 March 2017 on Hulu Plus in the U.S. The TV series focuses on Margaret Wells, who runs a brothel in 18th century England and struggles to raise her daughters in a chaotic household. The series is inspired by "The Covent Garden Ladies" by Hallie Rubenhold.[6][7]

2017 also saw the release of This Beautiful Fantastic, an indie film in which Brown Findlay starred as Bella Brown, a repressed foundling who forms a new life through her relationships with a curmudgeonly neighbor (Tom Wilkinson), a gifted cook (Andrew Scott) and an eccentric inventor (Jeremy Irvine).[24] That same year, she voiced the character of Fay in the animated film, Monster Family.

In 2018, she starred as Elizabeth McKenna in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.



Year Film Role Notes
2009 Man on a Motorcycle Girl in Bed Short film
2011 Albatross Emelia Conan Doyle
2014 Winter's Tale Beverly Penn
Lullaby Karen Lowenstein
The Riot Club Rachel
2015 Victor Frankenstein Lorelei
2016 This Beautiful Fantastic Bella Brown
2017 England Is Mine Linder Sterling
Monster Family Fay (voice)
2018 Iris Warriors Miss Shaw Post-production
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Elizabeth McKenna
2019The BanishingPost-production[25]


Year Film Role Notes
2009, 2011 Misfits Rachel 2 episodes
2010–2012 Downton Abbey Lady Sybil Branson Main role; 20 episodes (Seasons 1–3)
2011 Black Mirror Abi Khan Episode: "Fifteen Million Merits"
2012 Labyrinth Alaïs Pelletier du Mas Miniseries (2 episodes)
2014 Jamaica Inn Mary Yellan Miniseries (3 episodes)
2015 The Outcast Alice Aldridge 2 episodes
2017–2019 Harlots Charlotte Wells Main role
TBA Brave New World Lenina Crowne


Year Title Role Venue
2015 Oresteia Electra Almeida Theatre
Trafalgar Studios
2016 Uncle Vanya Sonya Almeida Theatre
2017 Hamlet Ophelia Almeida Theatre
Harold Pinter Theatre

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Work Result
2011 British Independent Film Awards Most Promising Newcomer[26] Albatross Nominated
2012 Evening Standard British Film Awards Most Promising Newcomer[27] Albatross Nominated
2015 Ian Charleson Awards Special Commendation Oresteia Nominated
2016 Ian Charleson Awards Uncle Vanya Second Prize[28][29][30]


  1. Aftab, Kaleen (6 October 2011). "The Lady is a champ: Why everyone is talking about Jessica Brown Findlay". The Independent. Retrieved 19 January 2012.
  2. Pols, Mary. "Albatross: Just Call Her Emilia Bad-Elia". Time. Retrieved 12 December 2017 via
  3. Fleming, Mike (3 February 2013). "Star In 'Winter's Tale'".
  4. "Victor Frankenstein: James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe's mug show". 3 December 2015. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  5. McNary, Dave (11 April 2016). "'Downton Abbey' Star Jessica Brown Findlay Joins Morrissey Biopic". Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  6. Elber, Lynn (28 April 2017). "Downton Abbey star takes on 18th-century London in Harlots". Retrieved 12 December 2017 via Toronto Star.
  7. Robinson, Joanna. "Why You've Never Seen Anything Like Hulu's Harlots Before". Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  8. Smith, Krista. "Jessica Brown Findlay on What Attracted Her to Downton Abbey's Sybil". HWD. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  9. "Downton Abbey Press Pack" (PDF). ITV.
  10. "WIRED Binge-Watching Guide: Misfits". Wired. 4 March 2015. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  11. Sweney, Mark (26 March 2015). "Downton Abbey to end after season six". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 December 2017 via
  12. Miller, Julie. "Downton Abbey's Creator Wanted to Kill Off Two Characters in Matthew's Car Crash". Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  13. "'Black Mirror' Episode Being Turned Into Art Exhibition". Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  14. "You can get stuck in a Black Mirror episode for real at the Barbican". 7 April 2017. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  15. "Jessica Brown Findlay to star in Not Another Happy Ending". 9 December 2011. Retrieved 19 January 2012.
  16. "Meet the young cast of Labyrinth". 30 December 2011. Retrieved 19 January 2012.
  17. Fleming, Mike (21 March 2012). "Star In 'Winter's Tale'".
  18. "More News Confirmed For 'The Crow' Remake". 16 March 2015.
  19. "The Crow – Downton Abbey Star Joins Cast; More Details". 15 March 2015.
  20. "BBC One: The Outcast: Episode 1 credits". Retrieved 20 July 2015.
  21. Billington, Michael (7 June 2015). "Icke brings us Aeschylus for the modern age". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  22. Clapp, Susannah (21 February 2016). "Chekhov rewired". The Observer. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  23. "Downton Abbey actress Jessica Brown Findlay joins Hamlet production". BBC News. 8 September 2016. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
  24. Genzlinger, Neil (9 March 2017). "Review: In 'This Beautiful Fantastic,' a Gardener Blooms". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  25. "The Banishing". WestEnd Films. Retrieved 5 January 2019.
  26. "British Independent Film Awards 2011: Nominations". 5 November 2011.
  27. "Evening Standard British Film Awards 2012: Nominations". 17 January 2012.
  28. Hawkins, Helen. "Paapa Essiedu wins the Ian Charleson award 2016". Sunday Times. 11 June 2017.
  29. Snow, Georgia. "Paapa Essiedu wins 2016 Ian Charleson award". The Stage. 6 June 2017.
  30. "Ian Charleson Awards 2016". 6 June 2017.
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