Miriam Margolyes

Miriam Margolyes, OBE (/ˈmɑːrɡəlz/; born 18 May 1941) is a British-Australian actress and voice artist. Her earliest roles were in theatre and after several supporting roles in film and television she won a BAFTA Award for her role in The Age of Innocence (1993) and was cast in the role of Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter film series.

Miriam Margolyes

Margolyes in 2008
Born (1941-05-18) 18 May 1941
  • British
  • Australian
EducationOxford High School, Oxford
Alma materNewnham College, Cambridge
Years active1965–present
Notable work
Mrs. Mingott in The Age of Innocence (1993)
Voice of Fly the Border Collie in Babe (1995) and its 1998 sequel
Professor Pomona Sprout in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (2011)
TelevisionCall the Midwife (2018–2019)
Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries (2012–2015)
Blackadder's Christmas Carol (1988)
Blackadder II (1986)
The Black Adder (1983)
Tales of the Unexpected (1980)
Political partyLabour
Partner(s)Heather Sutherland

For many years she has divided her time between England and Australia, and she has starred in productions in both countries, including the Australian premiere of the 2013 play I'll Eat You Last. In 2013, she became an Australian citizen, thereby holding dual British and Australian citizenship.[1]

Early life

Margolyes was born in Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, on 18 May 1941,[2] the only child of Ruth (née Walters; 1905–1974), a property investor and developer, and Joseph Margolyes (1899–1995), a physician from Glasgow.[3] She grew up in a Jewish family;[4][5][6] her ancestors migrated to the UK from Poland and Belarus. Her great-grandfather, Symeon Sandmann, was born in the town of Margonin in central-western Poland, which Margolyes visited in 2013.

She attended Oxford High School and then Newnham College, Cambridge, where she read English.[7] There, in her twenties, she began acting and appeared in productions by the Cambridge Footlights comedy troupe.[8] She represented the university in the first series of University Challenge, where she may have been one of the first people to say "fuck" on British television; she claims to have used the word in frustration on the show in 1963.[9] However, at least two others said it on British television before that: Brendan Behan on Panorama in 1956 (although his drunken slurring was not understood), and an anonymous man who painted the railings on Stranmillis Embankment alongside the River Lagan in Belfast, who in 1959 told Ulster TV's magazine show, Roundabout, that his job was "fucking boring";[10][11]

Acting career

With her distinctive voice, Margolyes first gained recognition for her work as a voice artist. In the 1970s she recorded a soft-porn audio called Sexy Sonia: Leaves from my Schoolgirl Notebook.[12] She performed most of the supporting female characters in the dubbed Japanese action TV series Monkey. She also worked with the theatre company Gay Sweatshop and provided voiceovers in the Japanese TV series The Water Margin (credited as Mirium Margolyes).

In 1974 she appeared with Kenneth Williams and Ted Ray in the BBC Radio 2 comedy series The Betty Witherspoon Show.[13]

Margolyes' first major role in a film was as Elephant Ethel in Stand Up, Virgin Soldiers (1977). In the 1980s, she made appearances in Blackadder opposite Rowan Atkinson: these roles include the Spanish Infanta in The Black Adder, Lady Whiteadder in Blackadder II and Queen Victoria in Blackadder's Christmas Carol. In 1986 she played a major supporting role in the BBC drama The Life and Loves of a She-Devil. She won the 1989 LA Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Flora Finching in the film Little Dorrit (1988). On American television, she headlined the short-lived 1992 CBS sitcom Frannie's Turn. In 1994 she won the BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Mrs Mingott in Martin Scorsese's The Age of Innocence (1993).

In 1989, Margolyes co-wrote and performed a one-woman show, Dickens' Women, in which she played 23 characters from Dickens' novels.[14]

Margolyes came to the notice of younger audiences when she starred as Aunt Sponge in James and the Giant Peach (1996); she also provided the voice of the Glowworm in the same film. During the same time she played the Nurse in Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet (1996). Around this time, she voiced the rabbit character in the animated commercials for Cadbury's Caramel bars[15] and provided the voice of Fly the dog in the Australian-American family film Babe (1995).[16]

She played Professor Sprout in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets released in 2002. In her 2011 interview on The Graham Norton Show, in regard to her fellow cast, Margoyles claimed that she liked Maggie Smith, but rather bluntly admitted that she, "Didn't like the one that died", meaning Richard Harris.[17]

In 2004, Margolyes played the role of Peg Sellers, the mother of Peter Sellers, in the Golden Globe winning film The Life and Death of Peter Sellers.

She was one of the original cast of the London production of the musical Wicked in 2006, playing Madame Morrible opposite Idina Menzel, a role she also played on Broadway in 2008.[18]

In 2009, she appeared in a new production of Endgame by Samuel Beckett at the Duchess Theatre in London's West End.[19]

Margolyes voiced the role of Mrs. Plithiver, a blind snake in 3D-animated-epic film Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole (2010). Margolyes reprised her role as Professor Sprout in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (2011).

She played recurring character Prudence Stanley in the Australian-based TV series Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries from 2012 to 2015.

In 2014, she voiced Nana in the Disney Junior animated series for pre-school-age viewers Nina Needs to Go![20]

In January 2016 she appeared in The Real Marigold Hotel, a travel documentary in which a group of eight celebrities travel to India to see whether retirement would be more rewarding there than in the UK.[21] The series was reprised for two Christmas Specials The Real Marigold On Tour, from Florida and Kyoto.[22] She narrated the 2016 ITV documentary about Lady Colin Campbell entitled Lady C and the Castle.[23]

In December 2017 Margolyes appeared in the second season of The Real Marigold On Tour to Chengdu and Havana.[24]

In January 2018 Margolyes hosted a three-part series for the BBC titled Miriam's Big American Adventure, highlighting the citizens of the US and the issues facing the nation.[25]

She played Miss Shepherd in a 2019 production of The Lady in the Van for the Melbourne Theatre Company in Melbourne in Australia.[26]

Other work

Margolyes is a supporter of Sense (the National Deafblind and Rubella Association) and was the host at the first Sense Creative Writing Awards, held at the Charles Dickens Museum in London in December 2006, where she read a number of works written by talented deafblind people.[27]

In 2011, Margolyes recorded a narrative for the album The Devil's Brides by klezmer musician-ethnographer Yale Strom.[28]

Political activism

Margolyes is a pro Palestinian activist, having been a member of the British-based ENOUGH! coalition that seeks "a just settlement between Israelis and Palestinians".[29] She is also a signatory of Jews for Justice for Palestinians.[30] "What I want to try to do is to get Jewish people to understand what's really going on", she has said, "and they don't want to hear it. If you speak to most Jews and say 'Can Israel ever be in the wrong?' they say 'No. Our duty as Jews is to support Israel whatever happens.' And I don't believe that. It is our duty as human beings to report the truth as we see it." [31] Margolyes is a campaigner for a respite care charity, Crossroads.[32]

Margolyes is a member of the Vauxhall Constituency Labour Party. In August 2015, she was a signatory to a letter criticising The Jewish Chronicle's reporting of Jeremy Corbyn's alleged association with antisemites.[33]

In November 2019, Margolyes endorsed the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in the 2019 UK general election because he "is going to protect the NHS".[34][35] Later in the month, along with other public figures, she signed a letter supporting Corbyn describing him as "a beacon of hope in the struggle against emergent far-right nationalism, xenophobia and racism in much of the democratic world" and endorsed him in the 2019 UK general election.[36]

Personal life

Margolyes is a lesbian.[37] On becoming an Australian citizen,[32] on Australia Day 2013, Margolyes referred to herself as a "dyke" live on national television and in front of the then Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.[38]

Since 1967 her partner has been Heather Sutherland,[16][39] a retired Australian professor of Indonesian Studies.[40] Margolyes divides her time between homes in London and Kent in the UK, Tuscany in Italy, and Robertson, New South Wales in Australia.[41][42][43][44]

Author and comedian David Walliams says he used Margolyes as a model for the title character in his children's book Awful Auntie after a rude exchange with the actress during a stage production. He stresses that he has nothing against Margolyes and is a fan of her work.[45]

TV and filmography

Year Title Role Notes
1965Theatre 625Rita1 episode ("Enter Solly Gold")
1967Boy Meets GirlMaria1 episode
1968JackanoryStoryteller5 episodes
1968Dixon of Dock GreenAnna1 episode
1973Doctor in ChargeDoris1 episode
1974World of LaughterVarious partsTV series
1974Fall of EaglesAnna VyrubovaTV miniseries
1975Rime of the Ancient MarinerDorothy Wordsworth
1975The Girls of Slender MeansJane WrightTV
1976Christmas BoxMaurie Kaplan's MotherTV
1976AngelsJune Morris2 episodes
1976KizzyMrs Doe2 episodes
1976The Glittering PrizesOlive WiseTV miniseries
1976The Battle of Billy's PondTour Guide
1976–1982Crown CourtMarilyn Munro (1976)
Mrs King (1982)
2 episodes
1977Play for TodayVeronica1 episode
1977SpasmsRose FinnTV
1977Stand Up, Virgin SoldiersElephant Ethel
1978MonkeyEnglish dub of Japanese TV series Saiyûki
1978On a Paving Stone Mounted
1980The AppleLandlady
1980The Lost TribeQueenieTV miniseries
1980The AwakeningDr Kadira
1980Tales of the UnexpectedMary Burge1 episode
1981RedsWoman writing in notebookUncredited
1981Take a Letter, Mr. JonesMaria6 episodes
1981A Kick Up the EightiesVarious rolesTV series
1981The History ManMelissa TordoroffTV
1982Crystal GazingNewsreader
1983The Black AdderInfanta Maria Escalosa of Spain1 episode
1984FreudBaronessTV mini-series
1984Electric DreamsTicket Girl
1985The Good FatherJane Powell
1985Oliver TwistMrs CorneyTV miniseries
1985Morons from Outer SpaceDoctor Wallace
1986Little Shop of HorrorsDental Nurse
1986The Life and Loves of a She-DevilNurse Hopkins2 episodes
1986Blackadder IILady Whiteadder1 episode
1986A Little PrincessMiss AmeliaTV
1986Scotch and WryVariousTV
1987Poor Little Rich Girl: The Barbara Hutton StoryElsa MaxwellTV
1987Body ContactTony's Mother
1988Little DorritFlora Finching
1988Blackadder's Christmas CarolQueen VictoriaTV
1988Mr MajeikaWilhelmina WorlockTV series, Seasons 1 and 2
1989Murderers Among Us: The Simon Wiesenthal StoryMrs RajzmanTV
1990Pacific HeightsRealtor
1990Orpheus DescendingVee TalbotTV
1990The FindingPollTV
1990I Love You to DeathJoey's Mother
1990Old FlamesNellieTV
1990The FoolMrs Bowring
1991Tonight at 8.30Mrs Wadhurst2 episodes
1991The Butcher's WifeGina
1991Dead AgainLadyUncredited
1992As You Like ItAudrey
1992Frannie's TurnFrannie EscobarTV series
1993The Age of InnocenceMrs Mingott
1993The Comic Strip Presents...Mother1 episode
1993Ed and His Dead MotherMabel Chilton
1994Just WilliamMiss Polliter1 episode
1994Immortal BelovedNanette Streicherová
1994MoonacreOld ElspethTV series
1995BaltoGrandma Rosy/Extra Voices
1995BabeFly the Female Sheepdog (voice)
1995Cold Comfort FarmMrs BeetleTV
1996Different for GirlsPamela
1996Romeo + JulietThe Nurse
1996James and the Giant PeachAunt Sponge/Glowworm (voice)
1997The IMAX NutcrackerSugar Plum
1997Castle Ghosts of WalesHag ghost
1997The Phoenix and the CarpetCookTV miniseries
1997The Place of LionsMiss ColeTV
1998Babe: Pig in the CityFly the Female Sheepdog (voice)
1998Vanity FairMiss CrawleyTV miniseries
1998–2001RugratsShirley Finster3 episodes: The Family Tree, Parts One and Two; Finsterella
1998MulanThe Matchmaker (voice)
1998Left LuggageMrs Goldman
1998The First Snow of WinterSean Seamus Aloysius Dermot Duck (voice)UK version
1998Supply & DemandEdnaTV miniseries
1999MagnoliaFaye BarringerUncredited
1999End of DaysMabel
1999Dreaming of Joseph LeesSignora Caldoni
1999SunshineRose Sonnenschein
2000Dharma & GregChloe1 episode
2001Cats & DogsSophie the Castle Maid
2001Not Afraid, Not Afraid
2002Harry Potter and the Chamber of SecretsProfessor Pomona Sprout
2002Plots with a ViewThelma & Selma
2004Agatha Christie's Marple: The Murder at the VicarageMrs Price-RidleyTV
2004Being JuliaDolly de Vries
2004Ladies in LavenderDorcas
2004The Life and Death of Peter SellersPeg Sellers
2004ModiglianiGertrude Stein
2004End of the LineBag Lady
2004Chasing LibertyMaria
2005Wallis & EdwardAunt BessieTV
2005Dickens in AmericaHerself10 episodes
2005InconceivableMalva1 episode
2006Jam & JerusalemMrs Midge1 episode
2006Happy FeetMrs Astrakhan (Voice)
2006Flushed AwayRita's Grandma (Voice)
2006Sir Billi the VetBaroness Chantal McToff (voice)
2007The DukesAunt Vee
2008How To Lose Friends and Alienate PeopleMrs KowalskiFilm
2008KingdomHenny1 episode
2009A Closed BookMrs. KilbrideFilm
2009The Sarah Jane AdventuresLeef Slitheen-Blathereen2 episodes: The Gift parts 1 and 2, Voice only
2010Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'HooleMrs Plithiver (voice)
2010Tinga Tinga TalesGiraffe and Squirrel (voice)
2010Merlin[46]GrunhildaEpisode: "The Changeling"
2011Doc MartinShirleyGuest appearance
2011Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2Professor Pomona Sprout
2012The Wedding VideoPatricia
2012The Guilt TripAnita
2012–2015Miss Fisher's Murder MysteriesAunt Prudence
2013HebburnMillieChristmas special
2014Maya the BeeThe Queen (voice)
2014The Legend of LongwoodLady Thyrza
2014Nina Needs to Go!Nana Sheila (voice)
2014TrolliedRoseSeries 4
2016PlebsIonaEpisode: "The Cupid"
2016RakeHuntley-Brown2 episodes
2016The Real Marigold HotelHerselfBBC TV documentary series
2016–2017Bottersnikes and GumblesWeathersnike3 episodes
2017BucketMim4 episodes
2017The Man Who Invented ChristmasMrs Fisk
2017Family GuyRight EyeballEpisode: "Emmy-Winning Episode"
2017The Little Vampire 3DWulftrud (voice)
2018Miriam's Big American AdventureHerselfBBC TV documentary series
2018Early ManQueen Oofeefa (voice)
2018–presentCall the MidwifeSister Mildred/Mother Mildred
2018Postcards from the 48%HerselfDocumentary
2019Miriam's Dead Good AdventureHerselfBBC TV documentary series


  • The Thief and the Cobbler (1993) – the voice of the Maiden from Mombasa (original version only; the character was not heard at all in the re-edited versions and another actor was never available in all the re-edited versions).
  • The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (2004) – Peg Sellers – note this film was shown in cinemas in the UK and Australia – it aired on cable television on the HBO network in the US.


Awards and nominations


  1. Margolyes, Miriam. "Miriam Margolyes » Bio". Miriam Margolyes' official website.
  2. Empire. "Miriam Margolyes". Empire. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  3. Miriam Margolyes Biography (1941–). Filmreference.com. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  4. "Harry Potter actress Miriam Margolyes on her Gorbals roots, women in comedy and how Monty Python stars shunned her". The Daily Record. 2 November 2011. Retrieved 21 December 2011.
  5. Farndale, Nigel (11 October 2009). "Miriam Margolyes: 'I'm still a naughty schoolgirl at heart'". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  6. Chitra Ramaswamy (6 August 2012). "As Miriam Margolyes prepares to perform her one-woman show, dedicated to the women in the victorian novelist's fiction, she reflects on her own fascinating life story". The Scotsman.
  7. Famous alumnae. Newn.cam.ac.uk. Retrieved 3 January 2016.
  8. Footlights Alumni Archived 14 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine. Footlights.org. Retrieved 25 August 2011.
  9. Moran, Joe (16 August 2013). "Television's magic moments". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 31 August 2014.
  10. Brandreth, Gyles (2018). Have You Eaten Grandma?. Penguin. p. 135. ISBN 978-0241352656. Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  11. "Enough Rope". Retrieved 5 January 2011.
  12. "The Betty Witherspoon Show Series and Episode Guides - TV from RadioTimes". Radio Times. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  13. Helen Sims (30 November 2007). "Miriam Margolyes on Dickens' Women". The Lumière Reader. Archived from the original on 23 April 2008. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
  14. "Margolyes: Voice of a movie star" 31 December 2001, BBC News
  15. Leah O'Brien (11 May 2010). "At home with Harry Potter star, Miriam Margolyes – Local News – News – Entertainment". Southern Highland News. Retrieved 21 December 2011.
  16. "The Graham Norton Show: the 15 funniest guests". The Telegraph. 29 September 2017. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  17. Margolyes to Join Broadway's Wicked Jan. 22. Playbill.com. Retrieved 11 June 2012.
  18. Brief Encounter With … Miriam Margolyes – Endgame at Duchess Theatre – London – Interviews. Whatsonstage.com. Retrieved 11 June 2012.
  19. Jennifer Wolfe (13 December 2013). "Disney Junior Greenlights 'Nina Needs to Go'". Animation World Network.
  20. 02:10. "BBC Two – The Real Marigold Hotel". BBC. Retrieved 20 February 2016.
  21. "The Real Marigold on Tour – BBC Two". BBC.
  22. "Lady C and the Castle". Archived from the original on 16 September 2016. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  23. "The Real Marigold on Tour gets a "bumper" BBC1 run". RadioTimes. 24 August 2017. Retrieved 23 November 2017.
  24. "Miriam's Big American Adventure – BBC One". BBC. Retrieved 28 January 2018.
  25. The Lady in the Van - Melbourne Theatre Company
  26. Celebrity supporters | Miriam Margolyes Archived 23 October 2008 at Archive.today. Sense. Retrieved 25 August 2011.
  27. Michael Church (15 January 2012). "Album: Yale Strom and Hot Pstromi, The Devil's Brides: Yiddish and Klezmer Song (Arc Music) – Reviews – Music". The Independent. Retrieved 26 January 2012.
  28. "Emma Thompson bids for Palestinian Rights Enough!" 27 January 2007, Electronic Intifada
  29. "JFJFP Signatories" Jews for Justice for Palestinians Signatory List 11 August 2012
  30. The Guardian, 5 November, 2014
  31. Late Night Live – 10September2007 – Miriam Margolyes and Dickens' Women. Abc.net.au (10 September 2007). Retrieved 25 August 2011.
  32. Dysch, Marcus (18 August 2015). "Anti-Israel activists attack JC for challenging Jeremy Corbyn". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
  33. Siobhan, McNally (14 November 2019). "Call The Midwife star Miriam Margolyes backs Labour to help save the NHS". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 27 November 2019. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  34. Thorpe, Vanessa (24 November 2019). "Celebrities turn out to support Labour's vision for the arts". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 November 2019.
  35. Neale, Matthew (16 November 2019). "Exclusive: New letter supporting Jeremy Corbyn signed by Roger Waters, Robert Del Naja and more". NME. Retrieved 27 November 2019.
  36. Desert Island Discs – 28 September 2008 – Miriam Margolyes. BBC. (28 September 2008). Retrieved 25 August 2011.
  37. Groves, Nancy (6 November 2014). "Miriam Margolyes: 'I do say things possibly other people don't say'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  38. Property Observer, "Andrew Denton and Jennifer Byrne blaze a trail to Southern Highlands retreat". Retrieved 7 December 2015
  39. Sharon Verghis, "Miriam Margolyes: The ultimate character actress for Dickens", 'The Australian", 4 February 2012. Retrieved 7 December 2015
  40. Gabriella Coslovich, "Lunch with Miriam Margolyes", Canberra Times, 7 April 2012. Retrieved 7 December 2015
  41. Jane Cadzow, "Miss Margolyes Mysteries"
  42. Lyell, Carrie (09 February 2016). "Miriam Margolyes: My Mother Was Utterly Appalled When I Came Out" Archived 3 August 2016 at the Wayback Machine, Diva Magazine. UK. Retrieved on 05 Aug 2016.
  43. "At home with Harry Potter star Miriam Margolyes" 11 May 2010, Southern Highland News
  44. Tim Walker, David Walliams: Miriam Margolyes is the real-life Awful Auntie, The Daily Telegraph, 2 October 2014.
  45. Truitt, Brian (23 June 2010). "'Merlin' star Colin Morgan talks dragons and guest stars". USA Weekend. Archived from the original on 5 January 2013. Retrieved 24 June 2010.
  46. "No. 56430". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2001. p. 11.
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