Where Do I Know That Actor? (Mamma Mia! Edition)

Every now and then, I like to veer slightly away from the small screen to make a big screen connection and, right now, there seems only one film deserving of such a look. The ABBA-inspired sequel Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again took in around $34 million in its opening weekend, placing it number two at the box office. Although I’ve not seen it myself I couldn’t help but be taken by all the familiar names and faces I spied viewing the trailer during a recent cinematic outing. Some may be obvious, but let’s take note of them all as best we can.

The hit movie stars Lilly James in the role of Young Donna in 1979. James may not be the biggest name in the cast but she should be among the best well-known of PBS-related stars since she played Lady Rose on Downton Abbey.

Meryl Streep, of course, plays Donna, reprising her role from the first film. Offhand, you might think Streep hasn’t been a presence on public broadcasting and, for the most part, you’d be right. However, imdb.com credits her with two roles on Great Performances – Edith Varney on Secret Service (1977) and Leilah on Uncommon Women… and Others (1979). Moreover, the acclaimed actress had appeared on American Masters, Live From Lincoln Center, the documentary series Freedom: A History of Us and the Ken Burns’ series The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, among others. So I think it’s safe to say Meryl Streep has a long and healthy PBS association. Continue reading

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Where Do I Know That Actor? (Paddington Edition)

Occasionally, I like to veer away slightly from UNC-TV programming to tackle a feature film that’s heavy with appearances by faces familiar to public broadcasting viewers. As such: Paddington 2. Now, I haven’t seen the film but it’s got a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes (which is pretty impressive) and the cast is rife with actors from many of our favorite shows. Let’s get into it, shall we?

We’ll start with Paddington himself. Actually the titular bear from deepest, darkest Peru is computer generated but the character is voiced by Ben Whishaw. Fans of Shakespeare may remember him as King Richard in Richard II on The Hollow Crown.

Next up: the Browns, Paddington’s adoptive family. Parents Henry and Mary are played by Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins, respectively. Bonneville is best known as Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham, on Downton Abbey. Hawkins was Anne Eliot on Persuasion, a 2007 Masterpiece adaptation of the Jane Austen novel. Continue reading

Where Do I Know That Actor? (Sunday Night Edition)

Thought I’d squeeze in one more Where Do I Know That Actor? this week by pointing out some names you may know (or not know you know) from this past Sunday’s prime time line-up on UNC-TV.

I hoped you tuned in. If so, you caught two excellent debuts (Home Fires, The Widower) and the second part of the fantastic new Masterpiece series Indian Summers. If I tried hard enough I could probably connect most of the actors to PBS fare in some fashion – either cameos, bit parts or uncredited roles – but I thought I’d just focus on the five that I immediately recognized from elsewhere.

Home Fires, a new Masterpiece addition, is set on the home front during World War II, and focuses on drama and community politics surrounding the members of the rural Women’s Institute. Samantha Bond and Francesca Annis star. I talked about Samantha Bond when she popped up on a Midsomer Murders a few months back. Public television viewers best know her as Lady Rosamund Painswick from Downton Abbey. She also starred as the wife of Peter Davison’s irascible doctor on Distant Shores and as Auntie Angela on the sitcom Outnumbered. Francesca Annis has been seen on UNC-TV for decades in various roles. Some of the more notable were seen on the various incarnations of Masterpiece, such as  Lady Ludlow in Cranford, Lady Ingram on Jane Eyre, Hyacinth Gibson on Wives and Daughters, Katharine O’Shea in Parnell & The Englishwoman and Emma Bovary in Madame Bovary. Personally, I liked her best in the delightful Agatha Christie’s Partners In Crime on Mystery! where she played Tuppence Beresford.

Moving on to Indian Summers on which Julie Walters plays Royal Simla Club owner Cynthia Coffin. This Academy Award nominated actress has been a presence on the big screen in features both big and small but we’ve seen her on PBS in a few Masterpiece productions. She was Mrs. Mann in an adaptation of Oliver Twist (circa 2000) and Mrs. Holland in The Ruby And the Smoke. More recently, she played Mistress Quickly in the Great Performances presentation The Hollow Crown – an adaptation of Shakespeare’s second historical tetralogy.

Finally, The Widower. This dark portrayal of a killer (based on true events) features a host of great actors. The one that struck me was Kate Fleetwood, who played the second Mrs. Webster. Her imdb page notes she was someone called Karen on four episodes of EastEnders in 2001 (UNC-TV would probably have aired them around 2009) but I can’t recall that character. I immediately recognized her from her role as Lady Macbeth on Macbeth that aired in 2010 on Great Performances. The production featured Patrick Stewart in the lead role and was an excellent adaptation of Shakespeare’s Scottish play.

If you missed any of these shows, they encore in the wee hours of Saturday morning on UNC-TV, beginning at 2am. Home Fires and Indian Summers can also be seen on the UNC-TV website.

Got a face you can’t place from one of the plethora of programs UNC-TV airs from the UK? Email me at sparkymac@unctv.org and I’ll try to help out.