Meet the cast and characters of David Copperfield
Click on any of the major characters from this 2001 adaptation of David Copperfield to find out how they fit into David's life, and what the actors who portray them have been up to recently.
David Copperfield (Boy)
The cheery David Copperfield is the son of loving mother Clara. However, when Edward Murdstone becomes his stepfather, Copperfield's life makes a sharp shift.
Young Daniel Radcliffe turned 10 four days into filming David Copperfield. Prior to the film, Radcliffe had done little acting, and David Copperfield was his first professional role. Surrounded by an all-star cast, director Simon Curtis told Radcliffe at the time, "No matter how long you act, it will never get any better than this." As it turned out, a string of high-profile roles followed for Radcliffe, most notably on film in the Harry Potter films and on Broadway in Equus. Radcliffe also appeared in Masterpiece's My Boy Jack.
Clara Copperfield is David's mother who dotes on her only son. She trustingly marries Mr. Murdstone believing he will be a good father for David.
For Emilia Fox, appearing on Masterpiece is a family affair. Father Edward Fox has been seen in Daniel Deronda and Oliver Twist, mother Joanna David in Bleak House, The Forsyte Saga and The Way We Live Now and Emilia herself in The Virgin Queen and Henry VIII.
David's tyrannical stepfather practices what he calls "firm discipline." His arrival spells the end of young David's idyllic childhood.
Despite playing a dark character, Trevor Eve didn't find Edward Murdstone entirely horrible. "I don't think Edward's just a heartless human being," Eve says. "Clara and I do play footsie in one scene but it's only two seconds of screen time, so if anyone goes out to put the kettle on, they've missed it." Well known for his role as Detective Superintendent Peter Boyd in the British TV series Waking the Dead, Eve is also an accomplished stage actor, having won two Laurence Olivier Awards for his work in the theater. He is married to actress Sharon Maughan.
Miss Jane Murdstone
Edward Murdstone's sister, Jane Murdstone moves into young David's home and becomes the willing instrument for her brother's tyrannies.
"I've scoured the book, on every page ... and there is no redeeming feature in Jane Murdstone at all," laughs Zoë Wanamaker. "I find Jane a woman without a modicum of niceness in her ... and that's fabulous." Wanamaker is the daughter of the American actor and director Sam Wanamaker and actress Charlotte Holland. Trained at London's Central School of Speech and Drama, Wanamaker is known for her appearances in Gormenghast, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and recently in the BBC comedy series My Family. Wanamaker also appears in Masterpiece's The Old Curiosity Shop. Wanamaker has won two Laurence Olivier Awards for her theater work, and in 2000, was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).
Clara Copperfield's faithful servant, Peggotty, is full of warmth and devotion and is a second mother to David.
Pauline Quirke started her career at an early age. Quirke has extensive credits to her name, including on British TV in Birds of a Feather, Carrie's War and Shine on Harvey Moon among others. Quirke may be recognized by MYSTERY! fans for her role in The Sculptress.
Peggotty's brother is a happy, generous man who warmly welcomes David into his eccentric little family's home in a boat on Yarmouth Sands.
A member of the original London cast of Les Miserables, Alun Armstrong's extensive film credits include The French Lieutenant's Woman, Patriot Games, Braveheart and Roman Polanski's Oliver Twist. Armstrong is well known to Masterpiece fans for roles in Bleak House, Oliver Twist (2002 version), Filth and Carrie's War. He also appears in Masterpiece's Little Dorrit. Armstrong won a Laurence Olivier Award for his role in London's Royal National Theatre version of Sweeney Todd.
Dan's nephew, a simple, warm-hearted man, has lived with his uncle since his father died at sea. Ham loves his cousin, Emily, with all his heart.
James Thornton has appeared on British TV in colorful series such as Red Cap and Holby Blue. He is married to actress Joanna Page (Dora Spenlow in David Copperfield, To the Ends of the Earth, The Cazalets).
The vicious, whispering headmaster of David's first school is a friend of Mr. Murdstone's.
Although Ian McKellen, nominated for two Academy Awards for his performances in Gods and Monsters and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings, has played roughly 35 Shakespeare characters, he admits that he hasn't done much Dickens. With Creakle, he adopts a distinctive whisper to communicate his unpleasantness to the boys. "Creakle is a joyfully horrible man who deserves a very sticky end," McKellen says. McKellen is also familiar from recent work in the X Men films and The DaVinci Code. His theatrical roles have garnered him two Laurence Olivier Awards and one Tony Award. He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1979, and knighted in 1991.
Miss Betsey Trotwood
The aunt of David's father, Betsey storms out when his widow gives birth to a boy. Disliking men after a disastrous marriage, she is forced to reevaluate her views when David flees to her as a child.
Maggie Smith inspired the David Copperfield cast, encouraged the younger actors, thanked the makeup team with champagne and had the crew chortling with laughter during her scenes with Dawn French. Smith has won two Oscars — Best Actress for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Best Supporting Actress in California Suite. Other recent film credits include the Harry Potter films, Becoming Jane, Keeping Mum and Gosford Park.
Abandoned as mad by his family but given a home by Aunt Betsey, Mr. Dick is a wonder to the heart-sore David.
Although there isn't a great deal written for Mr. Dick, director Simon Curtis allowed McNeice "a reasonable amount of leeway," McNeice says, grinning wickedly. McNeice's varied career has included a stint at London's Royal Shakespeare Company, work on a long list of television programs including Inspector Morse, Cadfael and Rome among others, and in films such as The Black Dahlia and Valkyrie.
The eternally optimistic Micawber is always convinced that something is about to turn up, just as the last hope is being snatched away. Shabby but genteel, he welcomes David to share in what little he and his family have.
"Oh yeah, there was no way I was not going to do it," says Bob Hoskins of playing the role of Wilkins Micawber. "The moment I knew Imelda [Staunton] was playing Micawber's wife, it immediately became a partnership." Hoskins has had an extensive film career in titles such as Mona Lisa (for which he received an Academy Award nomination), The Long Good Friday, Mrs. Henderson Presents, The Cotton Club, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Hollywoodland, Mermaids, and Hook among many others. Hoskins appeared on Masterpiece in Wind in the Willows.
Micawber's devoted wife and mother to his many children, Mrs. Micawber always feels as if she has fallen unjustly on hard times.
A recognized stage actress before starting her film career in her thirties, Imelda Staunton was born to Irish Catholic parents who sent her to a convent school. Her education continued at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA). Her considerable credits include such film and television projects as Up the Garden Paths, Sense and Sensibility, Twelfth Night, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Shakespeare in Love and Vera Drake. Masterpiece fans have seen her in productions such as My Family and Other Animals, The Wind in the Willows and Cranford among others. Staunton has received two Laurence Olivier Awards for her theatrical work, and was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).
David Copperfield (Adult)
A mature David Copperfield finds love, experiences betrayal, and reaches beyond the afflictions of his own life to find happiness.
For Irish actor Ciarán McMenamin, playing an authentic Dickensian Englishman first meant dealing with his strong Enniskillen accent. "It had to be done ... you can't have 'David O'Connor Copperfield,'" McMenamin said. A graduate of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, McMenamin first gained popularity for his role in the British TV series The Young Person's Guide to Becoming a Rock Star. Since David Copperfield, he has been seen in British TV in series such as Pulling Moves and The Golden Hour. On Masterpiece, McMenamin has appeared in Jericho.
Devoted to his daughter Agnes but devastated by his wife's early death, the good but weak Mr. Wickfield takes solace in the bottle. He is an easy target for the manipulative Heep.
Oliver Ford Davies
Oliver Ford Davies may be recognized by Masterpiece audiences for his roles in Bertie & Elizabeth, A Very British Coup, Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown, The Way We Live Now and My Uncle Silas II. An accomplished stage actor, Ford Davies appeared in 26 productions at London's Royal Shakespeare Company between 1975 and 1987. On film, Ford Davies has notably been seen in Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace, Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones and Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith.
Since the death of her mother, the calmly beautiful and noble Agnes has looked after her father with dedicated devotion.
Lurking and evil, the humble, flame-haired Uriah Heep is Mr. Wickfield's slippery, scheming clerk.
Heep is a difficult character to play, says Nicholas Lyndhurst. "The hardest part is trying to get what I call 'shark-eye' — just looking without emotion, and that is quite difficult because Heep is perfectly polite." The 6 foot, 4 inch Lyndhurst is known for his work in British TV sitcoms including Only Fools and Horses and Goodnight Sweetheart.
James Steerforth (Adult)
Steerforth, David's school friend and childhood hero, is handsome and charismatic but embittered by his own self-loathing.
Oliver Milburn got his big break in the British soap opera Families. Apart from David Copperfield, he's been seen in other period dramas including Tess of the d'Urbervilles and on Masterpiece in The Forsyte Saga. Recently, Milburn has appeared in the British TV police drama Holby Blue.