The international pop star and peace activist John Lennon was born October 9, 1940 in Liverpool, England, where he was raised by his Aunt Mimi when his parents' marriage fell apart. Though his mother Julia remarried, she visited frequently, and it was she who gave John his first guitar. Julia's accidental death when John was just 18, and his perceived abandonment by his father, would torment him for many years.
Married to Cynthia Lennon in 1962, John became a father right before the onset of Beatlemania. But rifts in the marriage were worsened by the Beatles' long periods of touring, John's infidelities and his drug use. John eventually divorced Cynthia to marry Japanese avant-garde artist Yoko Ono. He left the Beatles and the UK for a solo career in New York. Together, John and Yoko would collaborate as activists, musicians, and parents to son Sean. He was assassinated by Mark David Chapman in 1980.
With a wealth of television and film credits, Christopher Eccleston has appeared in numerous Hollywood productions including Elizabeth with Cate Blanchett; Jude with Kate Winslet; Shallow Grave with Ewan McGregor; and as the Ninth Doctor in the 2005 relaunched Doctor Who. Eccleston starred as Ben Jago in Masterpiece's Othello (2005). A native of England, he trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London.
Sir Paul McCartney did not die as posited by the media in 1969. Rather, the Liverpool, England native, born June 18, 1942, went on to earn a Guinness World Record as most successful songwriter in history. The former Beatle (1960-1970) and Wings frontman (1971-1981), animal-rights activist and anti-landmines campaigner survived the Beatles and its breakup to forge a rich and varied musical career replete with creative forays in painting, filmmaking and poetry. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1997.
Masterpiece viewers may have most recently witnessed Andrew Scott's performance in Sherlock. In 2006, Scott made his Broadway debut opposite Julianne Moore in The Vertical Hour. He was just 17 when he made his film debut. He abandoned his drama degree at Dublin's Trinity College to join the city's prestigious Abbey Theatre. Scott has since landed roles in film (Saving Private Ryan, Nora) and television (John Adams, Foyle's War).
The singer, songwriter, and Beatles lead-guitarist George Harrison (born in Liverpool, England in 1943), exerted his influence on the band when the strong personalities of John and Paul permitted, perhaps the largest influence being the introduction of the sitar into the band's sound. Indian music led to exploration of Eastern spiritualism, transcendental meditation, and a lifelong quest for enlightenment. In addition to a solo career, Harrison also toured with the Traveling Wilburys (Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty) and started a new career as a film producer with Handmade Films, whose first success was Monty Python's The Life of Brian. He died of cancer in 2001.
Jack Morgan is a musician off screen as well as on. He earned a degree in psychology in 1998 from Scotland's University of Edinburgh.
Liverpool native Ringo Starr (born Richard Starkey in 1940) replaced Pete Best as drummer for the Beatles in 1962. While his drum skills were a subject of critical debate, John Lennon famously quipped that Ringo wasn't even the best drummer in the band. His good-humored spark and inspired malapropisms, or "Ringoisms," remain undisputed influences on the Beatles. A successful solo career has kept Starr busy recording and touring, and an acting career has extended beyond film to television variety shows, children's programming, and even to playing himself in an episode of The Simpsons.
Actor Craig Cheetham was born in Lancashire, England, in 1970. With credits in theater, film, television and radio, Cheetham, a graduate of the Arden School of Theatre in Manchester, England, played Noel Ashworth on the long-running British soap opera, Hollyoaks.
Popular lore about Freddie Lennon tells of a no-good merchant seaman who abandoned his wife and young son. But according to prolific Beatles-biographer Philip Norman, there's more to the story of the man who, when his marriage broke up, tried to hold on to his son and take him to a new life in New Zealand. Born in 1912, Freddie was a kitchen porter when he reached out to renew contact with John after a separation of 17 years. In 1966, he recorded a poorly-received album, That's My Life (My Love and My Home). He died in 1976, reconciled, though not in regular contact, with his son.
A versatile veteran of the stage and screen, Christopher Fairbank is known for his role (alongside Inspector Lewis star Kevin Whately) in the British comedy drama series Auf Wiedersehen Pet. In film, he has appeared in the Mel Gibson version of Hamlet, The Fifth Element, and Tim Burton's Batman (1989). Masterpiece viewers most recently saw him as Groby in Tess of the D'Urbervilles.
Cynthia Lennon (née Powell) was married to John Lennon from 1962-1968. She and Lennon became acquainted as students at the Liverpool College of Art in England and married when she became pregnant with their son Julian. Tumultuous from the start, their marriage endured long separations due to touring, Lennon's drug use, and a string of infidelities. A bitter divorce left Cynthia with custody of Julian and their estate, Kenwood. It was en route to a visit there with Julian that Paul McCartney composed "Hey Jude." Powell has written two memoirs of her life with Lennon, A Twist of Lennon (1978) and John (2005).
Claudie Blakley won the Ian Charleson Award (a British theatrical award given to outstanding classic stage actors under age thirty) for her role in Chekhov's The Seagull. Recognized for her work as a stage actress, Blakley has performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and has had roles in such television and film productions as Gosford Park, Pride and Prejudice (2005), Severance and Lark Rise to Candleford. She has also lent her talents to Masterpiece's Return to Cranford.
Born into a wealthy aristocratic family in Tokyo, Japan in 1933, Yoko Ono lived in the city during Word War II and moved with her family to Scarsdale, NY when she was 18. Following a brief first marriage, Ono gained recognition for her interactive conceptual art projects in partnership with her second husband, American jazz musician and film producer Alex Cox. It was at her renowned "Cut Piece" work, staged at the Indica Gallery in London, that she allegedly first met John Lennon in 1966. Three years later, they were married and famously collaborating on works of art, music, film and activism, including their famous "bed in" to promote peace. Their son Sean was born in 1976. Since John's murder in 1980, Ono has continued recording, performing music and promoting world peace.
Born in 1971, Naoko Mori grew up in Japan, New Jersey, and London, where she settled at age 12. Small roles in film (Spiceworld: The Movie, Topsy-Turvy) led to a recurring role as Toshiko Sato on the relaunched Doctor Who (2005) and its spinoff, Torchwood. In Lennon Naked, Mori is reunited with former Doctor Who alum Christopher Eccleston.
Of Brian Epstein, Paul McCartney said that "If anyone was the Fifth Beatle, it was Brian." Beatles visionary and manager Brian Epstein was born in 1934, discovered the band in 1961, and doggedly evangelized on their behalf in spite of initial widespread rejection. He died of an accidental drug overdose in 1967, at the height of Beatlemania, a profound loss to the band and one acknowledged by Lennon to have marked the beginning of the end of the Beatles. He was just 32.
Rory Kinnear is the son of actors Roy Kinnear and Carmel Cryan. He became interested in acting a few years after the tragic death of his father on the set of The Return of the Three Musketeers. He trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, and has appeared in plays such as The Man of Mode, Mary Stuart and The Taming of the Shrew. Masterpiece viewers may remember him from Mansfield Park and Return to Cranford.
Journalist Derek Taylor entered the inner circle of the Beatles when his employers at the Daily Express had him ghostwrite a column that went out under George Harrison's byline. He later became the Beatles' press officer, assisting Brian Epstein in the writing of his memoir A Cellar Full of Noise, and later George Harrison's autobiography, I, Me, Mine. As a key executive at Apple Corps in the mid 1980s, he was instrumental in orchestrating the releases of The Beatles Live at the BBC and The Beatles Anthology. He died in 1997 at the age of 65.
A native of Northern Ireland, Michael Colgan initially studied English literature at Oxford University before theater studies took him to Paris. Colgan has performed with the National Theatre of Ireland and the Royal Shakespeare Company among others.