Tess of the d'Urbervilles
  • John Durbeyfield
  • Joan Durbeyfield
  • Tess Durbeyfield
  • Liza-Lu Durbeyfield
  • Mrs. d'Urberville
  • Alec d'Urberville
  • Angel Clare
  • Izz Huett
  • Retty Priddle
  • Marion
  • Groby

Meet the characters and cast of Tess of the d'Urbervilles

Click on any of the major characters in Tess of the d'Urbervilles to learn more about how they fit in the story, and also about the careers of the actors who portray them.

John Durbeyfield

Tess's lazy and drunken father, John Durbeyfield gets caught up in his family's newly established noble lineage.

Played by:
Ian Puleston-Davies

After graduating from the London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Ian Puleston-Davies started his acting career at age 21. Since then, he has frequently appeared on television in programs such as The Bill, Conviction and Funland. In 2004, Puleston-Davies co-wrote Dirty Filthy Love, inspired by his own struggles with obsessive compulsive disorder. The film won a Royal Television Society Award for Best Single Drama.

Joan Durbeyfield

Tess's hardworking mother, Joan Durbeyfield is frustrated when Tess's life doesn't turn out as she had hoped.

Played by:
Ruth Jones

Convinced that she would never make it into drama school, Ruth Jones never applied. For more than 20 years, Jones has had a successful career as an actress and comedienne. She is best known for co-writing and appearing in the British sitcom Gavin & Stacey. In 2007, she won a British Comedy Award for Best Comedy Female Newcomer. Other television credits include Nighty Night and Little Britain. In addition to acting, Jones is a scriptwriter, and hosts a weekly radio program on BBC Radio Wales. She will next be seen as Flora Finching in Masterpiece's Little Dorrit.

Tess Durbeyfield

The spirited heroine of the story, Tess Durbeyfield is the eldest daughter of a poor family. In the face of near constant adverse circumstances, Tess holds onto her pure heart and sensitive soul.

Played by:
Gemma Arterton

Born in 1986, Gemma Arterton was raised in a working class family. At age 12, she had one of her first acting roles in a school production of Tess. Arterton had her first professional role (in British TV's Capturing Mary) and stage debut at London's Globe Theatre (Love's Labours Lost) before graduating from London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 2007. She made her film debut in St. Trinian's in 2007 and has also appeared in Three and Out and Guy Ritchie's RocknRolla. Arterton is best known to US audiences for her role as the new Bond girl in Quantum of Solace, a job she was offered after beating out nearly 1,500 other hopefuls. In 2010, Arterton will appear in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time with Jake Gyllenhaal. Being a city girl, starring in Tess gave Arterton the opportunity to develop some new skills. "Working with the animals was a real experience. I learned to milk a cow and a goat. The woman on the farm thought I was a natural," Arterton said.

Liza-Lu Durbeyfield

The younger sister of Tess, Liza-Lu Durbeyfield has a role in reuniting Tess and Angel.

Played by:
Jo Woodcock

Born in 1988, Jo Woodcock has made a number of television appearances, including Masterpiece's Miss Marple: Towards Zero, Waking the Dead and Torn. In 2009, she will appear in the film Dorian Gray alongside Colin Firth.

Mrs. d'Urberville

The wealthy mother of Alec, Mrs. d'Urberville employs Tess at her estate, but often ignores her to instead lavish attention on her birds.

Played by:
Anna Massey

Daughter of Adrienne Allen (a leading stage actress in the 1930s) and actor Raymond Massey (Dr. Gillespie in the television series Dr. Kildare), award-winning actress Anna Massey's education ended when she was 15. At that point, she entered the theatre. She made her film debut in 1958 in Gideon's Day, directed by her godfather John Ford. Other notable film roles have included Hitchcock's Frenzy, Michael Powell's Peeping Tom and Rebecca. Massey won both a British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Award and a Royal Television Society Best Actress Award for her performance in Hotel Du Lac. In 2004, Massey was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to drama.

Alec d'Urberville

The son of Simon Stoke and Mrs. Stoke d'Urberville, Alec d'Urberville is an heir to a fortune and the nemesis and downfall of Tess.

Played by:
Hans Matheson

Known to Masterpiece audiences for his title role in Doctor Zhivago and The Virgin Queen, Scottish actor Hans Matheson has been seen in a range of television and film productions. His film credits include Mojo, Stella Does Tricks, Les Misérables, and Half Light with Demi Moore. On television, Matheson has been seen in Tube Tales, The Mists of Avalon and The Tudors. In 2009, Matheson will appear in Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes alongside Robert Downey, Jr. In addition to acting, Matheson carries on the family musical tradition (his father and grandfather were musicians), playing several instruments and also singing.

Angel Clare

A parson's son, Angel Clare meets and falls in love with Tess while they are both working on a dairy farm.

Played by:
Eddie Redmayne

On film, Eddie Redmayne has been seen with Julianne Moore in Savage Grace and with Robert DeNiro in The Good Shepherd. Redmayne is not new to costume drama, having appeared in Elizabeth: The Golden Age and The Other Boleyn Girl. On stage, Redmayne received the best newcomer nods at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards and the London Critics' Circle Theatre Awards for his work in Edward Albee's The Goat, or Who is Sylvia. Recently, Redmayne has been seen on the London stage in Now or Later.

Izz Huett

One of the three dairy maids Tess meets while working on a farm, Izz is the most sensible of them all, but nonetheless falls for Angel Clare.

Played by:
Jodie Whittaker

Jodie Whittaker knew she wanted to be an actress at an early age. After taking a year off to travel at age 18, Whittaker worked at a home for the elderly before enrolling in London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Shortly after graduation, she auditioned for and made her film debut in Venus alongside Peter O'Toole. Other film credits include St. Trinian's (with Tess co-star Gemma Arterton) and Good.

Retty Priddle

One of the three dairy maids Tess meets wile working on a farm; Retty is the one most deeply hurt by Tess's relationship with Angel Clare.

Played by:
Emily Beecham

Emily Beecham made her film debut in 28 Weeks Later. She has made numerous television appearances, including on Masterpiece in Miss Marple: At Bertram's Hotel and Inspector Lewis.


One of the three dairy maids Tess meets while working on a farm; Marion is the one who appears to have little emotion.

Played by:
Rebekah Staton

Trained at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Rebekah Staton has appeared on Masterpiece in Jane Eyre, The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard and Jericho: A Pair of Ragged Claws. Staton has numerous other television credits, including State of Play, Outlaws, Pulling and the comedy series No Heroics.


Groby, the bailiff at the d'Urberville estate, keeps a watchful eye on Tess as she works on the estate. Later, he meets Tess and Angel briefly, then ultimately becomes Tess's cruel employer on a bleak farm.

Played by:
Christopher Fairbank

Christopher Fairbank is well known for his role in the British comedy drama series Auf Wiedersehen Pet, but has extensive television roles to his credit including Sapphire and Steel, The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Line of Beauty. On film he has appeared in Batman, The Fifth Element and Hamlet with Mel Gibson.

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