Seven Intriguing Facts: Flesh and Blood Star Imelda Staunton
Imelda Staunton can next be seen on the upcoming MASTERPIECE on PBS series Flesh and Blood as overly-kind, overly-attentive neighbor Mary — but her on-screen prowess extends far beyond that! Get to know the Flesh and Blood and Cranford star, what other MASTERPIECE stars she’s related to, what high honor she holds, and more. Tune in for the premiere of Flesh and Blood on Sunday, October 4 at 9/8c on MASTERPIECE on PBS, or watch every episode with PBS Passport, an added member benefit, starting the same day.
She's married to a familiar MASTERPIECE face
Staunton has been married to Downton Abbey’s very own Mr. Carson, Jim Carter, since 1983, after the two appeared together in a production of Guys and Dolls at London’s National Theatre the year before.
The pair’s co-starring days didn’t end there. Carter and Staunton have starred together in a number of other productions, as well, such as in 1998, when the two appeared in the film Shakespeare in Love, with Staunton playing the Nurse, and Carter playing Ralph Bashford. Staunton also made an appearance in 2019’s Downton Abbey film, playing Maud Bagshaw, a lady-in-waiting to the Queen, who is harboring a major secret of her own.
After nearly four decades of marriage, the couple still enjoy their time together — which has only increased, as of late. And despite the popularity of online video calls, emails, and newer forms of communication, Carter explained that they’re not technology fans.
“We both hate technology and we’re not very good at it,” he told the Daily Mail earlier this year.
Instead, the two settled into a new sort of routine at home, with Imelda taking up much of the cooking. “I’ll be doing a Delia cottage pie tomorrow,” she told the Daily Mail. “The secret is cinnamon, that’s all I’m saying.”
She's no stranger to MASTERPIECE
Staunton played Miss Pole in Cranford and Return to Cranford, alongside other MASTERPIECE stars such as her husband Jim Carter, Judi Dench, Flesh and Blood co-stars Claudie Blakley and Francesca Annis, and World on Fire (and future The Crown) star Lesley Manville, among others. Staunton also played Mrs. Micawber in MASTERPIECE’s production of David Copperfield back in 1999, alongside her future Harry Potter co-stars Daniel Radcliffe and Maggie Smith (who would later go on to star in Downton Abbey alongside Carter).
Staunton has also appeared in MASTERPIECE productions such as The Heat of the Day (1989), Much Ado About Nothing (1993), and My Family and Other Animals (2005) as Mother of the Durrell family, alongside Flesh and Blood co-star Russell Tovey, who played Leslie, and Downton Abbey star Matthew Goode, who played Larry.
Acting is a family affair
Not only are Staunton (Cranford) and Carter (Downton Abbey) actors — the couple’s daughter Bessie Carter is, too! Bessie most recently starred in Beecham House as Violet (alongside her father’s Downton Abbey co-star, Lesley Nicol) and as Evie Wilcox in Howards End. The family of actors even appeared in Cranford together back in 2007, with Carter playing Captain Brown and Bessie playing young Margaret Gidman.
But the family stardom certainly doesn’t stop there — even Staunton’s dog, Molly, made a stage appearance in the Chichester Theatre’s production of Gypsy, in which Staunton starred as Madame Rose.
Her talents stretch far beyond the screen
Fans may best know her for any of her biggest roles, from the nightmarish Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter or as Miss Pole in Cranford, but she’s not just a film and television star. Staunton’s illustrious career began on the stage starting in the late 1970s, with appearances in productions such as Into the Woods, Guys and Dolls, The Wizard of Oz and more. Her first major award nomination came in 1982, when she was up for the prestigious stage award, the Olivier Award, for her performance in The Beggar’s Opera—which also happened to be her London debut.
Since then, she’s won a number of Olivier Awards, BAFTA Awards, the Screen Actors Guild Award, to name just a few, and was nominated for even more, including an Academy Award for her role in Vera Drake.
The only other woman to have won or be nominated for more Olivier Awards is Staunton’s Cranford co-star, Judi Dench.
Beyond that, her distinctive voice is also well known to radio listeners. Staunton voiced the title character in the detective series Julie Enfield Investigates, as well as the lead characters in radio shows such as Izzy Comyn in Up the Garden Path, Courageous Kate in Elephants to Catch Eels, and Xanthippe in Acropolis Now.
She’ll be the final actress to step into Queen Elizabeth II’s shoes in The Crown
After portrayals by Claire Foy (Wolf Hall) and Olivia Colman (Les Misérables) during the series’ earlier seasons, Imelda Staunton will be the final actress to don the crown on the ongoing hit series, The Crown.
“I’m absolutely thrilled to confirm Imelda Staunton as Her Majesty the Queen for the fifth and final season [it has since been announced that the series will run for six seasons], taking The Crown into the 21st century,” said creator Peter Morgan back in January 2020. “Imelda is an astonishing talent and will be a fantastic successor to Claire Foy and Olivia Colman.”
Staunton, of course, has already begun her homework for the role. “Well, I’ve seen them [Foy and Colman] and I’ve seen the real Queen over all these years,” she told Variety. “So I’ve got good research not only in the drama show, but in her real life. So I’m not spoiled for choice there. And everything’s bloody daunting. I’m sure it was very daunting for Claire Foy to start it. For all three of us to go, “Please, don’t drop the baton!” It’s the royal relay. So I have my work cut out for me and it’s terrifying and exciting and a huge responsibility and I can’t wait.”
World on Fire star Lesley Manville is set to step into the role of Princess Margaret alongside Staunton.
Not only will she be playing the Queen — she’s also been honored by her
Back in 2006, Staunton was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her services to drama. The prestigious honor is awarded based on the decision of a committee, whose decisions then go on to the prime minister and then, lastly, the Queen herself, to approve it. The award is “awarded to someone for making a great impact in their line of work,” according to the BBC.
Ten years later, in 2016, she was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), the highest ranking Order of the British Empire award one can receive.
And yes, she has actually met the Queen. “I actually sang at her 90th birthday and we were invited to a tea for all the performers and she was there,” Staunton confessed in one Variety interview. “I think the first time I met her was in 1986, she came to see a show I was doing. The Queen Mother actually came a couple of times to shows I did. I met her at ceremony when I got the OBE and William gave me the CBE. It is weird to think I’ll be doing it; of course it’s bloody weird! But it’s not my job to wonder how they’ll do it. It’s just my job to try and turn in some sort of bloody believable performance.”
Some parts of playing Mary weren't a stretch for her...
One thing Staunton certainly has in common with her quirky Flesh and Blood character Mary: their shared love of gardening. In all the scenes where Mary was tending to her garden in some way or another, Staunton found herself right at home.
“I am a gardener myself so that was quite relatable for me,” Staunton said. “It was a very nice added ingredient that was easy for me to do. I wasn’t stood there going, ‘Oh, what do you do with this?’ It felt very comfortable filming those scenes of Mary gardening.”