Found fame in 1984's lavish TV drama The Jewel In The Crown, and earned more plaudits as Tulkinghorn in 2005's Bleak House.
In the BAFTA-winning Bleak House, Charles played solicitor Tulkinghorn, nemesis of the mysterious Lady Dedlock. He played another villain, Uncle Lilly, in Fingersmith, the adaptation of Sarah Waters' (Tipping The Velvet) Booker-nominated novel.
And in To the Ends of the Earth, an adaptation of William Golding's Sea Trilogy, Charles played Sir Henry Somerset. Set on board an old warship heading for Australia in the early 19th Century, it also starred Benedict Cumberbatch and Sam Neill.
His TV debut was in the 1974 mini-series Edward The King, alongside fellow Bleak House actor, Timothy West.
His breakthrough role was Guy Perron in the landmark 1984 mini-series, The Jewel In The Crown. Comprising a stellar cast (including Peggy Ashcroft, Art Malik and Tim Pigott-Smith), the story followed the final years before India gained independence in 1947.
Charles produced, directed, and wrote the screenplay for Ladies in Lavender (2004), starring Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, with whom he also starred in the 2001 oscar-nominated Gosford Park.
Other TV credits include the 2000 BBC series Murder Rooms; the story of Arthur Conan Doyle and the secrets behind Sherlock Holmes, Henry VIII, and the title role in Goldeneye: The Secret Life of Ian Fleming; a fact-based biography on the James Bond author. Earlier in his career Charles had a bit-part in the Bond movie For Your Eyes Only.
In the 1980s Charles appeared in the memorable and, at the time, highly controversial series First Born. He played a scientist who successfully bred a half ape/half human.
On the big screen, he's starred in White Mischief alongside Greta Scacchi, Alien3, The Last Action Hero, Black and White and Ali G InDaHouse.
Charles has also appeared in many stage productions and joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1975.
He originally trained as a photographer and graphic designer, but left art school half way having decided he wanted to be an actor.
His birth name was Walter Charles Dance.
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