Profile: Dame Harriet Walter

Dame Harriet Walter in Little Dorrit Dame Harriet starred as Mrs Gowan in 2008 BBC drama Little Dorrit

Actress Harriet Walter, who has been made a dame in the New Year Honours, has enjoyed a distinguished career on stage and screen spanning three decades.

Dame Harriet, the niece of Sir Christopher Lee, trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art before beginning a long association with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Her many shows with the RSC - which made her an associate artist in 1987 - include Nicholas Nickleby, The Duchess of Malfi and Macbeth, alongside Sir Antony Sher.

In 1989 she received a Laurence Olivier theatre award for her performances in Twelfth Night and Three Sisters.

Her film work includes appearances in the Oscar-winning films Sense and Sensibility, Atonement and Babel.

On the small screen, Dame Harriet, who turned 60 in September this year, has been seen in such BBC dramas as Little Dorrit, Ballet Shoes, The Men's Room and Unfinished Business.

The actress was most recently seen as DI Natalie Chandler in ITV1 crime series Law and Order: UK.

Appointed a CBE in 1999, she also writes about the theatre, contributes to academic journals and is the author of Other People's Shoes, a guide for budding actors.

Earlier this year Dame Harriet - who has often called for better roles for older female performers - organised a photography exhibition of older women at the National Theatre in London.

She and her partner, Rumpole of the Bailey actor Peter Blythe, had been planning to marry at the time of his 2004 death.

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