Penelope Wilton

Penelope Wilton OBE memorably uttered "Tell them to fire" in the 2005 Doctor Who Christmas special, earning the wrath of the Doctor in her role as Prime Minister Harriet Jones. Prior to dealing with alien invasions and zombie attacks (Shaun of the Dead, 2004), Wilton was known to television audiences as Ann Bryce of Ever Decreasing Circles (BBC One, 1984-1987).

"The thing about being an actor is that you turn into other people. You have to hide yourself a bit in order to let that other person come out," she told The Guardian in 2007, adding "I am drawn to characters that go on journeys, characters that are real people, that have life."

Wilton was born in 1946 in Scarborough. Her family moved to London, where she attended the Drama Centre. She has a successful stage career; nominated for Best Actress in the London Evening Standard Theatre Awards for her performance in The Little Foxes (2001) and winning the Critics Circle Theatre Award for her roles in The Deep Blue Sea (1993) and Much Ado About Nothing (1981).

She is friends with Harold Pinter and featured in the original production of his play Betrayal in 1978. On television she played Regan in King Lear (BBC, 1982) and Desdemona, opposite Anthony Hopkins, in Othello (BBC, 1981). She received her OBE in 2004 for services to drama.

Wilton's film roles have included Match Point (2005), Calendar Girls (2003), Iris (2001) and Cry Freedom (1987).

On the small screen, she starred in Half Broken Things (ITV, 2007), played the sheepish White Queen in Alice Through The Looking Glass (Channel 4, 1998) and Homily in The Borrowers (BBC, 1992-1993), opposite her then husband Ian Holm.

Skip to top

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.