Yorkshire has its own significant place in the history of performance arts. The county is responsible for a wealth of memorable works on stage, film and television. With such a rich arts culture, this has led to it producing some of the finest acting talent the UK has ever produced. Here we explore our top five Yorkshire actors.
Hailing from Skelmanthorpe, West Yorkshire, Jodie Whitaker has developed a splendid career full of fine acting performances which have received global recognition. Her breakthrough role came in the 2006 film ‘Venus’ in which she starred alongside Peter O’ Toole. Her performance led to a nomination for ‘Most Promising Newcomer’ at the British Independent Film Awards.
2013 saw her take up the role of Beth Latimer, alongside British acting heavyweights David Tennant and Olivia Coleman in the hugely popular and critically acclaimed ‘Broadchurch’. Arguably Whittaker’s most prestigious and groundbreaking role came in 2017 when she became the thirteenth and first female doctor on Doctor Who. Her performance was hailed by critics and fans alike which led to her being voted the second greatest Doctor in the show’s history. At only 39 years old, Whittaker’s spectacular acting talents will undoubtedly grace our screens for many years to come.
Dame Judi Dench
It would be impossible to make this list without adding one of the finest actors this country has ever produced. Dame Judi Dench has become synonymous with masterful acting performances throughout a career which has spanned seven decades. Born in York in 1934, Dench’s early acting experience came through performing Shakespearian roles with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Old Vic.
These roles included Lady Macbeth in Macbeth, Ophelia in Hamlet, and Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. Her later career took her onto the world stage and she built an impressive portfolio of eclectic, diverse, and challenging roles. Her roles range from starring as ‘M’ in the James Bond series, Iris Murdoch in ‘Iris’, and Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love. Dench’s work has seen her receive a vast array of prestigious awards which include an Academy Award for ‘Best Supporting Actress’ (Shakespeare in Love), a BAFTA for ‘Best Actress in a Leading Role’ (Iris) and a Golden Globe for ‘Best Actress in a Motion Picture’ (Mrs Brown). York celebrated Dench’s career by naming a beautiful footpath route by the side of the River Ouse and the Museum Gardens the ‘Dame Judi Dench Walk’.
We wouldn’t be forgiven if we didn’t mention Mr South Yorkshire himself on our list. Born in Handsworth, Sheffield, Sean Bean’s acting career began when he attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. He appeared in a number of Royal Shakespeare Company productions including portraying Romeo in Romeo and Juliet and Robin Starveling in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Bean’s major breakthrough came in historical TV drama Sharpe playing Richard Sharpe, a British soldier in the Napoleonic Wars.
The series ran from 1992 to 1997 and was watched by audiences across the world and made him an international star. Bean’s later portfolio of work included blockbusters such as Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, and GoldenEye. He has won multiple major awards for his performances including a BAFTA for Broken and an Emmy for Accused. Bean’s most recent work is his outstanding performance in the gripping and unsettling BBC drama Time.
Born and brought up in Mirfield, West Yorkshire, Patrick Stewart is one of the most recognisable and respected actors on the planet. After leaving school at 15, Stewart worked as a furniture salesman to save money so he could attend the Bristol Old Vic Theatre in 1957. Like many of the actors in our list, Steward developed his acting skills with the Royal Shakespeare Company. His first role for the company was Sir Walter Blunt in Henry IV: Part One.
He went on to tour North America playing Snout in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. His love of stage acting continued throughout his career, playing roles in productions such as Harold Pinter’s ‘No Man’s Land’ and Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’. Arguably, the role TV and film audiences most associate with Stewart is playing Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek. He commenced this role in 1987 and has continued to play the Captain to this day with the most recent series ‘Star Trek: Picard’ released in 2020. Another iconic role was playing Charles ‘Professor X’ Xavier in the X-Men series, alongside Hollywood stars such as Michael Fassbender and Hugh Jackman. In 2009, he was knighted. Now into the seventh decade of his career, Sir Patrick Stewart’s extraordinary talents still wow audiences worldwide.
Born in York in 1964, Mark Addy has become a household name due to his stellar performances in a vast array of stage, TV and film productions. After working for York’s Theatre Royal as a stagehand, he moved to London to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
This led to him working for theatre companies such as The National Theatre, where he performed roles such as Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing. Addy’s major breakthrough came when he was cast as Dave Horsefall in the timeless and heartwarming The Full Monty. The film was critically acclaimed and he was nominated for a BAFTA for Best Performance in a Supporting Role. Other notable performances have included playing Robert Baratheon in Game of Thrones and DS Stan Jones in White House Farm. In 2019, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of York.
Feature Image Credit: IMDB