With given names of Imelda Mary Philomena Bernadette, it’s no surprise to learn that multi-award-winning British actor Imelda Staunton is proud of her solid Irish Catholic heritage.
Imelda’s parents migrated to England after WWII. Imelda’s mother was determined that her daughter should have all the opportunities to make something of herself, so she enrolled her in a prestigious London convent school, La Sainte Convent, now known as La Sainte Union Catholic School.
This was where the young Imelda took drama classes with an elocution teacher who saw the makings of a performer in the young schoolgirl, so Imelda was encouraged to star in school productions, including a memorable lead role as Polly Peachum in The Beggar’s Opera.
At 18, Imelda began her serious acting training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and her career direction was set.
Imelda’s most recent role is her star turn as Sandra in Finding Her Feet, alongside compatriot Celia Imrie, with whom she was an ensemble member as a Kit Kat Girl in the 1978 production of the musical Cabaret at Exeter’s Northcott Theatre.
Over the years, Imelda has morphed into the kind of actor who can do just about everything in the drama field. Need someone who can sing with great stage charisma to play Mama Rose in Gypsy? Call Imelda. What about a straight dramatic actor for Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Star in the title role of a major award-winning dramatic film Vera Drake? Or a fine actor who can do leads in period dramatisations like the movie Sense and Sensibility or the television series Cranford? And if a voice actor is needed for an audiobook recording, a radio play, or to voice that lovable bear Aunt Lucy in the Paddington films, Imelda Staunton can do it.
She may only be 1.52 metres, or five feet in British measurements, but the 62-year-old actor has always been in big demand.
However, there are things that Imelda won’t do, a notable example being her reportedly turning down a role in Desperate Housewives!
It’s not just as an actor that her ability to commit to being the best she can be comes into play.
Imelda enjoys one of the longest-standing solid marriages in the fickle world of the arts, having been married to fellow actor Jim Carter for nearly 35 years, and they are proud parents of Bessie, born in 1993, and Molly the dog.
If the name Jim Carter doesn’t immediately ring a bell, just think of Carson the butler in Downton Abbey and you have the whole picture. The couple met in 1982 when they were both performing in a revival of the musical Guys and Dolls at the National Theatre.
In a nice twist on the phrase ‘the family that plays together stays together’, Imelda, Jim and Bessie all worked together as actors in the period television series Cranford.
While her industry awards are many, her most prestigious award was being dubbed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2016, for services to the arts.
Imelda is also a strong advocate for family values, explaining why she thinks she has been able to maintain a happy and committed marriage for so long.
“I think the secret is that we’ve always made the effort to not work apart very often. We always travel to where the other is working, even for a short amount of time,” she told theguardian.com.
Imelda Staunton may be a huge talent, but she’s also a down-to-earth family woman who knows what is important in life.