British Actresses You Should Know: Claire Foy

Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II in "The Crown". (Image courtesy of Netflix)

If you’ve been watching the lavish new Netflix series The Crown, you have no doubt become familiar with BAFTA nominated actress Claire Foy. Her portrayal of a young Queen Elizabeth, distinctive accent and all, has put this English rose in the spotlight recently. However, Ms. Foy has graced our screens plenty of times before and should look familiar for more than her turn as England’s current monarch.

Though she has appeared in a fair number of films set in the present day such as Wreckers with Benedict Cumberbatch, Jon Stewart’s directorial debut, Rosewater and Breathe, a new film set for release in 2017 costarring Andrew Garfield and Hugh Bonneville, Claire seems very at home in the past. Though perhaps not in the clothing which she expressed her dislike for in an interview with Channel 4 in 2011. “Costumes are costumes, to be honest, and by the end of anything, you hate them. I always hate them. I want to burn them all when I'm finished with them, I hate them all so much.” Despite this complaint, well over half the projects she has worked on are period dramas.

Therefore it seems only good and proper to step back in time for a retrospective of Claire Foy’s period pieces so far.

Little Dorrit. In her first starring role and, one of her first acting jobs at that, Claire played Amy Dorrit, a quiet, devoted daughter who cares for her father in debtor’s prison while keeping an eye on her challenging siblings. This 2008 BBC/WGBH Boston production of the Dickens’ novel portrays a classic tale of shifting fortunes, family secrets and unrequited love experienced through one gentle, good-hearted young woman.

Going Postal. While not technically a period drama, this TV adaptation of the thirty-ninth installment of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series is a steampunk fantasy and therefore has the feel and style of the Victorian era. Foy portrayed Adora Belle Dearheart, the daughter of a ruined inventor. Since the death of her brother and loss of her bank job, Adora has become cynical, angry and a heavy smoker. Now she works for a charity dedicated to freeing the golems of the city-state of Ankh-Morpork


Season of the Witch. Set the in 14th century, two knights desert the Crusades and head home to Austria. As they approach their destination, they discover that the Roman Empire has been decimated by the Black Plague. In return for a pardon for their desertion, the knights agree to accompany a suspected witch to a remote monastery where the monks will determine if she is guilty and perform a ritual to cancel her powers and halt the devastating epidemic. Of course, Ms. Foy played the alleged witch known as The Girl or Anna.  This 2011 film also stars Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman, Robert Sheehan and Stephen Campbell Moore who, FYI, went on to become Claire’s real life husband after the couple met on the set.


Upstairs Downstairs. In the revival of the iconic '70s series, the Holland family now inhabits 165 Eaton Place in the late 1930s. Foy was cast as Lady Persephone, the younger sister of Lady Agnes Holland. Fiery but naïve, a restless Persie gets drawn into fascist politics and an affair that represents a betrayal of epic proportions.


Wolf Hall. Playing the current queen wasn’t Claire’s first opportunity to ascend the British throne. In last year’s Golden Globe-winning mini-series Wolf Hall, she took on the role of one of the most famous and controversial queens of England, Anne Boleyn. Combining her beauty, ambition and intelligence, Anne manipulated the King and his court in pursuit of her ultimate goal: the crown. Alas she lacked the good fortune to bear Henry a son which, history tells us, sealed her rather famous fate.


Please share your thoughts on Claire Foy’s roles in the comments section. If you are currently, or have recently been, watching The Crown on Netflix, please feel free to discuss your opinions on her portrayal of Elizabeth II in that as well.