Derek Jacobi was a British actor best known for his stage roles, but also for many notable big- and small-screen performances. He was born in Leytonstone, London, to a working class family, and attended Leyton Sixth Form College where he joined the drama club, the Players of Leyton. The sixth form's production of <I>Hamlet went to the Edinburgh Fringe, following which Jacobi won a scholarship to the University of Cambridge to read history. He played many roles while at the university, where Ian McKellen and Trevor Nunn were also students at the time.
Laurence Olivier noticed the young actor in the early '60s, and invited him to become one of the founding members of the brand new National Theatre. After an eight-year run that included his performance of Cassio opposite Peter O'Toole's Othello, Jacobi left the National Theatre. As well as maintaining his stage career, he also branched out into television, and in 1976 he played the lead role in the BBC show <I>I, Claudius, which proved to be a huge breakthrough for the actor and also earned him a BAFTA award. By 1980 he had toured the world playing Hamlet, and went on to make his Broadway debut in <I>Suicide. In the same year he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company, and was awarded a Tony for his role as Benedick in <I>Much Ado About Nothing during this time. He continued to juggle roles on both stage and screen, and moved into film, making appearances in <I>Dead Again (1991), <I>Gladiator (2000), <I>Gosford Park (2001), and <I>The King's Speech (2010). He also had huge success with the television series <I>Cadfael, which ran from 1994 to 1998.
During his forays into screen acting he never sacrificed stage work. In 2009 he received a Laurence Olivier Award for his Malvolio in <I>Twelfth Night, and garnered rave reviews for his role in Michael Grandage's <I>King Lear in 2010. In 2012 he had further success on the small screen for his part in Sally Wainwright's <I>Last Tango in Halifax, and in 2013, Jacobi was reunited with Ian McKellen for ITV's sitcom <I>Vicious. Jacobi and actress Anne Reid, his co-star in <I>Last Tango, went on to collaborate on an album of duets and solos called You Are the Best Thing...That Ever Has Happened to Me in 2016. The record was composed of covers from classic theater and the Great American Songbook. The musical departure wasn't a first for Jacobi, as he had previously worked with singer/songwriter Keaton Henson on a spoken word version of his track "You." ~ Bekki Bemrose, Rovi