British actress Helen McCrory's celebrated career on the English stage led to award-winning performances on UK television and supporting turns as a wide variety of memorable, often sensuous women in features like "The Queen" (2006), "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" (2007) and "Skyfall" (2012) before making a splash on American television in "Penny Dreadful" (Showtime, 2014-16). Born Helen Elizabeth McCrory in London, England, she was the eldest of three children by Scottish diplomat Iain McCrory and her mother, physiotherapist Anne McCrory, who hailed from Wales. Due to her father's position, she spent a portion of her childhood abroad in far-flung places like Norway, Cameroon, and Madagascar, before attending the Queenswood School, a girls-only boarding school in Hertfordshire. At 17, she applied to the Drama Centre in London, but was urged to "go and live a bit" by the administration, which prompted more travels to Italy and Thailand, among other places. Upon her return, McCrory was accepted into the Centre and graduated in 1990, after which she began an impressive and award-winning string of appearances on London stages in both classical and modern productions. She made her first television appearances in 1993, with her movie debut coming a year later in "Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles" (1994). McCrory's breakout performance as a young Welsh woman dealing with an unwanted pregnancy in "Streetlife" (BBC, 1995) earned her Best Actress Awards from BAFTA Cyrmu (Welsh BAFTA) and the Royal Television Society; by the following year, she was headlining television projects like "The Fragile Heart" (1996) and the 2000 adaptation of "Anna Karenina" (Channel 4/PBS, 2000/2001). International audiences slowly became aware of her talents in the early 2000s thanks to appearances in features like "Charlotte Gray" (2001) with Cate Blanchett and as Barbara Villiers, the notorious mistress of Charles II (Rufus Sewell) in "Charles II: The Power and The Passion" (BBC One), which earned her a Satellite Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. McCrory also maintained a consistent and celebrated presence on the British stage, including a turn as Rosalind in a West End production of "As You Like It" that brought her a 2006 Laurence Olivier Theatre Award nomination. In 2006, she married actor Damian Lewis and gave birth to the first of their two children; her pregnancy forced her to pull out of the role of Bellatrix Lestrange in "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" (2007), but she returned to the fantasy franchise for its last three installments ("Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," 2009, and "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part I," 2010 and "Part II," 2011) as Narcissa Malfoy, Lestrange's sister and the wife and mother, respectively, of key villains Lucius and Draco Malfoy. McCrory also scored a critical triumph as Cherie Blair, wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, in "The Queen" (2006), and reprised the role in "The Special Relationship" (HBO/BBC, 2009). The success of these and other performances gave McCrory's screen profile a considerable boost, and she was soon featured in major productions like Martin Scorsese's "Hugo" (2011) and the James Bond adventure "Skyfall" (2012). She remained faithful to the stage, earning critical praise as Medea in a 2014 production for the National Theatre, and continued to play complex female roles on television, most notably in the period gangster drama series "Peaky Blinders" (BBC Two, 2013) and "Penny Dreadful" (Showtime, 2014-16) as Evelyn Poole, a spiritualist who secretly heads a coven of witches. Helen McCrory died on April 16, 2021 at the age of 52.
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