The new season of Doctor Who begins New Year’s Day on BBC America with the first of a special two-part story titled Spyfall. Fittingly enough, the two-part story features guest appearances from two bona fide legends of British TV: writer-actor-presenter Stephen Fry and comedian-actor-presenter Sir Lenny Henry. To whet your appetite, here are some highlights from both actors’ remarkable résumés.
1. Stephen Fry is one half of Fry and Laurie, a popular comedy double act with Hugh Laurie.
The two performers met while studying at the University of Cambridge in the late-’70s, where they were introduced by mutual friend Dame Emma Thompson. They appeared together in numerous comedy series in the ’80s and ’90s, most notably the hit BBC sketch show A Bit of Fry & Laurie, which ran from 1989 to 1995. When Laurie was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2016, Fry was there to support him and said: “I can say like Doctor Watson of his friend Holmes, [he is] the kindest and wisest friend I ever knew.”
2. Sir Lenny Henry first found fame on a British TV talent show.
He won New Faces, a kind of ’70s version of Britain’s Got Talent/America’s Got Talent, in 1975 with an impersonation of Stevie Wonder. The following year, he landed a role in The Fosters, the U.K.’s first comedy series featuring predominantly black performers, before starring in his own BBC sketch show in the ’80s and ’90s.
3. In the U.K., Stephen Fry narrates all of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter audiobooks.
He’s revealed that the only phrase he had trouble saying while recording the audiobooks was the deceptively simple “Harry pocketed it.”
4. Sir Lenny Henry co-founded Comic Relief, the U.K. nonprofit behind Red Nose Day, with Love, Actually writer Richard Curtis in 1985.
By 2015, the U.K.’s regular Comic Relief and associated Sport Relief telethons had raised more than £1 billion for charity. Henry has been closely involved with Comic Relief ever since he co-founded the organization and now serves as its honorary life president.
5. Stephen Fry’s movie roles include playing Oscar Wilde in the 1997 biopic Wilde, the detective in murder-mystery drama Gosford Park, and Mycroft Holmes opposite Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr. in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.
He’s said iconic Irish playwright Oscar Wilde is the role he was “born to play.”
6. Sir Lenny Henry has moonlighted as singer and even performs back-up vocals on the Kate Bush song “Why Should I Love You?”
The late, great Prince sings and appears on the same song, so technically Henry has collaborated with both Kate Bush and Prince. How many people can say that?
7. Known for his wit and loquaciousness, Stephen Fry has hosted the BAFTA Film Awards on eleven occasions – more than anyone else.
He presided over the prestigious awards ceremony between 2002 and 2006, and then again from 2012 to 2017.
8. Sir Lenny Henry was knighted in the Queen’s 2015 Birthday Honours for services to drama and charity.
The following year, he won the prestigious Special Award at the BAFTA TV Awards and was appointed Chancellor of Birmingham City University. Over the years, Henry has used his high public profile to lobby for greater diversity in the U.K. media. In 2018, he delivered a letter to 10 Downing Street, the home of the British Prime Minister, calling for tax relief to increase the number of women, people of color, and disabled people working in film and TV.
9. Stephen Fry has also written and presented several TV documentaries.
For 2007’s Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive, in which he explored his battle with bipolar disorder, he won an International Emmy award. He’s often spoken about the need to reduce any lingering stigma surrounding mental health issues, saying: “Once the understanding is there, we can all stand up and not be ashamed of ourselves, then it makes the rest of the population realize that we are just like them but with something extra.”
10. During the last decade, Sir Lenny Henry has reinvented himself as a highly acclaimed stage actor.
He’s appeared in London productions of Shakespeare‘s Othello and The Comedy of Errors, among other plays. For his performance in Othello, he won the Outstanding Newcomer prize at the 2009 Evening Standard Theatre Awards.
Do you have a favorite Stephen Fry or Sir Lenny Henry appearance from over the years?Read More