10 Things You Never Knew About 'The Watch' Actress Anna Chancellor
In BBC America’s new fantasy police procedural The Watch, Anna Chancellor plays Lord Vetinari, the rather Machiavellian leader of Ankh-Morpork. It’s a terrific role for the prolific British actress, who’s shone in everything from Four Weddings and a Funeral to Pennyworth, and The Hour to Tipping the Velvet.
The Watch continues Sundays at 8pm EST on BBC America, and you can catch up with previous episodes here. In the meantime, why not whet your appetite by finding out a little more about the stellar Anna Chancellor.
1. She's the great-great-granddaughter of H. H. Asquith, the U.K.'s Prime Minister from 1908 to 1916.
She's also related to Helena Bonham Carter (her second cousin), fellow actress Dolly Wells (her first cousin), model Cecilia Chancellor (her first cousin), eminent journalist Alexander Chancellor (her uncle), and the former general manager of Reuters, Sir Christopher Chancellor (her grandfather).
2. She's also a descendant of Jane Austen, sho was her eight-times great aunt.
So it's pretty fitting that Chancellor appeared in the classic 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, playing Caroline Bingley.
3. But she isn't necessarily enamored with her rather grand background.
"I wasn’t mad about the class that I came from," Chancellor told The Times in 2013. "It's a very specific group of people, everyone knows each other. I didn’t like having received opinions about how things should be. I wanted to learn my own way."
4. She struggled to make ends meet in her twenties.
"I came from a wealthy family but I had no money," she told The Guardian in 2011. "It makes it worse because you have a sense of entitlement. Not entitlement, but a feeling of, 'Where is everything?' You are not trained. People who are born into families where there is not a surplus of money are trained: 'This will be your life.' I didn't really know how to get money, I had no idea how to sign on [for social security payments]."
5. Before she landed her breakthrough role in Four Weddings and a Funeral, she starred in a fondly remembered British TV ad.
The witty commercial for Boddingtons Bitter tricks you into thinking you’re watching the waterways of Venice… but then Chancellor delivers a classic line in an accent that’s definitely not Italian.
6. She made sure to dress the part for the role that changed her life: Duckface in Four Weddings.
"Someone said to me, 'You really must audition for that because it's about posh people f**king in the back of Land Rovers,'" Chancellor told The Guardian. "I went for loads of auditions and I had this pair of kinky Manolo Blahnik shoes, which were really high with criss-cross velvet and a big brooch on them. Afterwards [director] Mike Newell said, 'We really liked your shoes.'"
7. Her daughter Poppy Chancellor is a successful illustrator who specializes in papercutting.
She's created art pieces for brands including Nike, Adidas, and YouTube, and you can check out her work on the @poppyspapercuts Instagram page.
8. She has no qualms playing a less than sympathetic character.
"I nearly always play the b***h," she told the Radio Times in 2018, adding: "You have to stop saying: ‘I’m not somebody who would do that.’ You have to be open to anything. I’m tall and dominant and quite masculine in a way, so I can play alpha female."
9. She met her second husband, Redha Debbah, when he was her driver during a '90s West End run.
"We courted for about a year," she told The Herald in 2018. "I was crazy about him – and he was always trying to avoid me. I thought it was a joke to begin with: who ever gets together with their cab driver? So, I would laugh about it in a semi-serious/semi-desperate way."
The couple have now been together for more than 20 years and live in Brighton, where Debbah, who also works in IT, is training to be a yoga teacher.
10. Oh, and if you ever bump into her, she's happy to be be asked about Duckface.
“I have played a lot of amazing parts and I’ve had some great names, too. With Four Weddings and a Funeral, I didn’t realize that Duckface was my official character name," she told the Huffington Post in 2014. "When I die, my obituary will probably be, ‘Duckface dies’. What can I say about that – do I mind? No, I think it would be churlish to bite the hand that feeds you and, coincidentally, I’ve always had a passion for ducks.”
Do you have a favorite Anna Chancellor role?