The Evolution of Billie Piper: From Singer to Actor, Writer, and Director

(Photo: Getty Images)
Billie Piper celebrated a major birthday this week – the big four-oh! To mark the milestone, we're taking a look back at her remarkable career arc, from singing to acting, writing, and directing.
1998: Pop Star
Piper was just 15 when she signed a record deal and released "Because We Want To," her debut single which became a U.K. number one hit. She scored further U.K. number ones with 1998's "Girlfriend" and 2000's "Day and Night" and released two albums before deciding that music wasn't really her calling in life.
During an interview on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs last year, she recalled: "I always felt like a charlatan because I love singing but I didn't have the strongest voice. I didn't write songs, I didn't play or write music. Acting was what I wanted to do first and foremost, and on some level, I was acting my way through [being a pop star], but it became too hard to do."

2005: Doctor Who Companion
When the iconic sci-fi series returned in 2005 with Russell T Davies as showrunner, we fell in love with Piper's companion, Rose Tyler. She played the streetwise south London teenager for two seasons and several specials, starring opposite Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant's Time Lords.
Doctor Who wasn't her first acting role, but it was the one that really launched her career. She said on Desert Island Discs that playing Rose was "a very exciting and satisfying time because it was hard to get an acting job with my history as first a pop star and then this sort of burned-out child star, which is how I think I was painted."

2007: Further Acting Roles
Post-Doctor Who, Piper demonstrated her range by starring in Secret Diary of a Call Girl, a comedy-drama series about a high-end London escort. Written by Lucy Prebble, who would become a regular collaborator for Piper, it ran for four seasons from 2007 to 2011. Piper went on to star in the horror series Penny Dreadful (2014-2016) and then the political miniseries Collateral (2018). For her performance in the latter – as an MP's ex-wife who is connected to a murder – she earned a BAFTA nomination.

2016: Award-Winning Stage Actress
Piper made her West End debut in 2007 in a revival of the romantic play Treats: she starred opposite her then-husband Laurence Fox and Death in Paradise actor Kris Marshall. Five years later, she was nominated for an Olivier Award for her performance in The Effect, a play about a clinical drug trial written by Prebble. But she really cemented her reputation as a great stage actress with 2016's Yerma, in which she starred as a woman driven to crime by her profound desire to have a child. She won several awards for her performance, including an Olivier, and reprised her role Off-Broadway in 2018.

2020: Writer, Director and Creator
Co-created by Piper and Pebble, 2020's I Hate Suzie introduced us to another memorable Piper character: Suzie Pickles, a somewhat chaotic former child star whose life is upended when intimate photos of her leak online. Piper earned a BAFTA nomination for her performance in the Sky Max/HBO Max comedy-drama, which is due to return for a second season later this year.
Then in 2021, Piper's debut movie as writer-director, Rare Beasts, opened in U.K. theaters. It was billed as an "anti-rom-com:" Piper plays Mandy, a spunky lone mother who falls for a man with deeply troubling rage issues (Taboo's Leo Bill).

Happy birthday Billie Piper! We can't wait to see what you do next.
Do you have a favorite-ever Billie Piper performance?