For You on St. David’s Day - Actors You May Not Know Are Welsh

Welsh flag for St. David's Day.jpg

The red dragon of Wales.
March first is St. David’s Day, a Welsh national holiday and a day to remember the death of the country’s patron saint. Festivals and parades are held across Wales and in other countries as well. Celebrants can be seen sporting daffodils and leeks on their lapels and yummy Welsh cakes are happily consumed.

Since I can’t exactly stage a festival here on the blog, I thought the next best thing might be a parade of Welsh actors to bring the spirit of Wales to Telly Visions. Of course we are all familiar with acting legends like Richard Burton and Anthony Hopkins. Others have names that hint pretty strongly at their land of origin – Rhys Ifans and Ioan Gruffudd are just two examples. And, finally, let’s not forget the outstanding Wales-based sitcom, Gavin and Stacey and its many talented Welsh cast members such as Ruth Jones, Rob Brydon and Joanna Page.

What follows is a cavalcade of talented actors that you may not have known have Welsh roots. Today, let’s find out what’s occurring with this lush group from Wales…

Michael Sheen has received many accolades for his portrayals of famous public figures like Tony Blair in The Queen and The Special Relationship, David Frost in Frost/Nixon and Manchester United manager Brian Clough in The Damned United. He’s appeared in action film franchises such as Underworld and box office sensations like the Twilight series.

However, nothing he’s ever done has been as personal as The Gospel of Us, the film version of a 72 hour secular passion play that was put on in his hometown of Port Talbot, Wales – which also happens to be the birthplace of the aforementioned Hopkins and Burton. 

THE GOSPEL OF US Official Trailer - In UK cinemas 13th April

Terry Jones hails from Colwyn Bay, a town on the north coast of Wales. As most of you know, he’s probably most famous for his work as a member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, but were you aware that Terry also directed (or co-directed) all three of the Python’s films?

Jones is also an accomplished historian and has written and presented a number of historical documentaries including this series in which he follows the world’s first road atlas through the land of his birth. 

Terry Jones' Great Map Mystery 1~The Road to Aberystwyth

Son of a coalminer turned grocer, Holywell’s Jonathan Pryce has epitomized the Welsh tradition of theatre. Both a Tony and Olivier Award winner, Pryce has appeared in a wide range of stage productions from his acclaimed turn as Hamlet in the 1980’s to his role as The Engineer in Miss Saigon and even a comic turn in the musical Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

His screen work is just as diverse. He played timid hero Sam Lowry in the absurdly futuristic fantasy cult film, Brazil, buccaneer-hating Governor Swann in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and a pretty convincing Bond villain in Tomorrow Never Dies, 

'There's no news like bad news...'

Rhymney Valley boy Luke Evans may be a new name to you but he’s already appeared in a string of action blockbusters such as Clash of the Titans, Immortals and Fast & Furious 6. His appearance as Bard in the most recent Hobbit film, The Desolation of Smaug certainly made me take notice.

You may not be aware however of the fine heritage of all male choirs and singing in general in Welsh culture. Evans got his start in West End musical productions such as Rent, La Cava and Taboo among others. Here he is at a benefit performance sharing his vocal talents with his rendition of a classic hit by fellow Welshman, Tom Jones.  

Luke Evans singing 'Delilah' by Tom Jones at the Lyric Theatre

Bangor-born Tom Ellis has a body of work not to be disparaged. Starting with TV guest spots, stints on EastEnders and Merlin, then moving up to various single season series such as Monday, Monday, The Fades and the mini-series The Secret of Crickley Hall, his CV may not appear to put him in the same category as his fellow countrymen mentioned thus far.

I will admit Ellis’ good looks figured into his placement on this list; however, in my opinion his role as Miranda’s love interest Gary Preston is all he really needed to earn a spot:

Alpha Male - Miranda, Series 2 Episode 4 - BBC Two

Catherine Zeta-Jones probably comes as no big surprise, but I didn’t have many ladies for the list so there you go. This Swansea girl began her musical theatre career as a teenager so it’s no wonder she won a supporting actress Oscar for her role as Velma Kelly in the 2002 film version of Chicago. In 2010 she also won a Best Leading Actress Tony for A Little Night Music.

Aside from musicals, Zeta-Jones has appeared in a variety of films from rom-coms like Intolerable Cruelty and No Reservations to notable dramatic and action roles in Traffic and The Mask of Zorro.

As a bonus, I’ve chosen the clip below because it features an actress who might as well qualify for this fine company of performers. Dawn French was born and spent her early life in Holyhead, Wales. Her English father was stationed there as a member of the Royal Air Force. Here she is doing her hilarious parody of Ms. Zeta-Jones.

French And Saunders Still Alive Tour (Dawn as catherine zeta jones) HD

Pam Ferris was born in Germany to Welsh parents, her father being stationed there with the RAF in the late 1940’s. Her family returned to Bridgend in Wales where she spent the rest of her childhood years.

I must admit in the past when I thought of Ferris, her villainous characters used come to mind first. Matilda’s Miss Trunchbull, Harry Potter’s Aunt Marge and Little Dorrit’s Hortensia General, just to name a few.  But since she has become known to so many as the Call the Midwife’s Sister Evangelina, I have a whole new appreciation for her range. Thought her character still may be blunt and bad-tempered at times, Pam Ferris brings such a sense of dedication and empathy to the role that I can’t help but adore this sister with a heart of gold.

Sister Evangelina takes Jenny Lee to task - Call the Midwife - BBC One Christmas 2012

I hope this lineup was able to add to your enjoyment of a traditional Welsh holiday and that perhaps you learned something about these fine performers that you didn’t know before.  Hapus Dydd Gŵyl Dewi, everyone!