British Actresses You Should Know: Miranda Hart

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Miranda Hart in "Miranda". (Photo: BBC)
Though actress Miranda Hart is not yet a household name in the United States, for those of us who faithfully watch Call the Midwife, we’ll never forget when we met Camilla Fortescue-Cholmeley-Browne for the first time.

It’s interesting to note that although Hart has become known to American audiences for her dramatic work, in the UK she is recognized first and foremost as a beloved and accomplished British comedic actress and writer. Seeing as Hart is so much more than Chummy (and someone I not-so-secretly would like to be my BFF) I wanted to let you in how you can witness the chaotic, awkward and fun-loving nature that, for me, is the essence of Miranda Hart.

Hyperdrive. In the future, 2151 to be exact, the galaxy is populated with space craft and crews who work to protect and promote their earthly home territories across the universe. The UK’s contingent is the team of the HMS Camden Lock.

The Lock is led by Commander Michael Henderson (Nick Frost), an officer who is dedicated to his subordinates, eager for the adventure of space exploration, and not quite up to the task as far as his superiors are concerned. Hart plays Diplomatic Officer Chloe Teal whose job it is to negotiate with aliens in hopes of bringing their business to the UK (mainly Peterborough). Teal’s greatest devotion is to her Commander and she rather obviously wishes he were enamored of her in equal measure…

Meeting the Glish - Hyperdrive - BBC comedy

Hyperdrive ran for two series and also features well-known sketch actor Kevin Eldon as First Officer York. This sci-fi comedy can be viewed on HuluPlus, Netflix and Amazon Instant Video. 

Not Going Out. Lee Mack’s long-running sitcom primarily concerns itself with the antics resulting from rooming with an attractive woman who happens to be his best mate’s sister. It’s not cutting edge, but I have been known to laugh out loud at some of Lee Mack and Tim Vine’s banter. 

Hart portrays Barbara, a clumsy and ineffective cleaner hired to keep Lee and Lucy’s flat tidy. She also tends to interfere in matters that are none of her business such as Lee’s love life. 

Not Going Out - Christmas

You can watch all six series of Not Going Out on HuluPlus and Netflix DVD; however you’ll only find Hart in Series 2 and 3. Oh, and there was that episode in series one where she played a different character named Acupuncturist. 

Not Going Out Acupuncture

Monday Monday. This dramedy focuses on the employees of a failing supermarket chain. Forced to relocate from London to Leeds due to downsizing, the head office workers must adjust to new procedures, new product lines and new leadership. Not too surprisingly, there’s a bit of office romance intrigue thrown in for good measure.

Hart has a small comedic part playing Tall Karen (as opposed to her best friend and co-worker Small Karen). Both Tall and Small are office assistants to alcoholic Human Resources head, Christine (Fay Ripley).

Featuring an ensemble cast which also includes Morven Christie, Peter Wight and Holly Aird, Monday Monday didn’t get picked up for a second series but may have been worthwhile just for the fact that it united Hart and her future co-star Tom Ellis for the first time. 

Miranda Hart and Tom Ellis in Monday Monday

Miranda. I discovered the wonderfulness of Hart in her semi-autobiographical sitcom, the aptly named Miranda. Based on her Radio 2 show, the misadventures and playful shenanigans of a rather tall singleton made Hart a telly sensation in the UK.  With the same private school background and upper class family ties (Hart’s pedigree is apparently full of military officers and aristocrats) writing awkward situations for a fictional Miranda certainly came from a personal and very funny perspective.

One of the most endearing qualities of the Miranda character is the giddy unease which overtakes her whenever she’s in the vicinity of an attractive man. 

Dr Gail, there's a rash on my breast - Miranda, Series 2 Episode 6 - BBC Two

Also starring Sarah Hadland, Patricia Hodge and Tom Ellis (remember Monday Monday?) as Gary Preston, Miranda’s main love interest, the first two series of Miranda can be streamed on Hulu. For the time being, Series 3 can only be purchased on Region 2 DVD…and it’s a doozy because SPOILERS! Miranda’s caught in a love triangle.

Since the huge success that has come on the heels of Miranda, Hart has been spreading her talents to other mediums and causes. An active supporter of Sport Relief, she proved this beyond a doubt in 2009 by riding a bicycle from the most northern tip of the UK, John O’Groats, to the most southern point, Land’s End, for charity. As an author, Miranda’s 2012 “manual for life” called Is it Just Me? was a bestseller. And in 2013’s popular family holiday offering Gangsta Granny, the story’s creator David Walliams invited his old cycling buddy to play his wife and dance partner in the movie.

Gangsta Granny: Christmas 2013 Trailer - BBC One

As if that’s not impressive enough, Miranda is currently headlining a stand-up tour of UK arenas. To demonstrate the level of her star power in the UK, let me direct your attention to a low-budget comedy film from 2007 called 12 in a Box. It was apparently not released in theatres until 2013 with Hart advertised as the star in rather big lettering even though she only appeared in screen for five minutes. 

Miranda Hart's 12 In A Box Trailer - in cinemas 25 March/ DVD 1 April

Miranda Hart is a woman of many talents; lacking the fear of looking foolish is very possibly her greatest asset. If you only know her as Chummy that’s a great start, but I hope you found something above that tempts you to experience one of the other facets of this versatile entertainer. If you have a favorite Hart role, predicament or catchphrase, please share it with us in the comments below. Such fun!