Hugh Bonneville was a member of the National Youth Theatre, studied Theology at Cambridge, and made his professional debut at the Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park, in 1986, bashing a cymbal in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and understudying Ralph Fiennes as Lysander. He then spent several seasons with the National Theatre where he appeared in School for Wives, Yerma, Entertaining Strangers, Juno and the Paycock, played Charles Surface in The School for Scandal and the title role in The Devil’s Disciple. He joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1991, appearing in Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Alchemist, ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore, The Virtuoso and Amphibians. He also played Laertes to Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet. His work at the RSC brought him a nomination for the Ian Charleson Award. Other theatre includes Habeas Corpus at the Donmar, directed by Sam Mendes, and seasons at Colchester, Leicester Haymarket and Chichester. He also appeared in My Night with Reg (Criterion & Playhouse), US and Them (Hampstead) and Cloaca (Old Vic). Hugh played Dr Stockmann in Howard Davies’ acclaimed production of An Enemy of the People at Chichester Festival Theatre in 2016 and C.S. Lewis in Shadowlands at the same theatre in 2019.
Hugh is a familiar face to television audiences, having played leading roles in The Cazalets, Take a Girl Like You, Armadillo, Daniel Deronda and The Commander. He also appeared in the Emmy award-winning The Gathering Storm and played the poet Philip Larkin in Love Again. Other credits range from comedies like The Vicar of Dibley, Freezing, Rev, Getting On, Mr Stink (BAFTA nomination, Best Comedy) and Galavant and Walliams and Friend, to dramas such as Diary of a Nobody, Tsunami: The Aftermath, Miss Austen Regrets, Five Days, Hunter, The Silence, Doctor Who, The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses and Jingle Jangle. The Gold, a six-part series about the Brink’s-Mat bullion robbery of 1983 has recently been shown on BBC1 and will be released on Paramount Plus later in 2023.
Over its six seasons, Downton Abbey won dozens of awards worldwide, and Hugh received a Golden Globe and 2 Emmy nominations for his performance as Robert, Earl of Grantham. The cast won 3 Screen Actors Guild awards for Best Ensemble and the show was awarded a special BAFTA for its unique contribution to TV drama.
Twenty Twelve won a British Comedy Award and a BAFTA for Best Comedy, Hugh being nominated two years running as Best Comedy Actor. Hugh’s character, Ian Fletcher, then appeared in three seasons of W1A, a series about life at the BBC, which won the Broadcasting Press Guild Award for Best Comedy; Hugh received two more BAFTA nominations for his performance.
Hugh made his feature film debut in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in 1994, directed by Kenneth Branagh. His many film appearances since then include Notting Hill, Mansfield Park, Stage Beauty, Asylum, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Man to Man, Julian Fellowes’ From Time to Time, Glorious 39, Burke & Hare, Third Star, Shanghai, The Monuments Men, Viceroy’s House, Breathe, the two Paddington and Downton Abbey films and To Olivia. Hugh received a BAFTA Best Supporting Actor nomination for Iris and won Best Actor at the Monte Carlo Film Festival for his performance in French Film. His latest film, I Came By, directed by Babak Anvari, is available on Netflix.
Behind the scenes, Hugh co-produced the first West End production of Jonathan Harvey’s acclaimed Beautiful Thing at the Duke of York’s Theatre in 1994, and wrote Half Time with Christopher Luscombe, which he also directed.
Playing Under the Piano, published by Little, Brown in October 2022, is Hugh’s first book, reflecting on three decades of trying not to bump into the furniture.
Hugh is a patron of the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain, The National Youth Arts Trust, Scene & Heard, The Primary Shakespeare Company, and Go Live Theatre Projects. He is also a patron of the South Downs National Park Trust.
He lives in West Sussex with his wife, Lulu Williams. They have a 21 year old son, Felix.
(updated March 2023)