10 actors who have appeared in the most British period dramas

 Some actors and actresses are household names among the British public.

Sometimes, this is due to the number of period dramas they have starred in or have featured in for a considerable time. Some of these stars have used period dramas as a springboard to a highly successful film career, acting in some of the biggest film franchises of all time.

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#10 – Hugh Bonneville

Bonneville’s most iconic role is that of the Earl of Grantham in the phenomenally successful Downton Abbey. Arguably the most successful period drama of the past decade, it has defined and shaped the careers of many actors who have starred in it, with Hugh Bonneville certainly fitting into that category. He is now one of the faces of this huge hit, and it has led to many further career opportunities.


#9 – Keeley Hawes

One of the busiest and most consistent British actresses of the last decade, Hawes rose to fame in Spooks before starring in Line of Duty, as well as a whole host of period dramas such as Ashes to Ashes and It’s a Sin.


#8 – Ralph Fiennes

Ralph Fiennes is one of his generation’s most esteemed and highly-rated actors. Fiennes has received countless awards and has made his name as an outstanding actor in the Royal Shakespeare Company. He has also starred in several period dramas, in both film and television.


#7 – Benedict Cumberbatch

Touted as one of his generation’s most precociously gifted talents, Cumberbatch has starred in many period dramas. He has played Vincent van Gogh and Sherlock, and starred in Agatha Christie. Outside of period dramas, he is listed in Time’s top 100 in 2015.


#6 – Judi Dench

Like Benedict Cumberbatch, Dench has received major accolades throughout her career and has an esteemed history as an actress in the Royal Shakespeare Company. She has since achieved international recognition due to critically acclaimed performances in several James Bond films. The James Bond franchise is one of the world’s longest-running and most successful film franchises.


#5 – Olivia Colman

Having a CV as broad and impressive as Olivia Colman’s is no easy feat. She has starred in various period dramas and has played several high-ranking women in the Royal Family, to widespread critical acclaim. She has appeared in several period dramas set in different periods, including Dickensian and early 20th century.


#4 – Emma Thompson

Having starred in some of the biggest British film and TV series since the dawn of the 21st century, Emma Thompson is rightly a household name. She is most notable for her roles as Nanny McPhee in Harry Potter, one of the biggest franchises of all time.

In addition, she holds a plethora of accolades, which range from BAFTAs to Academy Awards. Having appeared in Brideshead Revisited and played members of the Royal Family, Thompson has a huge depth of period dramas in which she has featured.


#3 – Caitríona Balfe

Taking the lead role in Outlander, Balfe has scooped up several awards for her fine performances in this period drama set in the 1700s. In addition, she has also received critical acclaim for her role in the Kenneth Brannagh film Belfast, which is set during the troubles in the late 1960s.


#2 – Matthew Macfadyen

As the face of Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, Macfadyen’s career has gone from strength to strength. He currently stars in the HBO series Succession, a role for which he has received several award nominations. However, Mr. Darcy isn’t his only role. He has also featured in many other period dramas, such as Wuthering Heights.


#1 – Colin Firth

One of the biggest names in acting, Firth rose to prominence in a similar manner to Matthew Macfadyen.

He has starred in many period dramas, including various films set during World War 1, The English Patient and The Kings’ Speech. For the latter, he received an Academy Award for Best Actor.


Period dramas are one of the most popular genres of film and television. Whether it is The Crown or Downton Abbey, there has been a huge revival in British period dramas. Netflix and other huge streaming services are investing millions of dollars into these types of productions to produce another smash hit like the two we have just touched on. For actors and actresses, this can be an excellent path to a successful career in theatre and acting.