Keeley Hawes: criminally underappreciated, part 2.

On Tuesday we spent some time learning about the unbelievably high quality career of British actress Keeley Hawes.

While writing that post, I realized how long it was getting just mentioning a few of her super roles. So today I’ll look at a couple more of the movies/programs in which I’ve seen her, and note a couple of shows in which she appears that I’ve not yet had the time to see!

Wives and Daughters

Oh, my, I almost forgot about “Wives and Daughters.” How is that possible? Such a great series. Such a great job by Keeley Hawes, playing one of the flightiest characters in all of British classic literature: the flirtatious, volatile, above-all-else-self-interested Cynthia (who, in all fairness, has a real bag for a mother). Even when you’re frustrated by the adaptation’s story–that Molly Gibson, the heroine, is in love with her serious and scholarly, and also more highly born than she, neighbor Roger Hamley, but seems destined never to have him because of his foolish love for Cynthia–you can’t help but appreciate the acting jobs of everyone involved.

I can’t find a great clip of just Keeley from this program, so here, just have the whole first episode:

The Durrells in Corfu

I’ve only seen two episodes of this series, but that’s from lack of time, not lack of desire. It looks like a great ensemble cast and Hawes is there as the anchor: the strong-willed widow and mother of four who decides she wants something different from her life than 1930s England and moves her entire family to the Greek island of Corfu, where her children largely get into and out of scrapes by themselves, although their mother always seems to know the exact minute that she really has to step in and intervene. It’s based on the classic memoir My Family and Other Animals, by Gerald Durrell, so it’s a threefer: great acting, solid source material, and beautiful cinematography/setting.

And here’s what I haven’t seen but really, REALLY want to:

Tipping the Velvet

This is a story that keeps popping up as a book I simply must read, but I might just have to save time and watch this miniseries adaptation starring Hawes and, oh my God, Rachael Stirling. (This is off-topic but I’m having a little love affair for Rachael Stirling; she is phenomenal in the show The Detectorists, and she is also the daughter of Diana Riggs; what’s not to LOVE?) Now I really have to watch it. This is the tagline: “Rachael Stirling and Keeley Hawes star in Andrew Davies’ sexy, sumptuous dramatization of Sarah Waters’ novel of lesbian love and adventure in Victorian London.”

Upstairs Downstairs

I’m way more interested in seeing this series, an update of the 1970s classic, than I am in seeing that other little soap opera that got a lot of press (Downton Abbey). Hawes plays the lady of the house, Agnes Holland, who must keep everything going smoothly in her own family, while also ensuring that the household and its servants are cared for, against, oh yeah, the little matter of World War II.

Ashes to Ashes

Okay, if you’ve not seen the classic series Life on Mars, you will probably not understand the premise of “Ashes to Ashes,” so let’s start there. In “Life on Mars,” a police detective is in a car accident and wakes up to find himself…in 1970s England, on the same (but also very different) police force. Sideburns, bad fashion, and sexism and racism are rampant, although the detective in question does his best to continue to solve crimes, even as he doesn’t understand whether he is dreaming, in a coma, dead, has actually traveled through time, or some alternative explanation. It sounds weird as hell but it’s a great series, showcasing very strong acting jobs by John Simm and Philip Glenister.

So, got that? Okay. “Ashes to Ashes” is the same idea, only it stars Keeley Hawes as the cop who travels through time (however she does so) and has to work as a cop in the 1980s.

There. Now go forth and watch something with Keeley Hawes in it, okay? Okay.


  1. I watched a couple of episodes of The Durrells in Corfu. The mother was fantastic. I spent the entire time feeling I should know her. Fancy Day. You’re right, she did have many faces. Didn’t know she was in Wives and Daughters. Might have to check that out. Great site. Wish I had more time to watch Keeley and read.

  2. M.A.,
    I really enjoyed what I saw of The Durrells… and am just waiting for the right moment when I can watch the whole series. (That day will come, right?) I thought the entire cast was spectacular but of course…even in a stellar cast Keeley Hawes stands out. Good old Fancy Day.

    You should by all means watch “Wives and Daughters.” A great adaptation and in addition to loving to hate Keeley’s character, I think you’d really enjoy the actress who plays the main role of Mollie Gibson. She does a very nice job with it. It’s an Elizabeth Gaskell adaptation, and was nice because it’s a bit lighter in tone than her “North and South.”

    Thanks for visiting!

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