Penelope Wilton

One of the most respected English stage actresses of the late 20th century and beyond, Penelope Wilton also enjoyed a lengthy career as a film and television actress with appearances in "Cry Freedom" (1987), "Calendar Girls" (2003) and most notably, the hugely popular "Downton Abbey" (ITV/PBS, 2010-16) TV series. Frequently hailed for her versatility, which allowed her to move successfully between classical and modern drama, as well as for what critics often described as her "quintessential Englishness" - which translated into finely calibrated performances that allowed her to express layers of emotion through dialogue alone - Wilton came to be regarded as an "actress's actress," a performer who could deliver a memorable turn, no matter the material or author. The stage dominated her career for several decades before she began appearing in British TV and features, as well as the occasional international feature like "Shaun of the Dead" (2004) and "Match Point" (2005). But it was her turn as the steely, staunchly middle-class Isobel Crawley on "Downton" that brought Wilton international acclaim as the series drew in audiences around the globe in devoted numbers. "Downton" fans soon discovered what English theatergoers had known since the early 1970s - that Penelope Wilton represented the best that her country could offer as a performer.