Julia McKenzie

Julia McKenzie

Julia McKenzie in 2006
Born Julia Kathleen McKenzie
(1941-02-17) 17 February 1941
Enfield, Middlesex, England
Occupation Actress, director, presenter, singer
Years active 1966–present
Spouse(s) Jerry Harte (m. 1971)[1]

Julia Kathleen McKenzie (born 17 February 1941) is an English actress, singer, presenter, and theatre director. On television, she is known for her BAFTA Award nominated role as Hester Fields in the sitcom Fresh Fields (1984–86), its sequel French Fields (1989–91), and as Miss Marple in Agatha Christie's Marple (2008–13).

McKenzie has also starred in numerous musicals, receiving a 1977 Tony Award nomination for her work in the Broadway revue, Side by Side by Sondheim. A six-time Olivier Award nominee, she has twice won the Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical; for the 1982 revival of Guys and Dolls and the 1993 revival of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. She also starred in the original London productions of the Sondheim musicals Follies (1987) and Into the Woods (1990).

Early life

She was born Julia Kathleen McKenzie on 17 February 1941, in Enfield, Middlesex, England, the daughter of Kathleen Rowe and Albion McKenzie. She trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.[2]



McKenzie's early West End musical credits include Maggie May (1966), Mame (1969), and Company (1971). She appeared in the West End revue Side by Side by Sondheim in 1976, and made her Broadway debut when the show transferred to New York in 1977[3] receiving a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. She also received a Drama Desk Award nomination. For her role as Miss Adelaide in the 1982 West End revival of Guys and Dolls, she won the first of two Olivier Awards for Best Actress in a Musical.[4][5]

For her role in the 1986 West End production of the Alan Ayckbourn play Woman in Mind, McKenzie won the Evening Standard Award for Best Actress. She went on to appear in the original West End productions of two Sondheim musicals; playing Sally in Follies at the Shaftesbury Theatre in 1987,[6] and the Witch in Into the Woods at the Phoenix Theatre in 1990.[7] She continued her association with Stephen Sondheim when she starred as Mrs. Lovett in the 1993 London revival of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The role won her a second Olivier Award in 1994.

McKenzie appeared in a National Theatre 80th birthday tribute to Lord Olivier, Happy Birthday, Sir Larry on 31 May 1987 in the presence of Olivier himself.[8]


On television, McKenzie co-starred with Irene Handl in the sitcom Maggie and Her (1978–79), and with Gareth Hunt in That Beryl Marston...! (1981). She went on to greater popularity with British viewers as Hester in the 1980s sitcom Fresh Fields opposite Anton Rodgers, and its 1990s sequel French Fields, for which she was voted TV Times Favourite Female Comedy Performance for five consecutive years. The role also earned her a 1985 BAFTA nomination for Best Entertainment Performance. She appeared as Mrs Forthby in Blott on the Landscape and as a Midsomer villager involved in a series of murders in an episode of Midsomer Murders. Film credits include Hotel du Lac, Shirley Valentine, Bright Young Things and These Foolish Things.

In 2007 she was reunited with Anton Rodgers (again as a husband and wife team) in the ITV comedy You Can Choose Your Friends. In 2007 she co-starred with Michael Gambon and Judi Dench in the BBC1 costume drama series Cranford, playing Mrs. Forrester, a military widow of slender means, very attached to her cow Bessie.[9]

In 2008 she was announced as the replacement for Geraldine McEwan as ITV's Miss Marple.[10]

McKenzie noted: "It’s difficult because Agatha Christie wrote her in two ways...First, very much what Geraldine McEwan played: a slight, rather Victorian creature. Then, a little sturdier and tweedier. I chose the latter. A lot of people say they don’t like the tweedier version. But they’re both genuine."[1] Also, she said: "Just about everybody in the world knows about Miss Marple and has an opinion of what she should be like, so I’m under no illusions about the size of the task ahead."[10] McKenzie's first series of Marple comprised A Pocket Full of Rye, Murder is Easy, They Do It with Mirrors and Why Didn't They Ask Evans?. The second series of the show, which aired in 2010, included The Pale Horse, The Secret of Chimneys, The Blue Geranium, and The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side. A sixth series, including adaptations of A Caribbean Mystery, Greenshaw's Folly and Endless Night, began filming in September 2012 and was broadcast in 2013.

During the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony she played Her Majesty the Queen on board the helicopter in the short film Happy and Glorious.[11] That year she also played the role of Betty Nicholas in the ITV television series The Town.[12]

On 26 December 2013, McKenzie appeared as the title character in the film adaption of David Walliams' book Gangsta Granny.

In 2015 McKenzie appeared as Shirley Mollison in the BBC mini series The Casual Vacancy.

Other work

She is a radio performer with a long list of credits, including Blithe Spirit, The Country Wife and A Room with a View. As a director she has staged Stepping Out, Peter Pan, Hey, Mr. Producer!, Steel Magnolias, Putting It Together and A Little Night Music.

She also recorded an audio book of Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass.[13]

Personal life

McKenzie has been married since 1971 to American actor-director, Jerry Harte.[1]

McKenzie is a critic of fox hunting and was among more than 20 high-profile people who signed a letter to Members of Parliament in 2015 to oppose Conservative prime minister David Cameron's plan to amend the Hunting Act 2004.[14]






Feature films

Awards and nominations

Year Award Work Result
1977 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical Side by Side by Sondheim Nominated
Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical Nominated
1980 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical On the Twentieth Century Nominated
1982 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical Guys and Dolls Won
1985 BAFTA TV Award for Best Entertainment Performance Fresh Fields Nominated
1986 Olivier Award for Best Actress Woman in Mind Nominated
Evening Standard Award for Best Actress Won
1987 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical Follies Nominated
1991 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical Into the Woods Nominated
1994 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street Won

See also


  1. 1 2 3 Patay, Ajesh (25 August 2009). "Julia McKenzie on Being the New Miss Marple: interview". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 27 May 2010.
  2. "Julia McKenzie Biography (1941–)". Retrieved 14 March 2014.
  3. Hutchins, Michael H. (compiler)."'Side by Side By Sondheim" Listings" Sondheimguide.com, accessed 18 August 2011
  4. "Olivier Winners 1982" olivierawards.com, accessed 18 August 2011
  5. "Olivier Winners 1994" olivierawards.com, accessed 18 August 2011
  6. Hutchins, Michael H. (compiler)."'Follies', 1987 London Production" Sondheimguide.com, accessed 18 August 2011
  7. Hutchins, Michael H. (compiler)."'Into the Woods', 1990 London production" Sondheimguide.com, accessed 18 August 2011
  8. Cast list from Happy Birthday, Sir Larry theatre programme, 31 May 1987
  9. "'Cranford' Characters, Mrs. Forrester" PBS.com, accessed 18 August 2011
  10. 1 2 Hemley, Matthew."McKenzie to take on Miss Marple role for ITV" The Stage, 11 February 2008
  11. Hand, Lise (29 July 2012). "'Secret agent' in the coup that made the Queen a global TV comedy star.". The Mail on Sunday. Retrieved 29 July 2012.
  12. Wilson, Frances The Town, ITV1, review at The Telegraph, 5 December 2012. Retrieved 16 August 20134
  13. SilkSoundBooks "About Julia McKenzie" silksoundbooks.com, accessed 18 August 2011.
  14. "SNP to vote against Tories on fox hunting ban in England and Wales". STV. 13 July 2015. Retrieved 17 July 2015.
  15. Cole 1974 production at sondheimguide.com
  16. Dalglish, Darren Kafka's Dick, Piccadilly Theatre (Review) at London Theatre Archive, 26 January 1999
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