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The actors listed under "Shakespearian Actors without their own pages here include" need pages.
As in "classically trained Shakespearian actor". These actors (male and female), usually Brits, have had some serious training—often a stint at the Royal Shakespeare Company—and so have developed redoubtable acting skills.
Of course, they won't necessarily limit themselves to Shakespeare—or even to theater. It's entirely possible for these people to do comedy, appear in major action movies and even enter Large Ham territory at times (see, for instance, Brian Blessed).
Used intelligently, Shakespearian Actors can raise everyone's game, or turn a blah character into a Breakout Character. But beware: being cast alongside one or more Shakespearian Actors makes it painfully clear if someone can't act (see, for instance, Teaching Mrs. Tingle, in which Helen Mirren out-acts all of her co-stars combined with her hands quite literally tied behind her back). Think of them as the acting equivalent of Spandex: they make good things better, and bad things much, much worse.
Because these actors will be critically acclaimed (they can be popular as well), they are more likely than most actors, if they're British, to succumb to the K-strain of Knight Fever, i.e. getting a knighthood.
One of the litmus tests for being a Shakespearian actor is to have played a major/lead role for the Royal Shakespeare Company. The RSC is probably the most prestigious theatre company in Britain, performing (almost) exclusively Shakespeare. (The closest North American equivalents are probably the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland.) Even better, see the YouTube entries for the old educational series, Playing Shakespeare, featuring the RSC players of its day, now in retrospect chock full of future movie stars like Patrick Stewart, Dame Judi Dench, Ben Kingsley, and Sir Ian McKellen.
Shakespearian Actors in fiction
As we've just seen, real-life Shakespearian Actors take a variety of roles for a variety of reasons, and few jobbing actors — even among this exceptionally talented bunch — can afford to be picky about the sorts of roles they accept. In fiction, though, the Shakespearian Actor tends to be a particular subtype of the high-maintenance diva archetype: one who constantly laments his decision to give up theater and who has nothing but contempt for the tripe he's being asked to deliver. This version is the Classically-Trained Extra.
Shakespearian Actors without their own pages here include:
- Adrian Lester of Hustle
- Avery Brooks has played in Othello and King Lear; he is both an extremely talented stage actor and a tenured drama professor.
- Brian Cox
- Dan Lauria, the father on The Wonder Years.
- Daniel Davis has reportedly been in all but six of Shakespeare's plays, presumably thanks to his ridiculously good English accent. (He's from Arkansas.) Also performed with both the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.
- Hugh Bonneville, aka the Earl of Grantham
- Imelda Staunton (who played the Nurse in Shakespeare in Love, the title role in Vera Drake, and Dolores Umbridge in a couple of Harry Potter movies.)
- Sir John Gielgud
- Joseph Fiennes (who played the title role in Shakespeare in Love)
- Dame Maggie Smith
- Polly Walker (Atia of the Julii of Rome fame).
- Sir Ralph Richardson
- Zoë Wanamaker
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