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Who is Miriam Margolyes? Everything you need to know about the Miriam’s Great American Adventure star

The legend of stage and screen is swanning off on another trip
By Susanna Lazarus

Name: Miriam Margolyes

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Age: 75

Twitter: @Miriammargolyes

Best known for: Being a legend of the stage and screen and popping up in the Harry Potter films.

Bio: Born and raised in Oxford, Margolyes set the wheels of her career in motion when she joined the Cambridge Footlights (the same comedy troop that gave John Cleese, Eric Idle, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie and Emma Thompson their start) in 1962.

Her time with the Footlights laid the foundation for a long and illustrious career as a character actress, with a BAFTA for her role in The Age of Innocence and pop culture kudos galore for her turn as Madam Morrible in Broadway smash hit, Wicked.

Margolyes was also the voice of female sheepdog, Fly, in Babe, and provided the dulcet tones for the Matchmaker in Mulan, but it's her magical performance as Madam Pomfrey in the Harry Potter film franchise that gains her notoriety among the younger generations.

From Old Flames to Freud, Life and Loves of a She Devil, Blackadder, The Girls of Slender Means, Oliver Twist, The History Man, and Vanity Fair, her list of TV credits is extensive, and even stretches to include Merlin and Doc Martin.

Oh, and she's a fantastic Graham Norton guest. Just ask her former couch mate will.i.am...

Or Dominic Cooper...

Or Stanley Tucci...

In fact, Margolyes has been a delightfully frank interviewee in the pages of Radio Times, too. Back in 2014, she mused to us about why she hadn't achieved the levels of success she thought she would:

I’m grateful to be working at my age, genuinely humble I’m still someone people want to watch, although I’m surprised I haven’t been more successful. I’d have thought my particular brand of quirkiness, combined with sharp intelligence and a fine voice, would have yielded more. But it hasn’t. Yet! Maybe it’s because I’m fat. It’s jolly hard to lose weight. I’m peeved, but it would be stupid to feel bitter. I don’t know why they don’t ask me to do things, but since they don’t, I’m not waiting, darling. Haven’t got time for that. Tick, tick, tick.

And last year she bemoaned not getting cast in the BBC's Dickensian. “I feel I’ve been rumbled if I’m not working. I was terribly upset not to be in Dickensian, so I pretend to look down on it. The part I should have played, Mrs Gamp, is done brilliantly by Pauline Collins, but I entered this world for no other reason than to play that part. Maybe it’s for the best, though. As Wilde says: ‘When the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers.'"

In more recent years, she's also become known for her delightful turn on the BBC's various travel programmes. Starting with the first series of The Real Marigold Hotel in 2016, based in India, she has since gone on tour with a selection of companions, travelling to Florida, Kyoto and Havana for festive specials.

Her new series, Miriam's Great American Adventure, sees her embark on a road trip through the heartlands of Middle America to learn about the people who are reshaping the nation, starting with Chicago. Here are a selection of her choicest quotes:

  • "I am prejudiced. I am prejudiced against people who voted for Trump. I'm prejudiced against the rich. I don't like people who have facelifts."
  • "I just get so irritated because [young people] use the word 'like' all the time. It wasn't 'like' Tuesday – it was either Monday or Wednesday or it was Tuesday. There is nothing like Tuesday. There is only Tuesday."
  • "If you're going to wear a lipstick, don't pussyfoot around with pink. Get on with it."
  • "Americans judge people very much by their outward appearance, and if I turn up looking like I do now, it'll put people off and they'll think I'm slightly mad."
  • Remember I'm English, so we hug at the end of things, not at the beginning."
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Miriam's Great American Adventure starts on Monday 3rd January at 9pm on BBC1

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