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Vanessa Kirby

An acclaimed stage actress in her native England, Vanessa Kirby also rose to fame on the small screen with her Emmy-nominated role as Princess Margaret on "The Crown" (Netflix, 2016- ). Born in Wimbledon, London, Kirby was the daughter of prostate surgeon and university professor Roger Kirby and magazine editor Jane Kirby. By her own account, Kirby had a childhood marked by highs and lows: she was well cared for by her parents, who introduced her to a wide array of film and theater, which eventually spurred her interest in acting. But she also suffered from giardia, an intestinal condition caused by parasites, which required constant and invasive medical attention, and dealt with frequent bullying by other students while attending Lady Eleanor Holles School. Her path to professional acting took a equally challenging route: Kirby was turned down by the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, and took a gap year to travel throughout Africa and Asian before returning to England to enroll at the University of Exeter. She obtained a degree in English and earned an opportunity to study at the London Academy of Musical and Dramatic Arts. But Kirby turned it down to launch her professional career at the Octagon Theatre in 2010; there, she earned rave reviews and the "Rising Star" Award from the "Manchester Evening News." More critical praised followed her appearances at the Royal National Theatre, as well as her television debut in the '50s-set BBC drama series "The Hour" (2011-12). By the following year, Kirby was dividing her time between stage work in the well-received Young Vic production of "Three Sisters" (2012), television roles in the BBC's "Great Expectations" miniseries (2011) and the Ridley Scott-produced "Labyrinth" (Channel 4, 2012) and her first film appearances, beginning in 2012 with the crime drama "The Rise." Critical praise for all of these efforts led to roles in major features like Richard Curtis' "About Time" (2013) and leads in John Boorman's nostalgic "Queen & Country" (2014), as well as award-winning turns in stage productions of "A Streetcar Named Desire" at the Young Vic in 2014. Despite the exposure, Kirby had yet to receive her breakout screen role; that changed in 2016 when she was cast as Princess Margaret, younger sister to Queen Elizabeth II, on "The Crown." Kirby drew stellar reviews for her turn as Margaret, who over the course of the series' first two seasons, emerged from beneath Elizabeth's shadow and from the wreckage of a ruined engagement to find her own way, as well as a bona fide love in photographer Anthony Armstrong-Jones (Matthew Goode). For her performance, Kirby netted an Emmy nomination and BAFTA Award, and the expanded exposure led to major roles in Hollywood features, including the arms dealer known as the White Widow on "Mission: Impossible - Fallout" (2018) and "Hobbs & Shaw" (2019), a spin-off of the "Fast and Furious" franchise with Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham.
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