Some of the best British actors working today join forces for the new BBC series A Very British Scandal, including Queen of the period dramas Claire Foy.
The actress has established herself as one of the finest British talents working today, and now she’s turned her attention to the BBC’s highly anticipated drama arriving on Boxing Day.
The three-parter, written by Sarah Phelps, tells the rise and fall of troubled socialite Margaret Campbell, Duchess of Argyll (Claire Foy), who was ‘hung out to dry’ by the press after a very public divorce battle with her husband Ian Campbell (Paul Bettany).
There’s plenty to get stuck into across the series, including stunning 60s fashion, rip-roaring parties and incredible Scottish backdrops.
It’s the biggest role Claire has enjoyed in recent times – and it gives a perfect chance to look back at her best career moments, from The Crown to The Girl in the Spider’s Web.
These are our top picks for Claire’s best roles, ranked.
5. Wolf Hall
Claire has already gathered momentum in her career with White Heat and the BBC’s adaptation of Upstairs Downstairs, but it was Wolf Hall in 2015 that took things to the next level for her.
She added a steely determination to Anne Boleyn, and played her as an ambitious character rather than a pawn in a royal power struggle. She brought flaws and complexity to the role, and she did it all without having hours of screen time to work with. While Mark Rylance and Damian Lewis made the headlines as Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII respectively, this marked her out as a real talent.
4. The Girl in the Spider’s Web
This is the role that saw her break away from the shackles of period drama, and prove she could do far, far more.
Many actresses would have found stepping into the shoes of Noomi Rapace and Rooney Mara in the role of Lisbeth Salander an intimidating prospect, but Claire rose to the challenge as the freelance surveillance agent and hacker.
We might have been more used to seeing her in prim and proper costume productions, but here we saw her in full motorcycle leathers and tattoos, taking part in shoot-outs, car chases and generally tearing it up for our viewing pleasure. A welcome change of pace, which came at the right time in her career in 2018.
3. First Man
First Man is one of the many examples from Claire’s career of her doing so much with so little. While Ryan Gosling was off galavanting in space as Neil Armstrong in Damien Chazelle’s biopic, Claire was left to pick up the pieces at home as his first wife Janet Armstrong.
It’s the kind of performance which the actress gives so well – economical, understated but expressive, and showing rather than telling when it comes to emotion. It’s one of the classiest movie roles from her career to date.
After the success of The Crown, which marked a more restrained role for Claire (more on that later), she wanted to show off her range in her next project. That’s where Unsane comes in.
The eerie, stripped back psychological horror from Steven Soderbergh was shot entirely on an iPhone and sees Claire show off her entire scale of acting chops. She physically fills the screen in intense close-up, portraying a woman confined to a mental institution after she believes she’s pursued by a stalker.
A real hidden gem.
1. The Crown
And of course, it has to be The Crown. It’s the role which took her career to another level, and her turn as the young Elizabeth II is worthy of all the plaudits it received.
As ever, she could portray so much with so little – a little look betraying the anxiety she felt as a young monarch, looking to grapple with a nation devastated after WWII.
Like a number of her roles over the years, there’s quiet determination behind the eyes throughout. Her ability to capture the complexity of the young Elizabeth, negotiating the crumbling of the British Empire with steel was one of the strongest elements of the entire show.
Her chemistry with Matt Smith as Prince Phillip is also one of the standouts of the early seasons of the drama. However, it was definitely Claire that stole the limelight, and marked herself out as one of the acting talents of her generation.