Beautiful Ms Dockrey stars as ‘Lady Mary Crawley’ in the hit TV series “Downton Abbey”. She was born in London in 1981. Her father hails from Athlone. She has also starred in Henry James’s “The Turn of the Screw”.
While she was not born onto the grand life that she often enjoyed on screen, Michelle Dockery’s portrayals of the so-called repressed, rich girl always seemed effortless and genuine. The classically trained actress first gained attention in her native England, where Dockery landed featured roles on television, including the miniseries “Cranford” (BBC, 2007) and the mystery “The Turn of the Screw” (BBC, 2009). While her characters were refined and often chafed at promiscuity and violence, the actress also portrayed harder-edged characters, such as she did in the crime drama “Red Riding Trilogy” (Channel 4, 2009) and the American film “Hanna” (2011). Dockery’s most memorable role, however, was on the critically acclaimed series “Downton Abbey” (iTV, 2010- ), as a seemingly cold-hearted aristocrat who slowly reveals her naiveté about love and her frustrations as a result of her family pressuring her into marriage. Dockery’s performance on the series was undoubtedly her breakthrough role and established her as a formidable actress with a bright future.
Born on Dec. 15, 1981 in Essex, England, Dockery grew up in Romford, East London, England, where she was raised by her father, Michael, and her mother, Lorraine. She worked in a variety of after-school and weekend jobs to pay for her education at the Guildhall School of Music, where she graduated in 2004. Dockery also studied for 14 months at London’s National Theatre. Early in her career, she earned rave reviews for her stage performances, including a portrayal of Eliza Doolittle in Peter Hall’s production of “Pygmalion” (2008). Since then, she was often cast as the a girl or privilege in projects like the made-for-TV drama “Cranford” (BBC, 2007) and in “The Turn of the Screw,” where she played a sexually repressed governess who believes she is haunted by the ghosts of a mansion’s former tenants. In 2006, Dockery starred in the two-part TV movie “Hogfather,” based on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld (1983) series of fantasy novels. She played Susan Death, a schoolteacher who reluctantly battles various malignant forces after inheriting her grandfather’s supernatural powers. Meanwhile, Dockery had several opportunities to play against type, including in two of three parts to the “Red Riding Trilogy” (Channel 4, 2009), where she had a supporting roles as a policewoman helping to track down a serial killer.
In 2011, Dockery appeared in the feature film “Hanna,” about a 16-year-old girl (Saoirse Ronan) who was raised by her father (Eric Bana) to be the perfect assassin and is being tracked down by a ruthless C.I.A. agent (Cate Blanchett). In the film, Dockery played Blanchett’s ill-fated body double, who has the misfortune of being on the losing end of an encounter with the teenaged assassin. While the actress had certainly made inroads in her native country, she did not achieve international stardom until 2010 as Lady Mary Crawley on Julian Fellowes’ drama series “Downton Abbey,” a critically acclaimed costume drama about the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants that became a surprise hit in the U.S. As the eldest daughter of the Earl and Countess of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern), Dockery’s Lady Mary was a cold, refined and sharp-tongued snob who would not even mourn nor acknowledge her cousin and fiancé’s untimely death. Playing the high and mighty Lady Mary suited Dockery to a tee, yet as the series progressed, audiences saw her character soften and reveal some of the reasons behind her tough exterior. For her efforts, Dockery earned Emmy, SAG and Golden Globe award nominations for Best Actress in a Drama Series.
By Candy Cuenco
The above TCM overview can also be accessed online here.