Toby Stephens. Period.

I recently posted on Toby Stephens’ wonderful performance in the recent BBC adaptation of Jane Eyre, and that got me thinking about all the other period dramas he has been in.. (there are so so many!) What is it about this man that makes him so deliciously suited to practically every period..?!

I first spotted Toby in 1996 when he played Gilbert Markham in the BBC adaptation of Anne Bronte’s Tenant of Wildfell Hall. He was just the perfect choice for this character! This is a lovely series (and great that Anne gets some screen time instead of just adapting Jane Eyre/Wuthering Heights-much as I love them!) I highly recommend it for anyone who hasn’t seen it!

In 1999 the lovely Mr Stephens starred alongside Ralph Fiennes in ‘Onegin’, an adaptation of Pushkin’s poem. Set in 19th Century Russia, Toby plays the idealistic young poet Lensky- I won’t give away the plot, but let’s just say it’s tragic.. A wonderful movie with a fab cast, I highly recommend this to Toby and Ralph fans alike.

Another series I can’t recommend highly enough is Cambridge Spies. This was a really clever series (and highly populated with dashing young actors – Rupert Penry Jones, Tom Hollander, Samuel West and of course the ever wonderful Toby.) Set in 1934 the series focused on the true story of four young Cambridge students who were recruited to be spies for Russia. Toby plays Kim Philby (his real-life wife also stars alongside him which is quite interesting!) and this is just Toby at his best. 😀

Films like Twelfth Night and The Great Gatsby also saw Toby strutting his stuff in some cracking period dramas, and another interesting (but perhaps slightly strange one?), is an early film “Photographing Fairies”. Set after WW1, Toby plays a photographer coping with the loss of his wife (with the help of a few fairies!) As I say, it is a bit weird at points, but Toby fans can happily overlook this I think..

Toby has also played some fantastic period villains.. a la Prince John in the BBC tv series Robin Hood, and Dodd in Sharp’s Challenge. There is something about his drawling sneer which just makes for perfect villianous viewing.

There are even more which I haven’t yet seen, but very much look forward to doing(!): Cousin Bette is a 1998 adaptation of Balzac’s novel; I haven’t read this either so not sure whether Toby has a big part but it definitely looks like it is worth a go! The Camomile Lawn is a really early series which Toby had a big part in (alongside a blonde(!) Lizzy Bennett, a.k.a. Jennifer Ehle) set just before WW2 and again I am tempted to view (I think you can watch this free on 4oD too which is a bonus!) Another interesting one is “The Rising: Ballad of Mangal Pandey” set in 1857 focusing on the Indian fight against British rule. Toby plays William Gordon and it looks as though he has a big part(?)- would be interested to hear from anyone who has seen it if it is worth a view..?! But surely anything Toby is worth a view…?! 😛 (Can you tell I’m a fan yet..)

I am sure there are also lots, lots more.. but I think the above selection just illustrates how wonderfully versatile Toby is as an actor and how amazingly he is suited to the realm of period drama.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Jyothi
    Apr 05, 2011 @ 01:50:43

    Isn’t he just absolutely drool-worthy as Mr Rochester?
    He’s great in Mangal Pandey as well– had a lot of dialogues in Hindi when in managed impeccably! 🙂 But doesn’t look as good as he did in the rest of the period dramas, though….


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