16 Things You Didn’t Know About Mamma Mia’s Lily James

Lily James has a number of credits to her name from Mamma Mia! to Cinderella. You might be used to seeing her on the big — and even the small screen — but just how well do you know the actress? Don’t worry, this isn’t a quiz. We’re here to fill you.

You can count on seeing a lot more of Lily in the near future, so you might as well get to know a bit more about her now. Take a look at 16 interesting facts about the actress.

16. She met Matt Smith on the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies set.

If you only know a few things about Lily James, you will likely know that she is going out with Matt Smith, aka the OG Prince Philip on The Crown. What you might not be aware of is that Lily and Matt met on the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies set. Lily played Elizabeth Bennet while Matt played Mr. William Collins in the 2016 thriller-action-romance mash-up. Look how far they’ve come!

We’re all familiar with the fact Lily places the younger version of Meryl Streep’s character Donna Sheridan in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. If you think that Lily was a good match, it turns out there’s more to it than sparkling personalities and excellent singing voices. Meryl and Lily are related. According to Hello!, the pair are ninth cousins, three times removed, and are both descended from Henry Howland of Cambridgeshire in the 1600s. We doubt the casting directors knew that tidbit when they were making their final picks for the Mamma Mia! sequel because the actresses didn’t know it themselves!

14. Her family has acting experience.

Lily isn’t the only thespian in her family. Her grandmother was American actress Helen Horton. She has a number of credits to her name spanning from the 1950s to the 1990s. One of her most famous roles was Mother in 1979’s Alien. She also appeared on the Ellis Island TV movie and was Miss Henderson in Superman II. Like Lily, she appeared in both British and American works.

13. Her TV debut was in 2010 with Just William.

A lot of people likely became familiar with Lily thanks to 2015’s Cinderella. But it was five years prior to that she made her TV debut in Just William. She played the part of Ethel Brown on the BBC One show. The show had only four episodes and was based on the classic short stories by Richmal Crompton about an 11-year-old boy and his group of “Outlaws.”

12. She was in Downton Abbey.

If you didn’t recognize Lily at the time Downton Abbey first aired, go and rewatch it now. Lily played Lady Rose MacClare. The character had appearances in seasons three, four and five. If you didn’t see it, we won’t say too much more. What we will say is that Lily is easy to spot because she still has her blonde hair, but with a 1920s twist.

11. She changed her last name as a tribute to her father who passed away from cancer.

There are a number of actors who have changed their names when they go to Hollywood. Lily changed hers, but there was a sentimental reason for it. Lily was born Lily Chloe Ninette Thomson, but she changed her surname to “James” as a tribute to her father, James Thomson, who passed away from cancer in 2008.

10. Lily originally auditioned to play an ugly stepsister in Cinderella.

Here’s something that will shock you: Lily didn’t originally audition for the part of Cinderella in the 2015 movie. She actually auditioned to play one of the ugly stepsisters. She explained to the New York Post, “I thought it would be interesting to play an off-center character who doesn’t have to be pretty.” Needless to say, the casting directors thought Lily would be better suited to the starring role thanks to her blonde hair and pretty obvious beauty.

9. She went to the same school as Julie Andrews.

Lily attended the Tring Park School for the Performing Arts in Tring, England. The prestigious school reportedly cost thousands to attend and boasts an illustrious list of alumni. Some of the famous faces who attended the school besides Lily include Julie Andrews, Daisy Ridley and Lily’s fellow Downton Abbey costar Jessica Brown Findlay.

8. She is looking forward to having kids.

Matt Smith generated a lot of headlines when he revealed he wanted “lots” of kids. Of course, Lily was asked about her boyfriend’s comments. In an interview with Porter, she wouldn’t comment on the quote but she did say she was looking forward to having babies. “Two of my closest girlfriends just had babies and I adore them,” she stated. “It’s amazing to see what that brings to your life. You know, it becomes the most important thing, and that kind of shift is something I look forward to.”

7. She’s naturally a brunette.

Cinderella fans might be shocked to hear that Lily actually isn’t a natural blonde. She naturally has dark hair. Go back to some her earlier roles and red carpet appearances and you can see her with a much richer hair color. The blonde locks obviously helped her land the part of the Disney princess, along with the one as Meryl Streep’s younger version.

6. Lily is the voice in Sorry to Bother You.

If you’ve seen Sorry to Bother You and were wondering why “Detroit’s White British” voice sounded so familiar, the answer is because it’s Lily. If you haven’t seen the movie, go and watch it to hear Lily and to see some great acting from Tessa Thompson, Danny Glover and more.

5. She is hoping to take on more daring roles.

The ugly stepsister audition might have been a clue that Lily wants to go beyond the Disney princess and historical roles. She has played a number of different parts, although there is an obvious throwback theme. Lily told ELLE UK in 2016, “Maybe I should be a b*tch now …. I’m so much more than those roles,” referencing Cinderella and War & Peace‘s Natasha Rostova. “I can be challenging, too, and not always sunny in the way people might expect. I’m not afraid to insult people, not purposefully, but … to have strength of conviction and trust myself.”

4. There was controversy over her Cinderella look.

When the Cinderella trailer and movie posters came out, many people were caught up in the magic. However, others were upset that it looked like her waist had been Photoshopped. There were denials from the cast and crew. After that controversy quieted down, people became upset that the corset made her waist a reported 17 inches. And there were reports how Lily went on a liquid diet for the role.

3. She has appeared in a number of theater productions.

After she attended the Tring Park School for the Performing Arts, Lily went to London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She graduated in 2010 and secured a number of theater roles. Her professional theater debut was in 2011 with a stage adaptation of DBC Pierre‘s novel Vernon God Little. She has since appeared in Othello, Romeo and Juliet, Play House, Definitely the Bahamas and The Seagull.

2. She reunited with Cinderella costar Richard Madden on stage.

If you thought Cinderella was peak romance for Lily and Richard Madden, aka Prince Charming, they appeared in another work to top it: Romeo and Juliet. In 2016, the pair reunited to play star-crossed lovers in London’s West End for the production at the Garrick Theatre. It was actually a full reunion because the director was Kenneth Branagh, who also directed Cinderella. If you didn’t see Romeo and Juliet live, you should be able to find the DVD.

1. Lily lives in London.

Lily hasn’t set up house in the Hollywood Hills just yet like some of her co-stars. The actress was born and raised in Esher, Surrey, England and is still based in her home country. Now she lives in trendy Hackney, London.

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