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Joanne Whalley
Born (1961-08-25) 25 August 1961 (age 62)
Other names Joanne Whalley-Kilmer
Occupation Actress
Years active 1974–present
(m. 1988; div. 1996)
Children 2, including Jack Kilmer

Joanne Whalley (born 25 August 1961) is an English film and television actress who was credited as Joanne Whalley-Kilmer from 1988 to 1996 during her marriage to Val Kilmer.

Whalley came to fame through television with appearances drama serials Edge of Darkness (BBC, 1985), for which she was nominated for the BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress, and The Singing Detective (BBC, 1986). She has also appeared in both British and American feature films, including Willow (1988), where she met Kilmer, and Scandal (1989).

Her subsequent career has seen her cast as a number of iconic historical and fictional figures including Scarlett O'Hara in Scarlett (CBS, 1994), Jackie Kennedy in Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis (CBS, 2000), Queen Mary I in The Virgin Queen (BBC, 2005) and Catherine of Aragon in Wolf Hall (BBC, 2015).


Early life and career

Whalley was born in Salford, Lancashire, and later moved to Levenshulme and then to Stockport, Greater Manchester. There, she attended Bredbury Comprehensive School, before leaving to study at Harrytown Convent Girls' School in Romiley and the Braeside School of Speech and Drama in Marple. As a child actress, from 1974 to 1979, Whalley made a number of television appearances including bit parts in popular soap operas Coronation Street and Emmerdale.

She made her feature film debut as a young Beatles fan in Richard Marquand's biographical film, Birth of the Beatles (1979) and flirted with the fringes of the Manchester New Wave scene by briefly being a member of a Stockport-based band called the Slowguns, but left before the release of the first of their two singles later that year. Her television work continued with early appearances in episodes of popular series including Juliet Bravo and The Gentle Touch.

From 1982 to 1986 she studied and performed with the Royal Court Theatre starting at the 1982 Young Writers' Festival by originating the role of Rita in Max Stafford-Clark's first production of Andrea Dunbar's Rita, Sue and Bob Too. That same year she made a non-speaking appearance as a groupie in Alan Parker's musical drama Pink Floyd – The Wall (1982), featured in Stan Barstow's well-received TV series A Kind of Loving (Granada, 1982) and starred as Gilly Brown alongside Trevor Eve in Danny Boyle's production of The Genius at the Royal Court Theatre.

At this time, she was also the lead singer of the pop group Cindy & The Saffrons; they recorded the Shangri-Las' song "Past, Present and Future" in 1982 at Abbey Road Studios, and the track made the UK singles charts, peaking at #56. The next year they recorded "Terry", written and originally recorded by Twinkle, but this single failed to chart. The group split up soon afterward.

Continuing her theatrical work, she played the title role in the first production of Daniel Mornin's Kate at the Bush Theatre in 1983. That year she also appeared in episodes of popular TV series Bergerac and Reilly, Ace of Spies. Her work for the English Stage Company at the Royal Court Theatre continued with performances as Pam in Danny Boyle's production of Saved and June in Max Stafford-Clark's The Pope's Wedding from 1984 to 1985.

Rise to prominence

Whalley found early success on British television with a lead role in Troy Kennedy Martin's highly-regarded and influential drama serial Edge of Darkness (BBC, 1985), for which she received a nomination for the BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress. At this time she appeared in Alan Bleasdale's comedy film No Surrender (1985) and two films for Mike Newell: The Good Father (FilmFour, 1985) and the critically acclaimed Dance with a Stranger (Goldcrest, 1985). She also concluded her work at the Royal Court Theatre this year by performing the role of Bianca in William Gaskill's production of Women Beware Women and then moved to the Royal National Theatre appearing as Dewey Dell in Peter Gill's productions of As I Lay Dying at the Cottesloe Theatre.

Further television success came with the key role of Nurse Mills in Dennis Potter's drama serial The Singing Detective (BBC, 1986). She concluded her work with the Royal National Theatre that year by performing as Euphie and 1st Cutie in Peter Gill and John Burgess's The Women. The following year she performed as Masha in Bill Kenwright and Elijah Moshinsky's production of Three Sisters at the Albery Theatre and the Greenwich Theatre.

Whalley met the American actor Val Kilmer in 1987 while filming her first US lead role in George Lucas and Ron Howard's Academy Award nominated fantasy adventure Willow (1988). After her wedding to Kilmer in 1988, she moved to Los Angeles to continue her film career and began using 'Joanne Whalley-Kilmer' as her professional SAG-AFTRA name.

Her most notable British film role to date was as Christine Keeler in Michael Caton-Jones' historical drama Scandal (1989), a fictionalised account of the Profumo affair, which screened in competition at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival, featuring John Hurt as Stephen Ward and Sir Ian McKellen as John Profumo. That same year she also co-starred with Kilmer in John Dahl's neo-noir Kill Me Again (1989) and received a Theatre World Award for her performance of Geraldine Barklay in John Tillinger's off-Broadway production of What the Butler Saw for the Manhattan Theatre Club.

Further theatrical work came with her performance in the title role of Lulu in Ian McDiarmid's production of The Lulu Plays at the Almeida Theatre in 1990 to 1991. Later that year she gave birth to her first child, Mercedes, in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

She recreated Margaret Mitchell's iconic heroine Scarlett O'Hara, originally played by Vivien Leigh's Gone with the Wind (1939), in the Emmy Award-winning TV miniseries Scarlett (CBS, 1994). That same year she also played the lead role in Heywood Gould's legal thriller Trial By Jury (1994). She gave birth to her second child, Jack, the following year.

After her divorce from Kilmer in 1996, she changed her surname back to Whalley, starting with her lead role in Jon Amiel's spy comedy The Man Who Knew Too Little (1997) starring Bill Murray. She played the title role of former US First Lady Jackie Kennedy in David Burton Morris's Emmy Award-winning miniseries Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis (CBS, 2000).

Later career

She later collaborated with the pop-punk band Blink-182, reading a letter at the beginning of the song "Stockholm Syndrome". In 2005, she appeared as Queen Mary I in The Virgin Queen, a BBC serial about the life of Queen Elizabeth I which also starred Anne-Marie Duff and Tara FitzGerald. That same year she filmed Played which also starred her ex-husband Val Kilmer. However, the two did not share any scenes together. In 2006, she appeared in Life Line, a two-part drama on BBC1, starring opposite Ray Stevenson.

In February 2008, she appeared on stage in Billy Roche's Poor Beast in the Rain presented by the Salem K. Theatre Company at the Matrix Theatre in Los Angeles. In that same year, Whalley was also a regular in the ITV mini series Flood with Robert Carlyle amongst others.

Whalley played one of the female leads, Vannozza dei Cattanei, mistress of Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia, future Pope Alexander VI, in the Showtime historical drama The Borgias (2011), for which she was nominated for a Best Actress Golden Nymph Award at the Monte-Carlo Television Festival.

She guest-starred as Princess Sophie in season 4 of Gossip Girl. With the cast of 44 Inch Chest, she shared the Best Ensemble Award at the San Diego Film Critics Society Awards 2010. The film reunited her with John Hurt, with whom she had done two previous films. In 2014 she played Aunt Patience in Jamaica Inn for BBC One. In 2015, she played Claudia, the wife of Pontius Pilate, in A.D. The Bible Continues, and Catherine of Aragon in the BBC miniseries Wolf Hall.

She has made a number of appearances in streaming shows including roles as Sister Maggie in the third season of Daredevil (2018), reprising her role of Sorsha from Willow (Lucas Film, 1988) in Willow (Disney+, 2022), and a guest appearance in an episode of the second season of Carnival Row (Prime, 2023).

In 2020, Whalley starred in Eleanor Coppola's anthology film Love Is Love Is Love. It was scheduled to have its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2020, but the festival was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The film subsequently premiered at the Deauville American Film Festival in France in September of that year.

Personal life

Whalley met American actor Val Kilmer while filming the movie Willow. The couple married in 1988. Whalley took a break from acting to bring up two children with Kilmer: a daughter, Mercedes, born on 29 October 1991 and a son, Jack, born on 6 June 1995. Shortly after that, the pair separated. Whalley filed for divorce on 21 July 1995, citing irreconcilable differences.



Year Title Role Notes
1982 Pink Floyd – The Wall Groupie
1985 Dance with a Stranger Christine
No Surrender Cheryl
The Good Father Mary Hall
1988 Willow Sorsha
To Kill a Priest Anna
1989 Scandal Christine Keeler as Joanne Whalley-Kilmer
Kill Me Again Fay Forrester as Joanne Whalley-Kilmer
1990 Navy SEALs Claire Varrens as Joanne Whalley-Kilmer
The Big Man Beth Scoular as Joanne Whalley-Kilmer; also known as Crossing the Line
1991 Shattered Jenny Scott as Joanne Whalley-Kilmer
Storyville Natalie Tate as Joanne Whalley-Kilmer
1993 The Secret Rapture Katherine Coleridge as Joanne Whalley-Kilmer
1994 Mother's Boys Colleen 'Callie' Harland as Joanne Whalley-Kilmer
A Good Man in Africa Celia Adekunle as Joanne Whalley-Kilmer
Trial by Jury Valerie Alston as Joanne Whalley-Kilmer
1997 The Man Who Knew Too Little Lori
1999 A Texas Funeral Miranda
2000 The Guilty Natalie Crane
Breathtaking Caroline Henshow
2002 Before You Go Mary
Virginia's Run Jessie Eastwood
2005 The Californians Luna
2006 Played Maggie
2007 Flood Commissioner Patricia Nash
2009 44 Inch Chest Liz Diamond
2011 Golf in the Kingdom Agatha McNaughton
Twixt Denise
2017 Muse Jacqueline
2018 Paul, Apostle of Christ Priscilla
2020 Love Is Love Is Love Joanne


Year Title Role Notes
1974, 1976 Coronation Street Pamela Graham 3 episodes
1975 Joby Molly McLeod ITV Yorkshire television film
1976, 1978 Crown Court Janice Scott/Linda Mason 3 episodes
1977 Emmerdale Farm Angela Read 6 episodes
1976–79 How We Used to Live Marjorie Dawson/Sarah Hughes 20 episodes
1978 The One and Only Phyllis Dixey Doris ITV television film
1979 Omnibus Little Red Riding Hood/Madge 2 episodes
1980 ITV Playhouse Lindsey Episode: "Too Close to the Edge"
Juliet Bravo Maureen Maskell Episode: "Shot Gun"
Scene Evelyn Episode: "And Mum Came Too"
1980–81 Coming Home Travel agent 2 episodes
1981 The Gaffer Nancy Episode: "The Trouble with Women"
Noddy Mary Television film
1982 A Kind of Loving Ingrid Rotherwell (Brown) Main role, 8 episodes
The Gentle Touch Dany Episode: "Dany"
1983 Bergerac Christine Bolton Episode: "Always Leave Them Laughing"
Reilly, Ace of Spies Ulla ITV television miniseries; episode: "The Visiting Fireman"
1984 A Christmas Carol Fan CBS television film
1985 Edge of Darkness Emma Craven 6 episodes
1986 The Singing Detective Nurse Mills 6 episodes
1987 Screen Two Jackie Series 3, TV film: "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?"
1994 Scarlett Scarlett O'Hara CBS television miniseries; Lead role; as Joanne Whalley-Kilmer
2000 Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis CBS television film
Run the Wild Fields Ruby Miller Showtime Original television film
2005 The Virgin Queen Mary I Television miniseries
Child of Mine Tess Palmer TV film
2006 Justice League Unlimited Emerald Empress Voice, episode: "Far from Home"
2009 Diverted Marion Price CBC television miniseries
2011–12 Gossip Girl Princess Sophie Grimaldi 7 episodes
2011–13 The Borgias Vanozza Cattaneo Main role, 25 episodes
2013 The Challenger Disaster Gweneth Feynman BBC television film; also known as The Challenger Disaster
2014 Jamaica Inn Patience Merlyn BBC One television miniseries
2015 Wolf Hall Catherine of Aragon BBC Two television miniseries
The Ark Emmie BBC One television film
A.D. The Bible Continues Claudia, wife of Pontius Pilate Main role, 12 episodes
2016 Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands Rheda Main role, 13 episodes
2017 The White Princess Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy Television miniseries
2018 Daredevil Sister Maggie Main role, season 3
2020 Tin Star Mary James
2022 Willow Sorsha Disney+ sequel series; 3 episodes
2023 Carnival Row Leonora Season 2

See also

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