|Whitehall, home to Sir Humphrey Appleby|
As you all know, I love the British sitcoms Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister. In the two series, Nigel Hawthorne played the role of Sir Humphrey Appleby, the man in charge of the civil servants who work in the Ministry of Administrative Affairs. He carried the role with such style and aplomb, and always more than held his own when playing his scenes with many other formidable British actors. As he played starring roles in lots of subsequent productions, I assumed he had always been a highly sought-out actor. But a documentary on his life, included on the Yes Minister DVD set, makes it clear that he found no real success in acting for the first thirty years of his life.
Growing up in South Africa, he received no encouragement whatsoever from his parents regarding his desired career. So he returned to England, the country of his birth, and took whatever little acting parts he could get. All his TV roles were bit parts, for the most part minor appearances in shows unremarkable and long forgotten. He suffered alone, without anyone to champion his cause, never giving up on acting (as so many actors do), until he finally landed the role of Sir Humphrey on Yes Minister. Finally, at the age of 50, he found a part for which he was ideally suited, and which resonated with the viewing public. That role made him a star with the British public, freed him from the necessity of taking on bit parts, and finally allowed him to sink his teeth into major roles in other productions.
Talk about determination! Talk about persistence! Talk about never giving up on your dreams!
If you'd like to watch this short film about his life (split into three 15 minute segments), follow the link below.
Related Internet Links
Nigel Hawthorne Remembered