James Edward Carter
19 August 1948
James Edward Carter,(born 19 August 1948) is an English film and television actor. He is best known for his role in Downton Abbey (2010–2015) playing Mr Carson, a role that has earned him four nominations for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (2012–2015). He reprised his role in the feature film Downton Abbey (2019).
Carter's film credits include A Private Function (1984), A Month in the Country (1987), A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia (1992), The Madness of King George (1994), Richard III (1995), Brassed Off (1996), Shakespeare in Love (1998), Ella Enchanted (2004), The Thief Lord (2006), The Golden Compass (2007), Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (2010), My Week with Marilyn (2011), and The Good Liar (2019).
His television credits include Lipstick on Your Collar (1993), Cracker (1994), The Way We Live Now (2001), The Singing Detective (1986), As Dectective Sergeant Tomkins in Minder (1994), Arabian Nights (2000), The Chest (1997), Red Riding (2009), A Very British Coup (1988), the Hornblower episode "Duty" (2003) and the Midsomer Murders episode "The Fisher King" (2004), and Dinotopia (2002). He also plays Captain Brown in the five-part BBC series Cranford (2007) alongside his wife, Imelda Staunton. He recently appeared in King Lear on PBS alongside Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. He also appeared in an episode of “Fox”, “Just another villain in a cheap suit” as Cliff Ryan, in 1980.
Carter was born in Harrogate in the West Riding of Yorkshire, England. His mother was a land girl and later a school secretary and his father worked for the Air Ministry. Carter attended Ashville College, Harrogate, where he was head boy in his final year, and the University of Sussex where he studied law and became a leading light of the fledgling Drama Society, playing the title role in Serjeant Musgrave's Dance, the first student production at the newly built Gardner Arts Centre theatre. He dropped out of university after two years to join a fringe theatre group in Brighton.
He began acting professionally in "the early 1970s." When asked, "If you hadn't become an actor, what would you have done professionally?" he answered, "I wouldn't have pursued law—I'd actually dropped out of law into English, I'd even changed my course. But when the offer came from this fringe theatre group, the Brighton Combination, to leave university and join them for five quid a week, it was like a door opening, and there wasn't a moment's hesitation. I walked through that door and never looked back. I have never earned a penny from doing anything apart from acting. I have never had another job."
His first paid job for £5 a week with free board and lodging was in a play called Gum and Goo by Howard Brenton for the Brighton Combination. Howard Brenton's Gum and Goo was first produced by the Brighton Combination (in Brighton) in 1969.
He appeared in Howard Brenton's Winter Daddykins in July 1968 for the Brighton Combination. It was directed by Barry Edwards, and Carter performed with Fiona Baker and Lily Sue Todd. This is probably the play referred to in Jenny Harris's website that took place on 9 July 1968 in the Brighton Combination's cafe. Jenny Harris was one of the initiators of the Brighton Combination. Jim Carter mentioned her in one interview as one who started the Brighton Combination. She was then head of the National Theatre's education department.
In 1970, he performed in the show Come Together at London's Royal Court Theatre together with the Brighton Combination and the Ken Campbell Roadshow along with other theatre personalities and groups. The Royal Court's Come Together Festival was on the cover page of Plays and Players magazine issue of December 1970. Scenes from this festival are also featured in this issue. The Come Together festival opened at the Royal Court Theatre on 21 October 1970 and contributed to one of the Royal Court's best years. The festival brought the avante-garde like the Brighton Combination and Ken Campbell into the Court. The Brighton Combination presented "The NAB Show", a politically oriented account of the National Assistance Board.
He first worked at the Combination Theatre Company in Brighton. Later he joined the Newcastle University Theatre where he played, among other parts, Estragon in Waiting for Godot. From 1974 to 1976 he toured America with the Ken Campbell Roadshow and on his return joined the Phoenix Theatre in Leicester. In 1977 he joined the National Theatre Company where he appeared as Dom Fiollo (sic) in The Hunchback of Notre Dame at the Cottesloe Theatre. In 1978 he became a member of the Young Vic Company appearing as Stephano in The Tempest, Buckingham in Richard III and Mephistopheles in Faust. In 1978 he went to America to study in a circus school where he learned juggling, unicycling and tightrope walking. From 21 May to 29 June 1980 he played Trebonius/Marullus/Poet in a Julius Caeasar production of Riverside Studios directed by Peter Gill. He performs magic acts in cabarets. The Young Vic's Richard III production in 1978, which featured James Carter with, among others, Bill Wallis and Michael Attwell, was directed by Michael Bogdanov. He also performed in the Young Vic production of Bartholomew Fair in 1978. It was also directed by Michael Bogdanov.
He was a member of The Madhouse Company of London, a comedy troupe which performed in Boston in the 1970s; together with the late Marcel Steiner (1931–1999), Marc Weil and Tommy Shands. Ken Campbell was also associated with the group. The Madhouse Co. was an offshoot of the Ken Campbell's Roadshow that came to New York City and Boston. It broke up eventually and Steiner and Carter returned to England. The Madhouse Co. was in Cambridge, Massachusetts. in August 1976. The Madhouse Company of London was mentioned and its shows advertised and reviewed in several New York magazine issues from April 1974 to March 1975. Marc Weil created The Madhouse Company of London in 1973.
In June to August 2005, he appeared in The President of an Empty Room at the National Theatre (written by Stephen Knight and directed by Howard Davies). When he did this he had not done theatre in 14 years. He considers his appearance in Richard Eyre's 1982 National Theatre revival of Guys and Dolls a significant moment. It was when he met his future wife, Imelda Staunton, who also appeared in this play. He considers Richard Eyre and Howard Davies two of his favourite directors. He was with the Brighton Combination still when it moved to London and opened a theatre called the Albany in Deptford. In his own words: "The Brighton Combination moved to London and started a theatre called the Albany in Deptford, and I was with them then."
In the early 1970s, the Brighton Combination, a touring fringe theatre group, became resident in the Albany Institute in Deptford, South East London. This was considered one of the great achievements of the Albany's then director Paul Curno. By fusing community work and the arts, Director Paul Curno and "The Combination" transformed the Albany's fortunes. This fusion still drives the Albany to this day. The Brighton Combination Company moved to become resident at the Albany in SE London in 1972 with a brief to set up community action and arts development projects. It combined artistic and cultural works with social activism.
He performed in the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith, London in Jean Cocteau's The Infernal Machine (with Maggie Smith and with Simon Callow directing, 1986–87). Photos and a review of this play appeared in Plays and Players magazine in January 1987.
He also performed in The Mysteries: The Nativity, The Passion and Doomsday at the Cottesloe Theatre for the National Theatre in 1984 and 1985. Both performances were directed by Bill Bryden.
He appeared in Doug Lucie's Fashion in May–June 1990 at the Tricycle Theatre, directed by Michael Attenborough.
In the Royal Shakespeare Company's (RSC)The Wizard of Oz production, Carter played the Cowardly Lion while his wife, Imelda Staunton, played Dorothy. He considers playing a baddie dressed in black in the cowboy film Rustlers' Rhapsody one of the highlights of his career. The Wizard of Oz was directed by Ian Judge; it opened on 17 December 1987 at the RSC's Barbican Theatre. It played in repertory through 27 February 1988.
Carter narrates the pre-shows and announcements for the ride "Hex – The Legend of the Towers", at Alton Towers theme park in Staffordshire, United Kingdom.
He narrated the six-part series Home Front Britain, a documentary of life in Britain during World War II created and produced by the Discovery Channel and the British Film Institute. Home Front Britain was broadcast on Discovery Channel from 11 September 2009.
In 2013, Carter was featured in a Greenpeace campaign about the effects of global warming.
Jim Carter and actress Imelda Staunton met in January 1982 during rehearsals of Richard Eyre's Guys and Dolls at the National Theatre. Carter was 34, Staunton was 26 and she considered him already old. According to Staunton, "we worked together for a year and it was a slow burn rather than a heady rush of passion." Carter and Staunton married in 1983 and have one daughter, Bessie, born in 1993. Bessie enrolled at the National Youth Theatre in 2010. Staunton says of Carter's acting: "He has never been the sort of actor who yearns to play Hamlet. Maybe it's because he came to acting from performing in the circus. He has always done just what he wants to do."
Staunton would later proudly claim that after 21 years of marriage, she and Carter had been apart for only three weeks. They have a terrier named Molly.
Carter is a former chairman of Hampstead Cricket Club, whose ground is near his home. On 18 September 2011 he organised the Hampstead Cricket Club (HCC) Celebrity Cricket Match. It was HCC's third annual charity celebrity cricket match.
Carter is a keen cyclist and has frequently ridden for charity causes. On 30 September 2011 Carter travelled with 25 other riders to Ghana for a 10-day trip which included six days of cycling to raise money for clean water in the small impoverished town of Tafo. This was his tenth charity ride. The previous nine (Jordan, Costa Rica, Laos, Vietnam, India, Namibia, Chile, Argentina and London to Paris—twice) were to raise money for the National Deaf Children's Society. He intended to raise a minimum of £2,750 but ended up with £8,670.
As of October 2019[update], Carter lives in West Hampstead, north London.
Carter was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2019 New Year Honours for services to drama.
|1980||Flash Gordon||Azurian Man|
|1984||Top Secret!||Déjà Vu, Resistance Member|
|1984||The Company of Wolves||Second Husband||Uncredited|
|1984||A Private Function||Inspector Noble|
|1986||The American Way||Castro|
|1987||A Month in the Country||Ellerbeck|
|1988||The First Kangaroos||Arthur Hughes|
|1988||The Tenth Man||Pierre|
|1988||The Raggedy Rawney|
|1989||The Rainbow||Mr. Harby|
|1989||Erik the Viking||Jennifer the Viking|
|1990||The Witches||Head Chef|
|1990||The Fool||Mr. Blackthorn|
|1992||Blame It on the Bellboy||Rossi|
|1993||The Hour of the Pig||Mathieu|
|1994||Black Beauty||John Manly|
|1994||The Madness of King George||Fox|
|1995||Richard III||Lord Hastings|
|1995||The Grotesque||George Lecky|
|1997||Keep the Aspidistra Flying||Erskine|
|1998||Bill's New Frock||Mr. Platworthy||Short|
|1998||Vigo: A Passion for Life||Bonaventure||Uncredited|
|1998||Shakespeare in Love||Ralph Bashford||Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture|
|2000||The Little Vampire||Rookery|
|2000||102 Dalmatians||Detective Armstrong|
|2003||Bright Young Things||Chief Customs Officer|
|2003||16 Years of Alcohol||Director|
|2004||Casablanca Driver||Joe Mateo, l'agent|
|2004||Out of Season||Michael Philipps|
|2005||House of 9||The Watcher||Voice|
|2006||The Thief Lord||Victor|
|2007||Cassandra's Dream||Garage Boss|
|2007||The Golden Compass||John Faa|
|2008||The Oxford Murders||Inspector Petersen|
|2009||Burlesque Fairytales||The Compere|
|2010||Punk Strut: The Movie||Skippy|
|2010||Alice in Wonderland||The Executioner||Voice|
|2011||My Week with Marilyn||Barry|
|2017||Transformers: The Last Knight||Cogman||Voice|
|2018||Swimming with Men||Ted|
|2019||Downton Abbey||Charles Carson|
|2019||The Good Liar||Vincent|
|1980||Fox||Cliff Ryan||2 episodes|
|1982||Not The Nine O'Clock News||Darts Referee||1 episode|
|1984||December Flower||Dentist||TV film|
|1985||The Bill||Stan||1 episode: "Death of a Cracksman"|
|1985||Widows 2||Det. Insp. Frinton||Mini-series (2 episodes)|
|1986||The Monocled Mutineer||Spencer||1 episode: "A Dead Man on Leave"|
|1986||Lost Empires||Inspector Crabbe||Mini-series (2 episodes)|
|1986||The Singing Detective||Mr. Marlow||5 episodes|
|1987||Harry's Kingdom||Bill||TV film|
|1988||Star Trap||Dr. Wax||TV film|
|1988||A Very British Coup||The Cabinet – Newsome||Mini-series (2 episodes)|
|1988||Hallmark Hall of Fame||Pierre||1 episodes: "The Tenth Man"|
|1988||Thompson||1 episode: "Episode No.1.6"|
|1989||Precious Bane||Sarn||TV film|
|1989–1994||Screen Two||Father||2 episodes|
|1990||A Sense of Guilt||Richard Murray||7 episodes|
|1990||Zorro||Colonel Mefisto Palomarez||2 episodes|
|1990||The Gravy Train||Personip||1 episode: "Episode No.1.3"|
|1991||Incident in Judaea||Afranius||TV film|
|1991||Screen One||Ray Galton||1 episode: "Hancock"|
|1991||Casualty||Matthew Charlton||1 episode: "Dangerous Games"|
|1991–1999||Murder Most Horrid||Various||3 episodes|
|1992||Great Performances||Meinertzhagen||1 episode: "A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia"|
|1992||Between the Lines||D.I. Dick Corbett||1 episode: "Lies and Damned Lies"|
|1992||Soldier Soldier||Snr. Supt. Derek Tierney, RHKP||1 episode: "Lifelines"|
|1993||Lipstick on Your Collar'||Inspector||Mini-series|
|1993||A Year in Provence||Ted Hopkins||Mini-series (1 episode: "Room Service")|
|1993||The Comic Strip Presents...||Commander||1 episode: "Detectives on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown"|
|1993||Medics||Hugh Buckley||1 episode: "Episode No.3.6"|
|1993||Resnick: Rough Treatment||Grabianski||TV film|
|1993||The Murder of James Bulger||Narrator||BBC Documentary|
|1994||Pie in the Sky||Alec Bailey||1 episode: "Passion Fruit Fool"|
|1994||Cracker||Kenneth Trant||3 episodes|
|1994||Shakespeare: The Animated Tales||Marc Anthony (voice)||1 episode: "Julius Caesar"|
|1994||Open Fire||Dept. Chief Supt. Young||TV film|
|1994||Midnight Movie||Henry Harris||TV film|
|1995||It Could Be You||Wally "Lottery" Whaley||TV film|
|1995||The Late Show||Albert Knox||Documentary (1 episode: "Sophie's World")|
|1995||Dangerfield||Stephen Millwood||1 episode: "A Patient's Secret"|
|1995||Mrs. Hartley and the Growth Centre||Inspector||TV film|
|1995||Coogan's Run||Fraser||1 episode: "Natural Born Quizzers"|
|1995||The All New Alexei Sayle Show||various roles||Appeared in all six episodes in the second season|
|1997||Harpur and Iles||Tenderness Mellick||TV film|
|1997||The Missing Postman||DS Lawrence Pitman||TV film|
|1997||The Chest||Roland Blood||TV film|
|1997||Alas Smith and Jones||1 episode: "Episode No. 9.5"|
|1997||Ain't Misbehavin'||Maxie Morrell||3 episodes|
|1997||Bright Hair||Norman Devenish||TV film|
|1999||Trial By Fire||Geoffrey Bailey||TV film|
|1999||Tube Tales||Ticket Inspector||TV film|
|2000||Arabian Nights||Ja'Far||TV film|
|2000||The Scarlet Pimpernel||General La Forge||TV series (1 episode: "Friends and Enemies")|
|2001||Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story||Odin, Member of Great Council of Mac Slec||TV film|
|2001||The Way We Live Now||Mr. Brehgert||TV mini-series (3 episodes)|
|2002||Inside the Murdoch Dynasty||Narrator||TV film|
|2002||Dinotopia||Mayor Waldo Seville||Mini-series (3 episodes)|
|2002||Dalziel and Pascoe||Ted Lowry||1 episode: "The Unwanted"|
|2003||Hornblower: Duty||Etheridge||TV film|
|2003||Helen of Troy||Pirithous||TV film|
|2003||Strange||Inspector Stuart||1 episode: "Asmoth"|
|2003||Trevor's World of Sport||Sir Frank Luckton||1 episode: "A Man's Game"|
|2003||Trial & Retribution||Dr. Jenkins||1 episode: "Suspicion: Part 1"|
|2003||Pompeii: The Last Day||Polybius||TV film|
|2003||Cromwell: Warts and All||Oliver Cromwell||TV film|
|2003||Midsomer Murders||Nathan Green||TV series (1 episode: "The Fisher King")|
|2004||London||Henry Fielding||TV film|
|2004||Von Trapped||Larry Lavelle||TV film|
|2004||Blue Murder||Frank Evans||1 episode: "Up in Smoke"|
|2006||Aberfan: The Untold Story||Lord Robens||TV documentary|
|2006||The Secret Life of Mrs. Beeton||Henry Dorling||TV film|
|2006||The Wind in the Willows||Engine Driver||TV film|
|2007||Recovery||Mr. Lockwood||TV film|
|2007||Silent Witness||Malcolm Young||2 episodes|
|2007–2009||Cranford||Captain Brown||Mini-series (7 episodes)|
|2008||Caught in a Trap||Brian Perkins||TV film|
|2009||Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1980||Harold Angus||TV film|
|2009||Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1983||Harold Angus||TV film|
|2010–2015||Downton Abbey||Mr Charles Carson||52 episodes|
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (2012-2015)
Nominated – Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor - Series, Miniseries or Television Film
|2013||Secrets of the Stonehenge Skeletons||Narrator||TV film documentary|
|2013||Secrets from the Workhouse||Narrator||2 episodes|
|2013||Queen Victoria And The Crippled Kaiser||Narrator||TV Documentary|
|2015||"Building Hitler's Supergun"||Narrator||TV Documentary|
|2017||Knightfall||Pope Boniface VIII|
|2018||King Lear||Earl of Kent||Television film|
His National Theatre performances (as James Carter):
His Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) performances include:
Summary of James "Jim" Carter's stage works:
[Was with the Brighton Combination when it became resident in the Albany in Deptford, SE London, 1972]