5 Best Lily James Roles
Lily James is a relatively new face in Hollywood, but her career is certainly on the rise. After she cut her teeth with roles in a handful of shows in her native Britain such as Just William, Secret Diary of a Call Girl and eventually the massively-popular Downton Abbey, she went on to a breakout performance as the eponymous Cinderella in the 2015 live-action remake. She may not be a household name yet — but with notable mass-market roles like Debora, the love interest in Baby Driver, young Donna Sheridan in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again and an upcoming role in Danny Boyle’s untitled musical film, it is likely she soon will be. Here are her five best roles so far.
Young Donna Sheridan, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)
The writers of the Mamma Mia sequel took a page from Francis Ford Coppola’s iconic film The Godfather Part II. Like Coppola’s sequel, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again follows the parallel paths of parent and child through similar watershed moments of their lives, with James playing the role of young Donna Sheridan and Amanda Seyfried reprising her role as Donna’s daughter Sophie. Like the first film, it is a fun romp scored by ABBA, one of the best pop bands of all time.
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Lady Rose MacClare, Downton Abbey (2012 to 2015)
James had a sizeable role in BBC’s sprawling Downton Abbey. The show’s timeline spread from the sinking of the Titanic to the interwar period. James’s Lady Rose MacClare first arrived in series 3 and her role continued in some regard until the end of the show. She first comes to the grand estate to live with her great-aunt Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith) in 1920 as a result of her distaste for life in London. Her role, like the show at large, was widely beloved.
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Debora, Baby Driver (2017)
Following the conclusion of his Cornetto Trilogy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End) director Edgar Wright went for something a bit different. Baby Driver is a film about a getaway driver named Baby (Ansel Elgort). While it could certainly be categorized as an action film — with a lot of carefully-crafted musical driving sequences — at its core, it is a love story between Baby and his love interest Debora (James), a waitress at a local greasy-spoon diner. It is a bit saccharine, but an enjoyable film nonetheless.
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Cinderella, Cinderella (2015)
Cinderella is a story that has been told many times throughout history — especially since the invention of film. It would be easy for this, yet another remake, to rub the audience as tired and trite. Not so, in this case. Kenneth Branagh — director of Thor and Murder on the Orient Express (2017) — manages to stay faithful to the source material while also pleasing audiences and critics alike. In addition to acclaim for its production design, the performances of both James as Ella and Cate Blanchett as her stepmother received much praise.
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Natasha Rostava, War & Peace (2016)
In BBC’s 6-episode miniseries based on Leo Tolstoy’s seminal novel War & Peace, James plays the role of Natasha Rostava. Rostava is one of a handful of young aristocrats whose lives — and respective searches for meaning — under the Russian Empire during the Napoleonic Wars are documented in the show. It was extremely well-received by critics and thoroughly enjoyed by viewers.
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