Dame Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg, DBE (20 July 1938 10 September 2020) was a classically-trained English actress who worked with Britain's Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre, as well as appearing on Broadway. She received the Tony Award for Medea, as well as an Emmy Award for playing Mrs. Danvers in a TV adaptation of Rebecca. She also played Hedda Gabler and Regan in King Lear, among many other parts. She was made CBE in 1988 and a Dame in 1994.
She was of course well known for her groundbreaking and iconic role as Emma Peel, the most famous female partner of British agent John Steed (Patrick Macnee) in the British TV series The Avengers, and for playing the only woman James Bond has ever married, Tracy di Vicenzo, in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. In keeping with that spirit, Rigg was the host of PBS' Mystery from 1989-2003. She also made a new mark in the 2010s by playing Lady Olenna Tyrell (aka "The Queen of Thorns") in Game of Thrones.
In other words, Diana went from helping to invent the Spy Catsuit trope by wearing it, to playing a seriously scary sort of Cool Old Lady. When Lady Olenna Tyrell boasts about her sexual charms when she was young, it's a fair bet that many viewers are remembering Emma Peel in leather. And one advantage of her acting skill was that she was able to play a formidable Deadpan Snarker at any and every age.
Her daughter, Rachael Stirling, is also an actress, with a prolific career on both stage and TV. The two of them appeared in Doctor Who, in an episode that was apparently written specifically for them.
She passed away from lung cancer on September 10, 2020, at age 82.
Selected Film Roles
- The Assassination Bureau (1968) as Sonya Winter
- A Midsummer Night's Dream (1968) as Helena
- On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) as Countess Teresa "Tracy" Draco di Vicenzo/Mrs James Bond
- Julius Caesar (1970) as Portia
- The Hospital (1971) as Barbara Drummond
- Theatre of Blood (1973) as Edwina Lionheart
- The Great Muppet Caper (1981) as Lady Holiday
- Evil Under the Sun (1982) as Arlena Stuart Marshall
- Snow White (1987) as the Evil Queen
- Parting Shots (1998) as Lisa Sterndale
- The Painted Veil (2006) as Mother Superior
- Last Night in Soho (2021) as Miss Collins
Selected Television Roles
- The Avengers (1965-1968) as Emma Peel
- King Lear (1983) as Regan
- Bleak House (1985 BBC miniseries) as Lady Honoria Dedlock
- The Worst Witch (1986, The Film of the Series) as Miss Hardbroom
- Rebecca (1997 miniseries) as Mrs. Danvers
- Extras: Daniel Radcliffe as herself
- Doctor Who: "The Crimson Horror" (2013) as Mrs. Gillyflower
- Game of Thrones (2013-2017) as Lady Olenna Tyrell
- You, Me and the Apocalypse (2015) as Sutton
- All Creatures Great & Small (2020)
- Black Narcissus (2020) as Mother Dorothea
Tropes & Trivia about her career:
- I Am Not Spock: To her, Emma Peel was just a role among many and she rapidly moved on from it, but to many people, it's the only one they know of her, and this was much to her chagrin. She flat out refused to attend fan conventions about The Avengers, tended to avoid questions about the series when interviews didn't call for it, and sent back fan mail that had pictures of Emma Peel without signing them.
- Posthumous Credit: Both Black Narcissus and Last Night in Soho were released after she passed away. Also counts for her second episode of All Creatures Great & Small, "A Tricki Case", which aired 12 days after her passing.