Billie Piper’s career, from pop star to Doctor Who fan-favourite and Rare Beasts director

Swindon-born actor has worn many hats over an illustrious career

Annabel Nugent@annabelnugent
Wednesday 19 May 2021 17:39
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Rare Beasts trailer released

Billie Piper is making her directorial debut with the release of her dark comedy Rare Beasts later this week.

Prior to this career-first though, Piper has already worn many hats since bursting onto the scene as a young teenager.

The Swindon-born actor – who was originally named Leian Paul Piper before her parents legally changed it to Billie a few months after her birth – first found fame as a singer aged 15.

In 1998, Piper became the youngest female solo artist ever to debut at number one with her hit track “Because We Want To”. She still holds the record today, 24 years later.

The song wasn’t Piper’s only musical feat, with the singer’s following singles (including “Girlfriend” and “She Wants To”) achieving similar success.

In 1999, Piper was nominated for two Brit Awards, including Best Breakthrough Artist and Best British Female Solo Artist.

Following the release of her second album titled Walk of Life in 2000, Piper announced in 2003 that she was turning her attention to an acting career instead.

Her first significant TV role came in the first episode of BBC One’s Canterbury Tales miniseries in 2003, in which she starred opposite James Nesbitt.

Billie Piper

Piper later played the love interest to Orlando Bloom’s character in the 2004 mockumentary The Calcium Kid.

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That same year, Piper took on what remains her most memorable role to date in the first series of the BBC’s Doctor Who reboot.

The actor starred as Rose Tyler in seasons one and two of the hugely successful sci-fi drama, acting opposite the ninth and tenth incarnations of The Doctor (played by Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant, respectively).

In 2005, Piper won the Most Popular Actress award at the National Television Awards for her work on the series and is still considered a fan-favourite companion. She has since made multiple appearances in later seasons of the show.

Following Doctor Who, Piper took on the titular role in Secret Diary of a Call Girl, which ran on ITV from 2007 to 2011.

She played a high-end escort named Hannah Baxter, AKA Belle de Jour.

Since then, the actor has received critical acclaim for a number of performances both on both the screen and stage.

Notable mentions include her role as Sally Lockhart in the BBC adaptation of Philip Pullman’s The Ruby in the Smoke, as Lily Frankenstein in the horror series Penny Dreadful, and as Karen Mars in the Carey-Mulligan-led BBC drama Collateral – the last of which earned Piper a Bafta nomination in 2019.

On stage, Piper’s turn as Her in the Young Vic’s 2016 production of Federico Garcia Lorca’s 1934 play Yerma was widely praised. The actor picked up six awards for her performance, including the illustrious Laurence Olivier Award.

The 38-year-old recently made headlines with last year’s critically acclaimed series I Hate Suzie.

Reuniting with Secret Diary of a Call Girl writer Lucy Prebble, Piper co-created and starred in the raucous dark comedy.

The series earned Piper a Bafta nod for Best Actress, and was also feted with a nomination in the Best Drama Series category as well as earning a Best Supporting Actress nomination for co-star Leila Farzad.

Following her forthcoming role in Rare Beasts, Piper will next be seen on the big screen in the highly anticipated film Catherine, Called Birdy.

The project – an adaptation of the medieval 1994 novel by Karen Cushman – is directed by Girls star Lena Dunham and will see Piper star opposite Andrew Scott and Game of Thrones’s Bella Ramsey.

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