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10 Things You Need to Know About Mamma Mia’s Lily James

Get to know the young Donna!
10 Things You Need to Know About Mamma Mia’s Lily James
IMAGE YOUTUBE/UniversalPictures
Get to know the young Donna!

Cinderella, Baby Driver, and Downton Abbey star Lily James’ newest movie role might be her most exciting yet. The British actress is playing the younger version of Meryl Streep's character, Donna Sheridan, in the new Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again. Read on for 10 facts about the promising star to help you get to know her better:

1. Lily James is not her real name.

Her real name is Lily Chloe Ninette Thompson, which she changed in honor of her late father, James Thomson, who passed away in 2008.

2. She is from England.

Lily was born in Surrey, South East England and has two brothers.

3. Most of her relatives were also in entertainment.

Lily’s mother Ninette was an actress and her grandmother named Helen Horton voiced spaceship computer The Mother in Alien. Her father was an actor and a musician in a band called Two Way with actor Anthony Head.

4. She did theater before acting in major films. 


After graduating in 2010 from Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, she pursued several stage roles such as Taylor in the Young Vic’s adaptation of Vernon God Little in 2011. She made her return to theater in 2016 as Juliet in the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company production of Romeo & Juliet.

5. She started acting on TV in 2010.

She debuted in her first television appearance as Ethel Brown in Just William. Later on, she took on more television roles such as Poppy in Secret Diary of a Call Girl, Lady Rose in Downton Abbey, and Natasha Rostov in War and Peace.

6. She originally didn’t audition to be the lead in Cinderella.

Apparently, Lily auditioned for the role of one the ugly sisters in Disney’s live action Cinderella. Something we did not expect at all!

7. Her natural hair color is brown.

She originally dyed her hair blonde for her role as Lady Rose in Downton Abbey, which eventually helped her land the role of Cinderella.


8. She is currently dating Doctor Who’s Matt Smith.

The pair first met on the set of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies in 2014. Matt played Mr. Collins, while Lily played the protagonist Elizabeth Bennet. However, she prefers to keep their relationship private, telling InStyle UK, "In regards to your love life, you're just entering into a whole of pain if you talk about it. If you've never said anything, there are no sound bites to haunt you when you're crying into a box of Kleenex after it all goes wrong."

9. She is an advocate for the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

It all started when her father raised money for charity after the disease took his brother’s life. Now, to honor both her father and uncle, she participates in the organization’s fundraisers. She also participated in the #TIMESUP campaign against sexual harassment and abuse toward women in Hollywood.

10. She has won two SAG awards.


Lily snagged the Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series award for her role in Downton Abbey back in 2015 and 2016 Screen Actors Guild Awards.