Credit: Shutterstock/Nigel Hawthorne

I didn't really know who I was, until I was middle-aged

Known for his role as Sir Humphrey Appleby in the hugely popular sitcoms Yes Minister and then Yes, Prime Minister, Nigel Hawthorne was a true thespian, winning awards on both the stage and screen for his leading role in The Madness of King George.

Growing up in England and South Africa, Nigel began acting at the University of Cape Town before deciding to take the profession up as a career. His debut was in a 1950 production of The Shop at Sly Corner in Cape Town, but he soon decided that in order to make a living on the stage, he needed to move back to London. His first roles were not to come from the direction he expected. After auditioning unsuccessfully for stage roles, he began to find work in small roles on television.

In 1977 his fortunes changed when he was cast as Sir Humphrey Appleby in a new political sitcom Yes, Minister. The role would make him a household name, and earn him four BAFTAs. His success continued when he was cast as King George in Alan Bennett’s play The Madness of King George, playing the ailing monarch first at the West End, then Broadway, and then on the big screen. The part gave him an Oscar nomination, and led to his knighthood in 1999.