×
Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Why Marilla Cuthbert from Anne with an E looks so familiar

Since making its premiere in March 2017, Netflix's stunning coming-of-age drama Anne with an E has done nothing but warm hearts and charm the wits out of everyone who's watched it. Unfortunately, it seems the list of Anne with an E viewers has never been quite as long as Netflix had hoped, with the streaming giant and Canadian TV network CBC Television cancelling the series shortly after releasing its third season, which aired on CBC in September 2019 before hitting Netflix in January 2020. Even as heartbroken fans continue to rally behind the show in hopes of inspiring a reprieve, it would seem Anne with an E's Netflix run has officially come to an end.

And that's a shame, because the show — based on Lucy Maud Montgomery's beloved 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables — had proven itself a stylish, heartfelt adaptation true to its origins and to said origins' unabashedly progressive ideas. If you're unfamiliar with either, Anne with an E tells the tale of a 19th-century orphan girl named Anne Shirley (Amybeth McNulty) who's mistakenly sent to live with a middle-aged brother and sister who'd been looking to adopt a young boy to help with work on their Prince Edward Island farm. 

The ensuing tale is focused on Anne's travails navigating her new life with Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, played by R.H. Thompson and Geraldine James, respectively. As such, the actors who portray the Cuthberts carry as much of the dramatic load on Anne with an E as the brilliant young star of the show. Those stars will likely seem familiar to viewers who find their way to Anne with an E's glorious shores — with Geraldine James' face in particular standing out among series regulars. And trust us, you have seen James' face before. Here's why Marilla Cuthbert from Anne with an E looks so familiar. 

Geraldine James got the royal treatment for the Downton Abbey movie

Geraldine James has been a notable presence on the U.K. film and television scene since the 1980s. She's shared the screen with virtually every major British actor around in some seriously high-profile projects — like Charlotte Rampling in 45 Years, Helen Mirren in Calendar Girls, Helena Bonham Carter in Alice in Wonderland, Daniel Craig in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Felicity Jones in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. James crossed even more names off that list in 2019, when she signed on to appear in Julian Fellowes' mostly fantastic big-screen adaptation of his Masterpiece Theater classic Downton Abbey.

Set in the early 20th century, the series chronicles the lives of the fictional Crawley family and the legions of servants who run their sprawling Yorkshire County estate. Equal parts chamber drama, charming class study, and bracing social satire, Downton Abbey has become one of the most beloved series in Masterpiece history, and has helped bolster the careers of young stars like Dan Stevens, Lily James, and more. It's also provided steady work for well-established players like Imelda Staunton, Elizabeth McGovern, Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, and Jim Carter.

Fellowes continued the Crawleys' story with a Downton Abbey film in 2019, and in doing so, he told a grander Downton Abbey tale than the world had ever seen. Naturally, that tale involved a visit from no less than the Queen herself. In casting such a vital role for the movie, Fellowes found the perfect amount of regal and raucous in the face of Geraldine James, who clearly had loads of fun with her saucy supporting turn as Queen Mary. 

Geraldine James called Baker Street home in Sherlock Holmes

Stayed drama and stately shenanigans aren't everyone's cup of tea, but even if chamber drama isn't your bag, you've probably still seen Geraldine James at work on the big screen. She's twice shared it with Robert Downey Jr. – in a pair of full-blown Hollywood blockbusters no less.

No, James didn't appear in any of the Iron Man flicks, but she did turn up opposite RDJ in his action-packed 2009 take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famed literary sleuth Sherlock Holmes. Directed by Guy Ritchie, Sherlock Holmes features Downey Jr. as the titular detective opposite Jude Law as his faithful assistant Dr. Watson. More a bold re-imagining of Holmes mythos than a straight-forward adaptation, the film proved a massive hit, pulling in nearly $525 million worldwide. A sequel entitled Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows appeared just two years later, and surpassed its predecessor in global revenue by almost $20 million.

While the star-studded adaptations have featured a virtual who's-who of U.K. talent, there's little doubt you noted James' face among the crowded cast. Her stoically sassy take on Holmes' landlady Mrs. Hudson remains one of the all-time best depictions of the character. Here's hoping she reprises the role in the upcoming Sherlock Holmes 3

Geraldine James worked with David Fincher in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Even the stuffy cineastes out there who wouldn't be caught dead walking into a theater for such blockbuster fare as Sherlock Holmes have likely seen Geraldine James at work. The actress made a striking turn opposite Daniel Craig in director David Fincher's 2011 adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Featuring Craig as Mikael Blomkvist and Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo finds the disgraced journalist Mikael and the genius hacker Lisbeth hired by an aging patriarch named Henrik Vanger (played by Christopher Plummer) to uncover the truth behind Henrik's niece's disappearance 40 years prior. In doing so, Henrik puts Mikael and Lisabeth hot on the trail of his own family, who have more skeletons in their closet than your average family of ex-Nazi billionaire industrialists.

James appeared in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo as the elder Vanger sibling, Cecilia. Though the character was dramatically altered from her initial depiction in Stieg Larson's novel upon which the film is based, James makes the most of the changes — delivering a simmering performance as a menacingly intelligent woman with particular reasons for wanting to keep Vanger family secrets just that.