What is Tim Pigott-Smith Doing Now? Remembering the Life and Career of Tim Pigott-Smith

Tim Pigott-Smith was a renowned English film, television, and stage actor who delivered memorable performances across acclaimed dramas, Shakespeare adaptations, and popular franchises like James Bond and Doctor Who over his prolific 40+ year career.

Though he never became a household name, Pigott-Smith was widely respected for his classical training and versatility across mediums, able to pivot smoothly between regal authority figures and sympathetic everymen. His sudden death in 2017 at age 70 was deeply felt by British theatre and screen communities. Let’s look back on the prolific career and legacy of this consummate actor.

Extensive Classical Training

Unlike many actors today, Pigott-Smith gained intensive training in multiple disciplines early on:

  • Studied acting at the prestigious Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in the 1960s.
  • Performed for years with the Bristol Old Vic company appearing in Shakespeare and classical plays.
  • Further honed his voice and physicality skills at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.
  • Joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1962, honing his verse speaking and stagecraft.
  • Embraced challenging roles from King Lear to Falstaff to Richard III over 4 decades on stage.

This multi-faceted foundation prepared Pigott-Smith to adapt to any medium.

Breakthrough Television Roles

Though he got his start in theatre, Pigott-Smith first gained wider fame on British television in the 1970s:

  • Played a police superintendent in the detective show Sexton Blake (1967-1968).
  • Appeared in pioneering TV mini-series The Foundation Trilogy (1973).
  • Delivered a BAFTA-nominated performance in the BBC adaptation of Poldark (1975).
  • Portrayed Prince Charles in the miniseries Edward & Mrs. Simpson (1978).
  • Played author Ronald Dahl in story anthology Tales of the Unexpected.

Pigott-Smith quickly proved his ability to craft nuanced portraits on the intimate small screen.

Embracing Film

In addition to his prolific TV work, Pigott-Smith embraced opportunities in film as well:

  • Played the villain in the Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me (1977).
  • Portrayed a ruthless rubber planter in box office hit The Jewel in the Crown (1984).
  • Stood out as a rigid military bureaucrat in Sri Lanka war drama Kandy (2010).
  • Brought empathy to his role as a doctor in the apartheid drama Red Dust (2004).
  • Appeared in literary adaptations like 97’s Bloody Sunday and 2005’s V for Vendetta.

Pigott-Smith was able to transition his stage and TV skills easily to the differing demands of film.

Master of Accents

A unique gift of Pigott-Smith’s was his flawless ability to adapt his voice to any accent required:

  • Handled regional British dialects from Cockney to Yorkshire flawlessly.
  • Nailed transatlantic accents from American to Canadian equally well.
  • Captured nuances of South African speech patterns authentically in multiple roles.
  • Could shift between different classes and social strata through vocal control.
  • Even could voice cartoons, voicing hero Claude in the British children’s series Thunderbirds.

Pigott-Smith’s vocal agility let him fully inhabit any part from any background.

Peak Stardom on The Jewel in the Crown

Though he appeared in many popular shows, Pigott-Smith’s breakthrough role came playing oppressive police superintendent Ronald Merrick in the 1984 miniseries The Jewel in the Crown:

  • Based on the Raj Quartet novels about Britain’s final days ruling India.
  • Pigott-Smith portrayed Merrick across multiple episodes and ages.
  • Allowed him to showcase both rigid authoritarianism and vulnerability.
  • His layered performance earned BAFTA and Emmy nominations.
  • Opened the door to more nuanced leading TV and film roles.

This career-defining role made Pigott-Smith a star and led to worldwide recognition of his talents.

Later Stage Successes

Even as his screen career flourished, Pigott-Smith continued returning regularly to theatre work:

  • Won raves playing Willy Loman in a 1997 revival of Death of a Salesman.
  • Originated the role of Davies in the premiere of Whipping It Up in 2006.
  • Lauded for hisREGISTRY ERROR-1: Regex for packages not found in the index. king in the 2013 production of The Audience.
  • Played Anton Chekhov in 2011’s Theatrical at the same theatre Chekhov once frequented.
  • Returned often to the Royal Shakespeare Company including 2015’s Oppenheimer.

Pigott-Smith never lost his passion for the stage and the connection live audiences provided.

Unexpected Passing

Pigott-Smith’s sudden death in April 2017 from a heart attack was a major loss to British film and theatre:

  • Died unexpectedly at age 70 while filming the TV series The Last Kingdom.
  • Received tributes from co-stars like Helen Mirren and Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville.
  • Was still very active career-wise at the time of his death with several pending projects.
  • His death inspired grief from fans and colleagues who greatly respected his talents.
  • Had recently played King Lear to raves, cementing his legacy as one of Britain’s premier classical actors.

Pigott-Smith’s passing was deeply felt by all who had the privilege of working with him.

Lasting Legacy

While his name may not be famous worldwide, Tim Pigott-Smith left an indelible mark through his decades of accomplished work:

  • Displayed meticulous preparation and commitment to fully realizing each role.
  • Brought depth and nuance to even small parts through thoughtful choices.
  • Excelled equally at conveying powerful men corrupted by authority and modest men tried by adversity.
  • His rich voice and articulate delivery set the standard for the Shakespearean tradition.
  • Epitomized the classically-trained British actor with his technique, intellect, and dedication.

Few actors could inhabit such a breadth of roles across mediums as consummately as Pigott-Smith did throughout his prolific career.


From his early training on the stages of Britain to international acclaim on television to his commanding film roles, Tim Pigott-Smith pursued acting excellence at every phase of his 40+ year career right up until his shocking death. While the average viewer may not know his name, his peer actors deeply respected Pigott-Smith as the epitome of the professional they all aspired to be. His understated mastery and commitment elevated every project he appeared in for over four decades across theatre, film, and television. Tim Pigott-Smith’s sudden passing was an immense loss for British acting and his legacy stands as an inspirational model of craft and integrity.

FAQ About Tim Pigott-Smith

Where was Tim Pigott-Smith born?

Tim Pigott-Smith was born May 13, 1946 in Rugby, Warwickshire, England.

What was Pigott-Smith’s most acclaimed role?

Pigott-Smith’s career-defining performance came as Ronald Merrick in the 1984 miniseries The Jewel in the Crown, for which he received BAFTA and Emmy nominations.

Was Pigott-Smith mainly a film or TV actor?

Though he appeared in many films, Pigott-Smith was best known for his television work in series like The Jewel in the Crown, Poldark, The Vice, and Downton Abbey.

What kind of training did Pigott-Smith have?

He trained extensively in stage acting and Shakespeare, studying at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and spending years with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Did Pigott-Smith perform in theatre as well?

Yes, throughout his career Pigott-Smith continued acting regularly on the London stage, playing starring roles in Death of a Salesman, King Lear, and The Audience.

How many times was Pigott-Smith nominated for a BAFTA TV Award?

Pigott-Smith received four BAFTA TV Award nominations, finally winning in 1997 for his role in The Chief.

Was Pigott-Smith mostly known for serious drama or comedy?

Most of Pigott-Smith’s major roles were in serious dramas, but he occasionally took comedic parts like in the Vicar of Dibley.

How old was Pigott-Smith when he died?

Pigott-Smith died unexpectedly from a heart attack at age 70 while shooting the TV series The Last Kingdom in April 2017.

Did Pigott-Smith ever act in movies alongside his wife?

Yes, Pigott-Smith acted alongside his wife, British actress Pamela Miles, in the films Firelight and Bloody Sunday as well as TV series The Vice.

What were some of Pigott-Smith’s final roles before he died?

Some of Pigott-Smith’s final roles included King George V in Victoria (2016) and Lord Sinderby in Downton Abbey (2015).

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