Britain’s Helen McCrory, who starred in Harry Potter films and the Peaky Blinders television series, has died after a battle with cancer, her husband, actor Damian Lewis, said on Twitter on Friday. She was 52.
“I’m heartbroken to announce that after an heroic battle with cancer, the beautiful and mighty woman that is Helen McCrory has died peacefully at home, surrounded by a wave of love from friends and family,” Lewis said.
“She died as she lived. Fearlessly. God we loved her and know how lucky we are to have had her in our lives. She blazed so brightly. Go now, Little One, into the air, and thank you.”
Acting career began on stage
McCrory played Polly Gray, the matriarch of a crime family on Peaky Blinders, taking a starring role in all five seasons thus far.
The show’s official Twitter account posted a tribute to the actor and her time as Polly soon after news of her death broke.
Helen McCrory as Polly Gray<br><br>All our love and thoughts are with Helen’s family. <br><br>Rest in peace. <a href=”https://t.co/HBEg4Hz2Up”>pic.twitter.com/HBEg4Hz2Up</a>
She also portrayed the scheming Narcissa Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies — with her last appearance in the series’ final entry Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 — and appeared in the James Bond movie Skyfall in 2012.
McCrory was born in 1968 in London to Welsh and Scottish parents Ann and Iain McCrory.
Though she saw great success on the screen, McCrory’s career first took off from the stage.
She was a regular in U.K. theatre, and made a name for herself playing Rose Trelawny in Trelawny of ‘Wells’ in 1993, and Lady Macbeth in the 1995 West End production of the Shakespearean tragedy.
She later received three awards, including a London Evening Standard award, for her portrayal of Yelena in Uncle Vanya, and was nominated for an Olivier award for her performance in As You Like It.
Though she had roles as far back as the early ’90s — her first was in Interview with the Vampire with Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise — her film career took off in 2006. That year, she also earned a best supporting actress nomination from the London Critics’ Circle for her work in The Queen.
McCrory married Damian Lewis the following year, and they had a daughter together.
She had been slated to play the villainous Bellatrix Lestrange in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoneix, but was forced to pull out due to her pregnancy. She was later cast as Bellatrix’s sister, Narcissa Malfoy.
McCrory and Lewis had a second child in 2008, and in a 2018 interview, Lewis said they made the “difficult” decision to continue working while their children were young.
McCrory’s commitment to work seemed to pay off. While many performers struggle to find meaty female roles in film and television, she played a string of them.
“Having said that, there are a lot of things I turn down,” she told The Associated Press in 2016, describing the sort of roles where “all your lines are ‘But what did you do at work?’ ‘That’s so clever, darling.’ ‘How did you do that?’ ‘And then what did you do?’ “
“Of course, there’s so much sexism within the profession,” McCrory said. “But I think you approach it in different ways, and my approach is just to forge forward.”