Lesley Nicol

A veteran performer on the English stage and television since the mid-1980s, actress Leslie Nicol vaulted to international fame as the imperious cook, Mrs. Patmore, on "Downton Abbey (ITV/PBS, 2010-16). For much of her early career, Nicol divided her time between bit and supporting roles on television and in theater productions, with her first feature coming more than a decade after her first small-screen appearance on the hit U.K. comedy "East is East" (1999). By the year 2000, she had advanced to major roles in musicals like "Mamma Mia!" and a recurring turn in TV advertisements for Tetley Tea. But it was "Downton Abbey" that thrust Nicol, like many of its performers, into the international spotlight, where public television viewers around the world delighted in her iron rule of the Crawley estate's kitchen staff, as well as her increasingly matronly relationship with Sophie McShera's maid, Daisy. The exposure afforded by "Downton" led to roles in American television, but more importantly, a second act to a career that seemed at long last pointed towards more substantive stardom.