Raquel Cassidy

Mix a cup of Melanie Lynskey earthiness with a dash of Mary-Louise Parker allure, and you start to get a mental image of English actress Raquel Cassidy. The youngest of three children born to a Spanish mother and an Irish-Mancunian journalist in Fleet, Hampshire, U.K., Cassidy learned the power of fantasy early on while pretending to be a princess while her two older brothers roughhoused. Fortunately for Cassidy, her teachers at Farnborough Hill Convent recognized this talent, encouraging her to see creative outlet on the stage. By that point there was no turning back, and later, while continuing her studies at Girton College in Cambridge, Cassidy's growing passion for the stage began to take precedence over her studies. That passion would pay off when the rising actress landed the role of Viola in a 1997 Royal Court Theater production of "Twelfth Night," and the following year Cassidy made the jump to television with a role as a cop in the Channel Four mini-series "Killer Net" (1998). The years that followed found Cassidy increasingly busy as she continued to alternate between the stage and the small screen. Then, in 2001, her memorable turn as hard-working, hard-drinking educator Susan Gately on "Teachers" (Channel 4, 2001-2004) nudged her to the head of the class among fans. By the time Cassidy retired from "Teachers" to appear in The Tron Theatre's 2002 production of John Mighton's "Possible Worlds," her penchant for disappearing into her characters was becoming her calling card. A smattering of appearances in such independent films as "Before You Go" (2002), "Festival" (2005), and "The Boat People" (2007) displayed a notable lean toward roles that valued substance over style. Following her turn as ambitious Labour minister Jo Porter in "Party Animals" (BBC, 2007- ), Cassidy once again turned heads as Mel in the BBC comedy "Lead Balloon" (BBC, 2006-2011). In 2013, Cassidy joined the cast of the BBC's immensely popular period drama "Downton Abbey" (2010-16) in the middle of the show's eventful fourth season. Cast as Lady Cora's maid Phyllis Baxter, whose position in the household was secured by scheming under-butler Thomas Barrow, Cassidy found her character navigating a complex plot marked by blackmail and clandestine affairs. The following year Cassidy made waves by hinting to the Daily Mirror that "Downton Abbey" may be headed to the big screen, and confessing that appearing opposite Maggie Smith on the series was as daunting a task as she'd ever faced as an actress.