DoctorDoctor Who Guide

Pauline Collins

Last updated 03 September 2015

Pauline Collins
(this image appears for illustrative purposes only and no attempt is made to supersede any copyright attributed to it)

Pauline Collins

Born: Tue 3rd September 1940 (age: 75)


Pauline Collins, OBE (born 3 September 1940) is an English actress of the stage, television, and film. She first came to prominence portraying Sarah Moffat in Upstairs, Downstairs and its spin-off Thomas & Sarah during the 1970s. She later drew acclaim for playing the title role in the play Shirley Valentine for which she received Laurence Olivier, Tony, and Drama Desk awards. She reprised the role in a 1989 film adaptation, winning a BAFTA and garnering Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations.

Early life and career

Collins was born in Exmouth, Devon, the daughter of Mary Honora (née Callanan), a schoolteacher, and William Henry Collins, a school headmaster. She is of Irish extraction, and was brought up as a Roman Catholic near Liverpool. Her great-uncle was Irish poet Jeremiah Joseph Callanan.

Collins was educated at Sacred Heart High School. and studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. Before turning to acting, she worked as a teacher until 1962. She made her stage debut at Windsor in A Gazelle in Park Lane in 1962 and her West End debut in Passion Flower Hotel in 1965, (during this run, very hurriedly, her first film Secrets of a Windmill Girl -1966). More stage roles followed.

Collins played Samantha Briggs in the 1967 Doctor Who serial The Faceless Ones and was offered the chance to continue in the series as a new companion for the Doctor, but declined the invitation.

Other early TV credits include the UK's first medical soap Emergency - Ward 10 (1960), and the pilot episode and first series of The Liver Birds, both in 1969.

Collins first became well known for her role as the maid Sarah in the 1970s ITV drama series Upstairs, Downstairs. The character appeared regularly throughout the first two series, the second of which also starred her actor husband, John Alderton, with whom she later starred in a spin-off, Thomas & Sarah (1979), and the sitcom No, Honestly written by Terence Brady and Charlotte Bingham, as well as in a series of short story adaptations called Wodehouse Playhouse (1975–78). She co-narrated the animated British children's TV series Little Miss with husband John Alderton in 1983.

In connection with her Upstairs, Downstairs role, Collins recorded a 1973 single for Decca: What Are We Going to Do with Uncle Arthur? (performed by her character several times during the series) b/w With Every Passing Day (a vocal version of the show's theme).

Shirley Valentine and recent years

In 1988, Collins starred in the one-woman play Shirley Valentine in London, reprising the role on Broadway in 1989 and in the 1989 film version. The film won a number of awards and nominations.

After Shirley Valentine, Collins again starred alongside her husband in the popular ITV drama series Forever Green created and written by Terence Brady and Charlotte Bingham in which the fictitious couple escape the city with their children to start a new life in the country. It ran from 1989 to 1992 over 18 episodes.

Collins' film credits include City of Joy (1992, co-starring Patrick Swayze), My Mother's Courage (1995 in Germany as Mutters Courage, released in the USA in 1997), Paradise Road (1997, with Glenn Close and Cate Blanchett), and Mrs Caldicot's Cabbage War (2002), another appearance with Alderton. In 1999 and 2000, Collins starred as Harriet Smith in the BBC television drama Ambassador, where she played the lead role of the British ambassador to Ireland. Other television credits include The Saint, The Wednesday Play, Armchair Theatre, Play for Today, Tales of the Unexpected, Country Matters and The Black Tower.

In 2002, she guest starred in Man and Boy, the dramatisation of Tony Parsons' best-seller. In 2005 she appeared as Miss Flite in the BBC production of Charles Dickens' Bleak House.

In 2006, she became only the third actor to have been in both the original and new series of Doctor Who, appearing in the episode "Tooth and Claw" as Queen Victoria.

Later in 2006, she appeared in Extinct, a programme where eight celebrities campaigned on behalf of an animal to save it from extinction. Collins campaigned to save the Bengal tiger and won the public vote.

In December 2007, she appeared as the fairy godmother in the pantomime Cinderella at the Old Vic in London.

In 2011, she was cast as part of Sky 1's new comedy-drama Mount Pleasant. She played the role of Sue, Lisa's mum, in the first two series running into 2012. She didn't return to the third series in 2013, and her character was killed off in the fourth series in 2014.

Collins was awarded the OBE in 2001.

Personal life

She married actor John Alderton in 1969 and lives in Hampstead, London, with her husband and their three children, Nicholas, Kate and Richard. She also has an older daughter with actor Tony Rohr, Louise, whom she gave up for adoption. They were reunited when Louise was 22 years old, and Collins wrote a book, Letter to Louise, about her experiences.