Who's who in the corset crew: How stars behind TV's hit period dramas are linked… through romance, fashion and Cambridge
King and Queen of the crew: Douglas Booth and Vanessa Kirby are at the centre of this web of well-connected young actors
They are Britain’s brightest rising stars, a tight-knit clique of young actors set to dominate our screens this year.
Dubbed the Corset Crew for their breakthrough roles in period dramas such as Downton Abbey and Great Expectations, each of them is under 30, middle-class – and dazzlingly good-looking.
A number of other intriguing factors link the 15 members. There are three couples, all of whom met on set, and several of the girls share flats in London. A few went to Cambridge, and several are models – three of them for Burberry.
In 2012, members of the crew will star in another batch of costume dramas including The Mystery Of Edwin Drood, which starts on BBC2 on Tuesday, a new version of Romeo And Juliet and a mini-series based on the Kate Mosse bestseller Labyrinth, set in medieval France.
It will all add to their stock on the London social scene, making it vital for anyone who’s anyone to know them. Here, then, is our essential guide:
Douglas Booth, 19
Background Raised in Kent, he acted part-time with the National Youth Theatre. His breakthrough was playing Boy George in the 2010 drama Worried About The Boy.
Corset credentials Transformed millions of women into Dickens fans as Pip in the BBC’s Great Expectations. Set to do the same to Shakespeare in Romeo And Juliet.
USP Dubbed ‘Pillow Lips’ and ‘ridiculously beautiful’.
Connections Said to be dating Great Expectations co-star Vanessa Kirby. Close friends with Freddie Fox. Modelled for Burberry with Eddie Redmayne.
Pass the smelling salts Has locked lips with not one, but two male actors for his art: Freddie Fox in Worried About The Boy and Matt Smith in Christopher And His Kind.
Vanessa Kirby, 24
Background Has a First in English from Exeter University. Turned down acting school to hone her craft on stage.
Corset credentials Killed off only 20 minutes into BBC drama The Hour, but then starred as Estella in Great Expectations. Soon to appear in Labyrinth, directed by Ridley Scott.
USP A star quality that makes her the darling of the critics.Connections Said to be dating Booth. Flatmate of Jessica Brown-Findlay, who is also in Labyrinth.
Pass the smelling salts Caught flirting outrageously with Douglas Booth on Twitter, calling him ‘Boothey two shoes’.
Eddie Remayne, 29
Background Old Etonian and Cambridge graduate. A serious thespian, he won awards for the 2010 play Red.
Corset credentials CV includes The Other Boleyn Girl and Tess Of The D’Urbervilles. Will star in a TV version of First World War novel Birdsong and a film of Les Miserables.
USP His freckles are adored by his female fans.
Connections Modelled for Burberry like Douglas Booth and Emma Watson, with whom he appeared in last year’s acclaimed film My Week With Marilyn.
Pass the smelling salts Plays a drug-addict paedophile in forthcoming film Hick.
Tom Felton, 24
Background Chosen at 13 to play evil Draco Malfoy in Harry Potter and was another baddie in last year’s Planet Of The Apes reboot.
Corset credentials Will appear as Raymond-Roger de Trencavel in Labyrinth.
USP A very convincing villain.
Connections He is friends with Emma Watson and Bonnie Wright.
Pass the smelling salts Blew so much of his Potter fortune on cars that bailiffs went round.
Emma Watson, 21
Background Attended a theatre school before being cast as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films, aged nine. Now an Oxford student.
Corset credentials Starred in the BBC’s Thirties-set Ballet Shoes and My Week With Marilyn.
USP Her elfin crop and formidable intelligence.
Connections Burberry model. Pals with Tom Felton and Bonnie Wright.
Pass the smelling salts Has a weakness for rock stars, including Razorlight’s Johnny Borrell and George Craig of One Night Only.
Freddie Fox, 22
Background Member of the Fox acting dynasty – his father is Edward and sister is Emilia. Trained at Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
Corset credentials About to star as Edwin Drood for the BBC.
USP Those Fox genes.
Connections Dating Tamzin Merchant. Friends with Douglas Booth.
Pass the smelling salts Says he loved played transvestite pop star and ‘thing of the night’ Marilyn in Worried About The Boy and may have got ‘a little too into it’.
Tamzin Merchant, 24
Background Began her TV career as a teenager but also studied at Homerton College, Cambridge.
Corset credentials Impeccable. The 2005 film of Pride And Prejudice, last year’s Jane Eyre movie and Catherine Howard in TV drama The Tudors. She will also appear in the new Mystery Of Edwin Drood.
USP Wide-eyed, angelic innocence.
Connections Dating Freddie Fox.
Pass the smelling salts Prepared to dispense with costumes altogether, she appeared naked in The Tudors.
'Sickeningly talented: Jessica Brown- Findlay, who shone in Downton, is flatmates with Great Expectations star Vanessa Kirby
Jessica Brown-Findlay, 22
Background Trained with the
National Youth Ballet but an ankle injury ended her dancing ambitions.
Began acting while studying art at Central St Martins College, London.
Corset credentials After shining as Lady Sybil in Downton Abbey, she is set to appear in Labyrinth.
USP Sickeningly multi-talented.
Connections Flatmate of Vanessa Kirby.
Pass the smelling salts Donned Princess Leia’s gold bikini from Star Wars in the film Albatross.
Dan Stevens, 29
Background Discovered by Sir Peter Hall while acting at Cambridge University. Got his TV break on the BBC’s The Line Of Beauty.
Corset credentials Made a miraculous recovery from paralysis as Matthew Crawley in Downton.
USP Those piercing blue eyes and his intellectualism.
Connections Went to Cambridge with Eddie Redmayne. Friends with his Downton co-stars.
Pass the smelling salts A rebellious youth, he was suspended from prestigious Tonbridge School, Kent.
Zoe Boyle, 25
Background Attended Central School of Speech and Drama. A serious stage actress, she appeared in US drama Grey’s Anatomy.
Corset credentials Played the ill-fated Lavinia Swire in Downton.
USP Her Titian hair. Downton fans know her as ‘Ginger Lavinia’.
Connections Flatmates with Downton co-star Sophie McShera.
Pass the smelling salts Known to Americans for a grittier role: as a gun-toting motorcycle gang member in the drama Sons Of Anarchy.
Sophie McShera, 26
Background From Bradford, she began acting as a child. Studied at Brunel University and came to fame in BBC’s Waterloo Road. She is currently in award-winning play Jerusalem.
Corset credentials Downton’s kitchen maid Daisy.
USP Her sweet face and Yorkshire accent.
Connections Shares a flat with her Downton co-star Zoe Boyle.
Pass the smelling salts In Jerusalem, she snorts fake cocaine and downs shots of Sambuca.
Amy Nuttall, 29
Background From Manchester, she studied at the Arts Educational School, Hertfordshire, and at 17 became the youngest actress to play Christine in Phantom Of The Opera. Spent four years in Emmerdale and starred in musicals including Cabaret and Guys And Dolls.
Corset credentials Spiced up Downton as Ethel, the maid who had a baby with randy Major Bryant.
USP Stunning singing voice.
Connections Pals with Downton’s Laura Carmichael, Sophie McShera and Zoe Boyle.
Pass the smelling salts Appeared scantily clad in lads’ magazines as a teenager.
Laura Carmichael, 25
Background Educated at The Mountbatten School in Hampshire and Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.
Corset credentials Was Lady Edith, the dowdiest of the Crawley sisters in Downton Abbey.
USP Actually being very glamorous in real life.
Connections Close friends with Downton co-stars Sophie McShera, Zoe Boyle and Amy Nuttall.
Pass the smelling salts She’s outspoken; she describes her Downton character as a ‘bitch’ and revealed Hugh Bonneville liked to ‘tuck in’ to food on set.
Bonnie Wright, 20
Background The daughter of jewellers Sheila Teague and Gary Wright, she studied TV and film production at the London College of Communication before successfully auditioning for Ginny Weasley in Harry Potter after her brother said she reminded him of the character.
Corset credentials Has played the young Agatha Christie and is about to start shooting period drama In Want Of A Wife.
USP Her flame red hair and bold fashion choices.
Connections Engaged to Jamie Campbell-Bower.
Pass the smelling salts Saintly, without a slightest whiff of scandal.
Jamie Campbell-Bower, 23
Background National Youth Theatre, then modelling before getting his break as vampire Caius in the Twilight films.
Corset credentials Was in the 2007 Sweeney Todd film and played King Arthur in 2011 series Camelot.
USP His flowing blond locks.
Connections Engaged to Bonnie Wright.
Pass the smelling salts Virtually every scene in Camelot seemed to require his naked bottom.