Since 1963, Gemma Jones has been one of the most esteemed character actresses in British film and theater. Not until 1995, however, did she receive widespread recognition outside the U.K. That was the year she played the mother of two darlings of the modern cinema, Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet, in their roles as the Dashwood sisters in director Ang Lee's Oscar-winning adaptation of Jane Austen's novel Sense and Sensibility. In 1997, Jones performed in another acclaimed film, Wilde, as Lady Queensbury, the woman who accused 19th century Irish author Oscar Wilde of corrupting her son, thereby setting in motion a notorious trial that ruined Wilde. Then good got better for Jones. Between 1999 and 2001, she played in three other popular productions that won numerous awards: first as Grace Winslow opposite Nigel Hawthorne in David Mamet's production of The Winslow Boy, then as Elizabeth Harrison in Charles Sturridge's production of Longitude, and finally as Mrs. Pam Jones in Sharon Maguire's production of Bridget Jones' Diary. By 2002, Gemma Jones was at work filming what promised to be one of the biggest box-office draws of the year, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, in which she portrays Madame Pomfrey, the maker of magical healing potions.
The daughter of British actor Griffth Jones, Gemma Jones was born Jennifer Jones on December 4, 1942, in London. Because acting was in her blood, it was no surprise when she enrolled in the British Academy of Dramatic Art to be molded into an actress in the classic tradition. Shortly after graduation, she performed in Baal on the same stage with Peter O'Toole. After other stage and TV productions, she debuted on film in director Ken Russell's The Devils in 1971, then performed in several TV series, including The Duchess of Duke Street, a popular 1976 series in Britain that starred her as "London's best cook." Between film and TV roles, she also performed on the stage as a member of the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company in such Shakespeare plays as A Winter's Tale, The Merry Wives of Windsor, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Macbeth, Much Ado About Nothing, King Lear, Twelfth Night, and Hamlet. She also acted in productions of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire, Arthur Miller's The Ride Down Mount Morgan, and Henrik Ibsen's The Masterbuilder. When stardom arrived in 1995 with Sense and Sensibility, she continued to perform in lesser known but highly praised productions, including The Feast of July, Jane Eyre, The Theory of Flight, and Captain Jack. Her 2002 role in the Harry Potter film promises to make her a household name among children as well as adults -- perhaps for decades to come.