One of the latest in an illustrious line of British actresses to graduate from the English Rose School of Acting into the realm of full-bodied contemporary roles, Lena Headey first came to the attention of audiences in 1992, when she played the younger version of Jeremy Irons' wife in Waterland. Hailing from Yorkshire (though she was born in Bermuda in 1973), Headey originally intended to be a hairdresser. Fate intervened, however, when her performance in a one-off show in the company of six school friends at the National Theatre caught the interest of a casting agent, who contacted her drama teacher and subsequently cast Headey in Waterland.
Headey's turn as a sexually adventurous schoolgirl in the film led to her being cast as a sexually adventurous maid in Merchant Ivory's The Remains of the Day in 1993. More period adventure followed that same year in The Summer House, in which Headey played a quiet young lass being forced into a 1950s marriage with an insufferable mama's boy. After another stint as a corseted virgin in The Jungle Book (1994), Headey finally got to take part in the latter half of the 20th century in the BBC miniseries Loved Up (1995), in which she played an Ecstasy-saturated raver. That same year, she took part in another BBC mini, Band of Gold, in which she further distanced herself from her period past by portraying a lesbian prostitute. Over the next several years, Headey would appear in several projects like Posession, The Brothers Grimm, and The Red Baron, as well as TV series like Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Game of Thrones.
The actress returned to period drama in Marleen Gorris' adaptation of Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway (1997), which cast her as the younger version of the title character's best friend. More contemporary work subsequently came her way in Antonia Bird's Face (also 1997), a crime thriller in which she played the social worker girlfriend of Robert Carlyle's political idealist-turned-gangster. She also starred in the romantic fantasy The Man with Rain in His Shoes (1998) as one of the love interests (along with Penelope Cruz) of an out-of-work Scottish actor (Douglas Henshall).
After supporting turns in the lavish made-for-TV Merlin (1998) and Onegin (1999), the latter of which featured her as Liv Tyler's sister, Headey crossed over into the realm of Hollywood teen-oriented offerings with Gossip (2000), a college-set drama that cast her as one of three students who start a nasty rumor about two of their classmates (Kate Hudson and Joshua Jackson). Although the film was a bomb, Headey's career looked bright with a number of projects on the horizon. Included amongst them was Aberdeen (2000), a road movie set in Norway and Scotland that also starred Ian Hart, Charlotte Rampling, and Stellan Skarsgård.