Piper in 2016
Leian Paul Piper
22 September 1982
(m. 2001; div. 2007)
(m. 2007; div. 2016)
Billie Paul Piper (born Leian Paul Piper, 22 September 1982) is an English actress and former singer. She first appeared as a performer in Scratchy & Co, aged 13. At the age of 15, Piper released her debut single "Because We Want To", which made her the youngest artist to enter at number one on the UK Singles Chart. Her follow-up single "Girlfriend" also debuted at number one. In 1998, Piper released her debut studio album, Honey to the B, which was certified platinum by the British Phonographic Industry. In 2000, she released her second studio album, Walk of Life, which respectively produced the successful singles "Day & Night" and "Something Deep Inside". In 2003, Piper announced that she had abandoned her music career to focus on an acting career.
Piper appeared as a series regular in the BBC sci-fi series Doctor Who (2005–2006), in the role of Rose Tyler, companion to The Doctor. She reprised the role in 2008, 2010, and 2013. Piper starred as the high-flying escort Belle de Jour in the television drama series Secret Diary of a Call Girl (2007–2011). She also starred as Brona Croft/Lily in the Showtime horror series Penny Dreadful (2014–2016) and as Karen Mars in Netflix Original series Collateral (2018) for which she was nominated for a British Academy Television Award for Best Supporting Actress. Piper co-created and starred in the Sky Atlantic series I Hate Suzie in 2020. Her film roles include Things to Do Before You're 30 (2004), Mansfield Park (2007), City of Tiny Lights (2016) and Eternal Beauty (2019).
Piper has starred in five plays since 2007 and won the 2017 Olivier Award for Best Actress for her performance in Yerma, described as a "generation's best". She went on to win a total of six Best Actress awards for that one performance, including the Olivier Award, making Piper the only actor to have won six out of an available six Best Actress awards for a single performance.
Piper was born in Swindon, Wiltshire. Her first name, Leian, was legally changed to Billie on 25 April 1983, by her parents, Paul Victor Piper and Mandy Kane Kent. She has one younger brother and two younger sisters. She studied at the Sylvia Young Theatre School and Bradon Forest School.
Honey to the B
Piper's career began when she was selected to appear on the Saturday-morning children's television show Scratchy & Co. She later landed a role in a television commercial promoting the pop magazine Smash Hits. She was offered a record deal at the age of 15, and in 1998, became the youngest artist ever to debut at number one in the UK Singles Chart with "Because We Want To", released under the stage mononym "Billie". Her follow-up single "Girlfriend" also debuted at number one.
Piper's debut album Honey to the B was released immediately afterwards, and debuted and peaked at number 14 in the UK album charts, selling more than 300,000 copies in the UK alone along with a platinum certification, and a 2x platinum certification in New Zealand, where it reached number three. However, Honey to the B found limited success in other territories, such as Australia, where it debuted and peaked at number 31 despite the success of "Honey to the Bee", and in the US, it almost went completely unnoticed, peaking at number 17 on the Heatseekers.
At the 1998 Smash Hits Poll Winners' party, Piper was nominated for Best New Act (for which she came second, it being won by B*Witched) and won Princess of Pop (she was the first to win this award). She then released "She Wants You" as the third single from the album. The song reached number three. "Honey to the Bee" was released as the fourth single from the album; like the previous single, it reached number three. At the same time, "She Wants You" was released in the US, reaching number 9 on the "Hot Club Dance Play" chart.
In 1999, Piper was nominated for two BRIT Awards and won two awards at the 1999 Smash Hits Poll Winners' party, although she was reduced to tears at the latter ceremony after being booed by fans of Ritchie Neville, whom she was dating at the time. She then started to tour and release in Asia. The singles and the album were released during mid- to late 1999. In August of that year, the follow-up to "Because We Want To" was released in Japan, a single comprising "Girlfriend" and "She Wants You" combined. She recorded a song for Pokémon: The First Movie titled "Makin' My Way (Any Way That I Can)".
Walk of Life
During that time, Piper recorded her second album. She decided to release further records under her full name of Billie Piper. She returned to the Singles Chart in May 2000 with her third number-one single "Day & Night". She waited until September to release "Something Deep Inside", which reached number four, but her success waned. In October 2000, Piper released her second album, Walk of Life, which reached #14 in the UK Album Chart, but quickly fell off the charts and was certified silver in the UK. The album only charted in two other countries: New Zealand, where it reached #17 only, and Australia, where it was a minor success and peaked at #23. In Piper's autobiography, she states that the album was a "commercial bomb". The song "Walk of Life", the final single off this album, was released in December 2000 and reached #25 in the UK Singles Chart.
In February 2001, Piper appeared in court to testify against a woman named Juliet Peters. Peters was charged with, and eventually convicted of, stalking as well as making numerous threats against Piper and members of her family. Peters received psychiatric treatment as part of her sentence. According to her autobiography, Piper was reluctant about the court case, but was pushed by her parents and her label. She also stated in the book that this was why "The Tide Is High" was not released as a single, writing: "The court case succeeded in doing what I alone could not – cutting the ties. Without it I might have been tempted back."
In January 2007, BBC Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles started a campaign to get "Honey to the Bee" back into the top 100 on download sales as a way of testing out new chart rules that favour download sales. The campaign was successful, with "Honey to the Bee" re-entering the official UK singles chart at #17, eight years after it was first released.
In the autumn of 2003, it was announced that Doctor Who would be resurrected in 2005 after a sixteen-year absence from TV; the casting of Piper as Rose Tyler, a travelling companion to the ninth incarnation of The Doctor (to be played by Christopher Eccleston), was announced in May 2004. Piper won the Most Popular Actress category at the 2005 and 2006 National Television Awards for her work on Doctor Who. BBC News named her one of its "Faces of the Year" for 2005, primarily due to her success in Doctor Who. At The South Bank Show Awards in January 2006, she was awarded The Times Breakthrough Award for her successful transition from singing to acting. In March, the Television and Radio Industries Club named her as the best new TV talent at their annual awards ceremony. In September, she was named Best Actress at the TV Quick and TV Choice Awards.
After the completion of the very successful first series of the revamped Doctor Who, the British media regularly released conflicting reports about how long Piper would be staying with the show. In March 2006, she claimed that she would continue on Doctor Who into its third series in 2007. In May, however, she was reported to be considering quitting the series, although she did express an interest in playing a female version of the Doctor in the future (possibly related to a proposed Doctor Who spin-off series about Rose, which was later dropped). In June, the BBC announced that she was to depart in "Doomsday", the final episode of the second series. Her decision to leave had been made a year previously, but remained a secret until news of her departure became public. Although Piper was absent in the 2007 series, her character Rose was mentioned several times and seen in archive footage on some occasions. In November 2007, the BBC confirmed that she would reprise her role as Rose Tyler in the fourth series of Doctor Who for three episodes. Later, it was confirmed by Russell T. Davies in Doctor Who Magazine that this return had been planned since she left.
The series began in April 2008, and after several cameos, Piper made her official return as Rose in the series four final episodes "Turn Left", "The Stolen Earth", and "Journey's End". She did not initially state whether she would be reprising the role again. Interviewed on Doctor Who Confidential, she commented that "it's never really the end for the Doctor and Rose, but it's certainly the end for the foreseeable future". She reprised her role as Rose Tyler in "The End of Time", the last of the 2008–2010 Doctor Who specials, as a younger version of Rose Tyler (specifically 3 months before her initial meeting with the Ninth Doctor in 2005 episode Rose).
In January 2013, Piper stated on The Graham Norton Show that she had not been asked to return for the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, however, the BBC announced in the following March that she would be returning in the special, titled "The Day of the Doctor", which was broadcast in November 2013. Despite being credited as Rose Tyler, Piper's actual role in the episode is the consciousness of "The Moment", a sentient weapon which takes on the form of Rose's "Bad Wolf" personality.
Piper returned to the role of Rose Tyler alongside David Tennant in three stories that form Volume 2 of The Tenth Doctor Adventures audio drama series from Big Finish Productions. One story also features Camille Coduri reprising her role as Rose's mother Jackie Tyler. The set was released in November 2017. It was later announced that Piper would be headlining her own Big Finish audio drama titled Rose Tyler: The Dimension Cannon. The box set features four stories with Rose Tyler alongside her parents Jackie (Coduri) and Pete Tyler (Shaun Dingwall) as well as featuring Clive from the episode "Rose", played by his original actor Mark Benton. The set was released in September 2019.
Secret Diary of a Call Girl
Piper starred as Hannah Baxter in Secret Diary of a Call Girl, an ITV2 adaptation of Brooke Magnanti's The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl, a memoir detailing the life of a high-class prostitute who adopted "Belle de Jour" as her pseudonym, which aired from September 2007. As part of her preparation for the role, Piper met the memoir's author two years before her identity as a research scientist was revealed in a Sunday newspaper: "I absolutely had to meet the person behind the words to be able to take the part... people did ask me about her and I just had to smile, to avoid giving anything away."
A second series, with Piper again in the starring role, started filming in May 2008, during which two body doubles were hired to hide Piper's pregnancy during the sex scenes.. Piper was also quoted during this time as worrying that she may have "ruined her future career" due to the nature of the topless scenes and other sexual scenes required. The third series began airing in January 2010. For the third and fourth series Piper was credited as executive producer.
In January 2010, tying in with the broadcast of the third series and following on from the real Belle de Jour confirming her real identity, ITV2 broadcast an interview special, Billie and the Real Belle Bare All, which saw Piper meeting with Dr. Brooke Magnanti on camera for the first time.
On 11 May 2014, Showtime aired a new horror series called Penny Dreadful in which Piper plays Brona Croft, a poor Irish immigrant who is trying to escape a dark past. In the show's second series, Brona is resurrected by Victor Frankenstein as "Lily". She was nominated for "Best TV Supporting Actress" in the 2015 Fangoria Chainsaw Awards. The show was renewed for a third and final series, which she began filming on 17 September 2015.
In 2016, Piper starred in an adaptation of Federico García Lorca's 1934 play Yerma at the Young Vic, written and directed by Simon Stone. Upon opening the play received critical acclaim, namely for Piper's performance. She was described as "earth-quaking" by The Guardian and "a generation's greatest performance" by The Stage. The Independent described her as "shattering" with the reviewer admitting he found himself "still visibly shaking from its effects on the Tube home afterwards." The Jewish Chronicle warned that Piper's performance was "dangerously draining" whilst The Arts Desk told its readers that her performance was "an utterly grueling, almost unbearable 100 minutes."
Piper won six out of an available six Best Actress awards for that one performance, making it one of the most acclaimed and awarded stage performances in British theatre history, and making her the only actor to have picked up all six Best Actress awards for a single performance, including the coveted Olivier Award.
On 31 August 2017, Yerma streamed live into more than 700 cinemas across the UK. Whilst ticket sales are yet to be confirmed, more than 100 cinemas confirmed they had sold out to capacity with many requesting encore copies. In an unprecedented event, after the live screening had finished, '#Yerma' trended on Twitter at number three, with some writers claiming Twitter had 'gone into complete meltdown' over Piper's performance. The play was streamed across the world from 21 September.
Piper reprised the performance in a limited run at New York's Park Avenue Armory during March and April 2018. The performances marked her NY stage debut. She once again received unanimous critical praise. The New York Times said Piper's performance was "an unconditional victory" and "blisteringly powerful" awarding it five stars, whilst Hollywood Reporter found her "simply staggering" adding; "When the actress appears at the curtain call, looking emotionally and physical exhausted, you find yourself relieved that she's OK and concerned that she'll have to do it all over again the next night." Time Out likened Piper to an "angry beast" warning that her "astonishing" performance inflicted psychological-like emotions on the audience. NBC's Katie Englehart said "Piper is so devastating I almost vomited in my seat - that doesn't sound like an endorsement but it is." Vogue hailed Piper as "one of the great talents of her generation" and described her performance as "astonishing, raw, feral and terrifying." The AM New York critic claimed to be left "gasping for air" whilst the New York Stage Review found Piper's "downward spiral into abyss utterly harrowing and blazingly remarkable."
I Hate Suzie
In August 2020, Piper co-created and starred in critically—acclaimed Sky Atlantic series I Hate Suzie. The series was also co-created and written by Secret Diary of a Call Girl creator Lucy Prebble. Piper portrays the titular Suzie Pickles - a former child screen star, whose life and career are turned upside down by a compromising phone hack. Critics noted her own experience of having been a prodigious young singer-turned-actress who becomes famous at a young age will no doubt have informed her new role as Pickles. The Guardian gave it a five-star review, describing Piper's character as "nude, lewd and joyously off the rails" in "this scabrously funny drama". 
In 2004, Piper appeared in the films The Calcium Kid and Things to do Before You're Thirty. Shortly before starting work on Doctor Who, she had a starring role in the horror film Spirit Trap, released in August 2005 to poor reviews. In November 2005, she starred as Hero in a BBC adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, updated for the modern day in a similar manner to the Canterbury Tales series in which she featured, with Hero now being a weather presenter in a television station.
Piper completed work on two stand-alone television productions. In the first, a BBC adaptation of Philip Pullman's historical novel The Ruby in the Smoke which was broadcast in December 2006, she played protagonist Sally Lockhart, a Victorian orphan. The BBC planned to film all four of Pullman's Sally Lockhart novels, with Piper continuing in the role in The Shadow in the North, which was shown in December 2007. Piper made her stage debut in a touring production of Christopher Hampton's play Treats, which opened in early 2007 in Windsor, Berkshire. Treats was to have ended its tour in the West End, at the Garrick Theatre, starting in February 2007 with previews. The play officially closed in May.
Piper has provided voice-overs for various television commercials, including one for Comfort fabric-softener airing in June 2007 and Debenhams airing in 2011. She also shared the role of Betty with Sue Johnston in the two-part TV adaptation of A Passionate Woman, screened on BBC 1 in April 2010.
Piper played Carly in the UK premiere of Neil LaBute's play reasons to be pretty at the Almeida Theatre, running from November 2011 to January 2012. It received critical acclaim from The Guardian, The Observer, London Evening Standard, Metro, The Times, The Telegraph, Time Out, The Arts Desk, Daily Express, and The Financial Times all gave the production rave reviews with a minimum of four stars.
BBC Radio 4, described Piper as "fantastic, completely brilliant. Her performance is so convincing and moving, an absolutely terrific performance". The Jewish Chronicle hailed Piper's performance as second to none, being the best of the night, and stating that "no actor can cry more convincingly than Piper", giving the show four stars.
Piper made her National Theatre debut in The Effect by Lucy Prebble, which ran from November 2012 to February 2013. The play went on to become the most critically acclaimed show of the season with Piper going on to be nominated for the WhatsOnStage Best Actress award for her work in The Effect. The play was also nominated for Best New Play and Best Set Designer.
Due to success and demand, the show was extended for a further month and an online petition was started for the show to be added to the National Theatre's Live Programming. In 2013, Piper was nominated for Best Actress at the Olivier Awards and Evening Standard Theatre Awards for The Effect.
Piper married DJ, television presenter, and businessman Chris Evans in a secret ceremony in Las Vegas in May 2001, after six months of dating. Their marriage attracted much comment because Piper was 18 and Evans was 35. The couple separated in 2004, divorced in May 2007, and have remained friends.
A report in The Independent on 27 June 2006 stated that Piper had declared she did not wish to claim any money from Evans' reported £50,000,000 wealth or his £540,000 annual salary from BBC Radio 2. In an interview with the Radio Times, she said: "I'm not taking a penny from him. I think that's disgusting." She also revealed that she ended her singing career with very little money.
Piper married actor Laurence Fox on 31 December 2007, at St Mary's Church in Easebourne, West Sussex. They have two sons: Winston James (born 21 October 2008), and Eugene Pip (born 5 April 2012). On 24 March 2016, Fox announced that the pair had split after eight years of marriage. He stated that no third party was involved in the separation. On 12 May 2016, it was announced that Piper and Fox had divorced.
|1996||Evita||Girl wanting Juan Perón's autograph||Uncredited|
|The Leading Man||Uncredited|
|2004||The Calcium Kid||Angel|
|2005||Things to Do Before You're 30||Vicky|
|2007||Mansfield Park||Fanny Price|
|The Raven||Raven||Short film|
|2016||City of Tiny Lights||Shelley|
|2018||Two for Joy||Lilah|
|1999||Billie Wants You||Herself||Documentary|
|2000||Victoria Wood with All the Trimmings||Painted-by-Numbers Contestant|
|2003||The Canterbury Tales: The Miller's Tale||Alison Crosby|
|2004||Bella and the Boys||Bella|
|2005||ShakespeaRe-Told: Much Ado About Nothing||Hero||TRIC Award for New TV Talent (2006, also for Doctor Who)|
Nominated—Broadcasting Press Guild Award for Best Actress (2006, also for Doctor Who)
|2005–2013||Doctor Who||Rose Tyler||Series 1–2, Series 4, 2008–10 specials, 2013 specials|
|2005–2008||Doctor Who Confidential||Herself||Recurring role|
|2006||The Ruby in the Smoke||Sally Lockhart|
|2007||Top Gear||Herself||Series 9, Episode 6|
|The Shadow in the North||Sally Lockhart|
|2007–2011||Secret Diary of a Call Girl||Hannah Baxter||32 episodes|
|2010||A Passionate Woman||Betty||Miniseries|
|2012||True Love||Holly||1 episode|
|2014||Playhouse Presents: Foxtrot||Badger||Playhouse Presents special|
|2014–2016||Penny Dreadful||Brona Croft / Lily Frankenstein||27 episodes|
Nominated – Fangoria Chainsaw Award for Best Supporting Actress
|2020||I Hate Suzie||Suzie Pickles||Sky Atlantic series, also co-creator|
|2007||Treats||Ann||Garrick Theatre||Nominated - Best Actress at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards|
|2011–12||reasons to be pretty||Carly||Almeida Theatre||Nominated - Best Actress at the What's on Stage Theatre Awards|
|2012–13||The Effect||Connie||National Theatre, London||Nominated - Best Actress at the What's on Stage Theatre Awards
Nominated - Best Actress at the Critic's Circle Awards
Nominated - Best Actress at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards
Nominated - Best Actress at the Laurence Olivier Theatre Awards
|The Effect won Best Play at the Critic's Circle Awards|
|2014||Great Britain||Paige||National Theatre||Nominated - Best Actress at the London Evening Standard Theatre Awards
Winner - Best Actress at the What's On Stage Theatre Awards
|2016||Yerma||Her||Young Vic||Winner - Best Actress at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards
Winner - Best Actress at the What's On Stage Theatre Awards
Winner - Best Actress at the Critic's Circle Theatre Awards
Winner - Best Actress at the Broadway UK Theatre Awards
Winner - Best Actress at the Glamour Women Awards
|Piper is currently the only actor to have won all six of the currently available UK theatre Best Actress awards for a single performance, achieved for 'Yerma'.|
|2017||Revival of 2016 production|
|2018||Wade Thompson Drill Hall at Park Avenue Armoury, New York||Off-Broadway transfer of Young Vic production|
Awards and nominations
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