Roger Rees

Roger Rees was born on May 5, 1944, in Aberystwyth, Wales, and grew up in South London. Like a number of British actors of the same generation (John Hurt and Alan Rickman, to name two), he originally trained for the visual arts. He studied painting and lithography at the Slade School of Art but had to quit his studies when his father died and he had to help support the family. His first paying job in show business was as a scenery painter. He was painting scenery, in fact, when he was asked to sub in for a part and made his acting debut. He put away his brushes for good after this.

He turned to acting on a full-time basis in the mid-1960s and appeared on both the London and Scottish stages. After his fourth audition, the Royal Shakespeare Company finally hired him as a walk-on, sword carrier and bit player in 1968. He then worked his way up through the RSC’s ranks, finally achieving stardom in the early 1980s in the 8-1/2 hour stage adaptation of The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickelby, which had a cast of 40 actors, and for which he won both an Olivier Award and a Tony Award. Rees was also nominated for an Emmy Award for the television version of the play. By this time he had several TV movies to his name, but did not make his large-screen debut until Star 80 (1983).

Living in the United States since 1989, Roger made a name for himself in America when he joined the cast of the TV hit comedy Cheers (1982) as the priggish Britisher Robin Colcord and later the glib British ambassador Lord John Marbury on the series The West Wing (1999). More recently, he appeared as a frequent guest in several British and American television series and in a number of independent films.

But Roger remained primarily a man of the theater, with secondary careers as a playwright and stage director. In 2011 he married his partner of 33 years, playwright Rick Elice, with whom he also collaborated professionally, including as co-playwrights of the comedic thriller Double Double. In 2012, they received Tony Award nominations for Elice’s stage adaptation and Rees’ co-direction (with Alex Timbers), respectively, of Peter and the Starcatcher.

His last stage role was as Anton Schell in the musical version of The Visit, opposite Chita Rivera, which opened on Broadway on 23 April 2015 and closed on 14 June 2015. In a theater career of some 50 years, Roger never missed a single performance.





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