British actress Natascha McElhone’s latest role saw her play Prince Philip’s close companion, Penny Knatchbull, in series five of The Crown.
The London-based star has been cast as Countess Mountbatten of Burma in the new Netflix hit series and her latest role is set to catapult her to household name status.
In a career spanning four decades, McElhone has seen her Hollywood career blossom in recent years, although the 52-year-old British actress has had to juggle auditions and raise three sons on her own – after suffering the tragic loss of her husband while pregnant with their third child in 2008.
Plastic surgeon Martin Kelly died suddenly of a heart attack aged 43 on the steps of their London home while McElhone was pregnant with their third child.
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The London-based actress stars as Prince Philip’s close companion Penny Knatchbull in the new series of The Crown (Pictured: Prince Philip and Penny at the Royal Windsor Horse Show)
In her personal life, Natascha faced tragedy after her husband Martin Kelly, a famous plastic surgeon, died suddenly after collapsing in his Fulham home in 2008 (pictured with Martin before his death) She was pregnant with their third child, Rex, at the time.
After the sudden death of her husband Martin, Natascha had to raise their three boys Theo (left) Otis (right) and Rex (carried by her mother) (Pictured at the premiere of The Secret of Moonacre in 2009)
Kelly, a cosmetic surgeon to the stars, was found collapsed in the lobby of their £2.5million townhouse in Fulham, having just undergone late-night surgery.
At the time, McElhone was filming on the set of the television series Californication in Los Angeles and learned that her husband had died through his friend Neil Randhawa.
Speaking to The Sunday Times after her death, she said: ‘I crossed the road towards my trailer and it must have suddenly hit me on some level. I did what I thought people only did in movies – I dropped the phone and my knees kind of bent under me.
Kelly’s cause of death was given as “dilated cardiomyopathy”, where the heart enlarges and cannot pump blood efficiently.
In the same interview, Natascha revealed the last message she received from her husband, which she described as “lovely”.
One of Natascha’s first Hollywood roles was as Lauren/Sylvia on The Truman Show, which attempts to free Truman (played by Jim Carrey) from his oppressive life (shown in film)
She said: “He left me this message, full of joy…he couldn’t wait to go out next week, he was so excited about the scan, so excited about the baby.”
The year after Kelly’s sudden death, Natascha revealed how she dealt with her grief while raising the couple’s sons, Theo, then eight, Otis, then five, and baby Rex.
She told the Daily Mail at the time: ‘I had no choice. I now have twice as many responsibilities as before and have to work for financial reasons.
“But it’s nice to have responsibilities, whether it’s paying the bills or feeding a baby at five in the morning.” The banality of life becomes very important. Failing to cope is simply not an option.
The Surrey-born actress, real name Natascha Taylor, is the daughter of two Irish journalists, Noreen McElhone and Michael Taylor.
After being raised alongside her brother Damon in Brighton, Natascha moved to London to study acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) and graduated in 1993.
After graduating, the actress began her stage career in Shakespearean plays, including Richard III and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
It was at the BBC that she made her television debut, starring in an episode of the crime drama Bergerac in 1991, while still a student, and also making an appearance in Jennifer Saunders’ comedy Absolutely Fabulous l ‘Next year.
Natascha McElhone, 52, starred as the First Lady and close confidante of her husband Tom Kirkman (played by Kiefer Sutherland) in Designated Survivor (pictured with Sutherland in the pilot episode)
Her career continued to flourish throughout the 1990s and she began acting alongside huge Hollywood actors.
In 1996, Natascha played Pablo Picasso’s wife and mother of his children, Françoise Gilot in Surviving Picasso, alongside the great Anthony Hopkins as the late Spanish abstract artist.
That same year, Natascha began dating her future husband Martin, then a medical student. The couple had first met several years earlier when Natascha was 16.
At the time of Kelly’s death, Natascha was filming scenes alongside David Duchovny in Californication in Los Angeles (Pictured: Natascha and Duchovny in promotional photo)
Although her first film received mixed reviews, it helped Natascha land several more Hollywood roles – with perhaps her most memorable appearance as Lauren/Sylvia alongside Jim Carrey on The Truman Show.
The role helped make Natascha a Hollywood name, and she went on to star in films alongside idols such as Brad Pitt and George Clooney.
After Kelly’s tragic death, Natascha continued to work and had several acting credits to her name while juggling raising the three boys.
She appeared in several films while continuing in her recurring role as Karen, David Duchovny’s on-and-off lover on Californication.
After the series ended in 2014, it wasn’t long before the mother of three landed another regular role as the wife of Kiefer Sutherland’s Tom Kirkman on Designated Survivor.
The show’s pilot episode sees Senator Kirkman thrust into the Western world’s most powerful office as US President after Congress explodes in a terrorist attack. After being taken to safety as the house sat, he was the ‘designated survivor’ who was asked to form a government after his colleagues perished in the attack.
Alongside Sutherland, Natascha played Alex Kirkman, the loyal first lady and confidante of an uncertain new president who was underprepared for the role.
The role of adviser will undoubtedly have prepared her well to play Penny Knatchbull, who was a close companion of the Duke of Edinburgh during their 50 years of friendship.
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