By Maureen Lee Lenker
February 10, 2020 at 08:19 PM EST
Everett Collection

Raphael Coleman, the former child star known for playing one of Emma Thompson’s troublesome charges in the 2005 film Nanny McPhee, has died at 25.

Coleman, who transitioned from his youthful career as an actor into environmental activism, died suddenly on Friday after collapsing during a run. His mother and stepfather confirmed the news on social media.

“Rest in peace my beloved son Raphael Coleman, aka Iggy Fox,” his mother, Liz Jensen, wrote on Twitter. “He died doing what he loved, working for the noblest cause of all. His family could not be prouder. Let’s celebrate all he achieved in his short life and cherish his legacy.”

Jensen also shared a link to an essay Coleman wrote for Extinction Rebellion, an activist organization dedicated predominantly to the climate change crisis. Coleman had studied zoology at the University of Manchester but recently dropped his pursuit of a career in the sciences to be an activist full-time. He wrote about the decision in the essay, “This Is Why I Rebel,” explaining, “I realized that as an activist my voice could be far more influential than it had been as a scientist.”

The essay now bears a notation of Coleman’s death and a memorial to his efforts at its header. It reads, “James ‘Iggy’ Fox died on 6 February. He was 25, had given up a career in science to join XR and fought hard for the cause, especially for Indigenous rights. Iggy was a burning bright soul and he will be deeply missed by us all.”

Jensen also shared a photo of her and her son at an Extinction Rebellion demonstration in Trafalgar Square from October.

Raphael Coleman was born Sept. 30, 1994, in London. At the age of 11, he made his screen debut in Nanny McPhee as Eric, a precocious young child who constantly causes trouble by mixing together explosive chemical ingredients. He starred opposite Thompson and Colin Firth in the film.

Coleman also appeared in two 2009 films, It’s Alive and The Fourth Kind.

Coleman’s stepfather, Carsten Jensen, shared a lengthy tribute to the young man on Facebook. “He collapsed without prior health problems in the middle of a trip and could not be restored. I got to know raph when he was six years old, and we were so close,” he wrote.

“Who was raph? As a child, he was old-wise, extremely literate and loved to lecture adults with his always astonishing knowledge,” he continued. “He was a child actor in the popular British Comedy Nanny McPhee, where he played himself with great talent, a little redhead boy who was always mixing explosive chemical ingredients. He had several roles, was rewarded and could have chosen a career as an actor. But he wanted to be a scientist, not to blow up something, as his figure in Nanny McPhee, but to save the planet.”

Carsten Jensen acknowledged Coleman’s early and enthusiastic involvement with Extinction Rebellion, writing, “Raph was one of the first and most active members. Under the name Iggy Fox, he controlled the group’s use of social media, spoke at demonstrations, and was arrested again and again.”

He added, “When I think of Raph, I see something that will never die, a blunt of eternity, a light beam that lives forever in young people. We believe that it is us, the older generations who have something to give the young people. We believe that we are the ones who pass the baton of life to them. But I think it’s the other way around. The young people remind us why we’re alive. They remind us of the purpose of life that this is the gift we must not in distraction until we have unpacked it.”

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