Diana Rigg's memorable roles: The Avengers, Game of Thrones, and more
The Sentimental Agent, 1963
In one of her first on-screen roles, Diana Rigg appeared on the crime drama series The Sentimental Agent as Francy Wilde for the episode titled "A Very Desirable Plot." She appeared opposite Carlos Thompson, who played Argentinian import-export agent Carlos Varela.
The Avengers , 1965-1968
Starting in 1965, Rigg landed one of her most famous roles of her career: Emma Peele, a British spy and martial arts expert in the popular series starring Patrick Macnee as the gentlemanly John Steed. Emma would become a global feminist role model and pop-culture icon—as would Rigg.
A Midsummer Night's Dream, 1968
Rigg would perform as a number of Shakespeare's characters throughout her career, but one of the more notable moments came as Helena, one of the mortals bewitched by the sprite Puck while wandering the woods in the playwright's A Midsummer Night's Dream. As it happens, one of Rigg's first gigs was a bit part in a TV film version of the play. In 1968, she snagged a leading role in director Peter Hall's more modern take.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service, 1969
The George Lazenby age of Agent 007 movies introduced Rigg as "Bond Girl" Tracy, the only woman to ever marry James Bond — though it was brief.
Rigg would become a star of stage and screen, choosing many roles across platforms throughout the years. An earlier theater piece was a rendition of Willam Shakespeare's Macbeth. In 1972, Rigg starred as Lady Macbeth opposite Anthony Hopkins in the titular role for the National Theatre in London.
The Misanthrope, 1973
Rigg first performed the role of Célimène in Moliére's play The Misanthrope at the National Theatre in London in 1973. The production would then move to New York City the following year, garnering a Tony Award nomination for Rigg.
The Great Muppet Caper, 1981
Rigg did it all, even work with the Muppets in a film involving jewel thieves. Charles Grodin also featured among the human cast.
Evil Under the Sun, 1982
This is one of those famous cases of fictional detective Hercule Poirot. In the '80s, the character was played by Sir Peter Ustinov, who appeared in Evil Under the Sun, a film about a murder at an exclusive island resort for the wealthy. Rigg played an actress, Arlena Marshall, in the star-studded ensemble.
King Lear, 1983
Another Shakespearian role for Rigg was Regan, the treacherous daughter of King Lear, in a televised production. Rigg had previously played the role of Cordelia, Lear's youngest daughter, in an earlier stage version for the touring Royal Shakespeare Company in the '60s.
Mother Love, 1989
Rigg won a BAFTA for Best Actress for her performance as Helena Vesey, a mother who would prepare to even murder someone to keep control of her son, in the miniseries Mother Love.
Rigg starred as the title role in Medea on stage starting in 1992. The production moved from the Almeida Theatre in Islington to the West End's Wyndham's Theatre in London to New York's Broadway. All the moving worked out in Rigg's favor as she won the Tony Award for Best Actress in 1994.
Netflix's upcoming iteration of Rebecca, the story of a bride who moves into her new husband's estate only to feel the overbearing shadow of his late wife, prompts us to look back at past versions. The 1997 miniseries take on the story saw Rigg in the role of Mrs. Danvers, the sinister housekeeper. The part earned Rigg's first and only Primetime Emmy.
Doctor Who, 2013
Though it was a one-episode role, Rigg is still a member of the Who-verse. The actress appeared as Mrs. Winifred Gillyflower, a chemist and founder of Sweetville.
Game of Thrones 2013-2017
The tart-tongued Queen of Thorns, otherwise known as Lady Olenna, introduced Rigg to an entirely new generation of TV-lovers on Game of Thrones. “I loved the complexity of Olenna,” she told EW in 2019. “She was a political woman, and she played the game brilliantly. Anything and everything executed ruthlessly for the survival of her family, which is historical in a way, like the Borgias and various other famous families.”
Rigg appeared as the Duchess of Buccleuch in 9 episodes of Victoria season 2, which starred Jenna Coleman as Queen Victoria.
My Fair Lady, 2018
After Game of Thrones, Rigg returned to the stage in a production of My Fair Lady. She played the non-musical part of Mrs. Higgins, which led to her fourth Tony nomination.