We don’t know about you, but as soon as Joanna Lumley was announced as the replacement for Stephen Fry as host of last year’s Baftas, we knew she’d be a hit. Sure enough, she was, and bosses have asked her back to preside over the 2019 event, which takes place on Sunday.
Now into her sixth decade in the entertainment industry, there’s no question that Joanna is a bona fide National Treasure, and here are just 12 times she cemented her place in the nation’s hearts...
1. James Bond
One of Joanna’s first on-screen roles was as the imaginatively titled English Girl in the sixth Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
It was a minor part (evidenced by the fact her character wasn’t actually given the privilege of a name), but she clearly made an impression on industry insiders all the same, as the roles swiftly began rolling in.
2. The New Avengers
Arguably her breakthrough role, a whole generation of young people were glued to their screens in the late 1970s, as Joanna kicked ass as her ‘New Avengers’ alter-ego, Purdey.
The New Avengers ran for two series, during which time Joanna (as Purdey) helped combat giant mutated rats and even took on fanatical Nazis after discovering their secret on a day of scuba diving. Wild.
3. Absolutely Fabulous
But of course, it’s as the legendary Patsy Stone in Ab Fab that will be forever remembered as Joanna Lumley’s most famous role.
As the chain-smoking, perma-boozing, “42”-year-old former model, her performance alongside Jennifer Saunders’ Eddy Monsoon has gone down in British comedy history, and become a cult classic outside the UK too.
4. ‘Sensitive Skin’
But while she’s best known for her fun and comedic performances, in 2005 she served up something a little different, starring in the drama, Sensitive Skin, where she played a mature woman struggling with dissatisfaction over her lot in life.
The show won critical acclaim, particularly for Joanna’s performance as Davina, and later spawned a Canadian remake, with Kim Cattrall in the lead role.
5. Her work for the Gurkhas
But it isn’t just her work in front of the camera that’s made Joanna Lumley a national treasure.
Joanna has used her platform to fight for the recognition and rights of the Gurkhas, a cause close to her heart as during World War II, her father was a commanding officer of a troop of Gurkhas.
In 2008, she became the face of a public campaign fighting to give any Nepalese-born Gurkha veteran who had served in the British army before 1997 the right to settle in the UK (those who fought after 1997 already had this right).
6. Her support for the LGBT+ community
It’s no surprise that a show as camp as Absolutely Fabulous swiftly picked up a loyal audience within the gay community, with guest stars in latter seasons including Sir Elton John and Rufus Wainwright, while Pet Shop Boys penned a song based on the show titled, wait for it, Absolutely Fabulous.
In a message addressed to the show’s LGBT+ fans, Patsy joked to V magazine in 2016: “We tried very hard but [the LGBT+ community] refused to be offended. And I admire them for that. Thank God you’re hanging in there.”
She and Jennifer Saunders even led the London Pride parade in 2016, surrounded by drag queens dressed as Eddy and Patsy.
7. Her friendship with Jennifer Saunders
What we’ve really admired about Ab Fab is that when you strip away Eddy’s outrageous outfits and Patsy’s beehive, its leading women are still thick as thieves away from the show.
This was never more apparent than over Christmas 2017, when Jennifer and Joanna appeared in the champagne-based documentary Absolutely Champers, which was every bit as giggly and silly as we hoped it would be.
8. Her work for animal rights organisations
As well as her work as a human rights activist, Joanna is also a supporter of several charities and organisations that help out animals.
A vegetarian since the 1970s, Joanna is a patron of the Farm Animal Sanctuary and a supporter of groups like Compassion In World Farming and Vegetarians’ International Voice For Animals.
This has even crossed over into her professional life, having recently lent her voice to the Simon Amstell mockumentary, ‘Carnage’, which centres on a world where eating meat is against the law.
Now, who’s going to be the one to tell her that cow she’s stroking isn’t real?
9. Being politically vocal
We do love when a celeb isn’t afraid to share their thoughts on the political climate, and since 2009, Joanna has been a vocal supporter of the Green Party and its leader, Caroline Lucas, even donating money to her campaign to become Prime Minister.
In 2015, she was also one of several celebrities to co-sign a letter endorsing the Green Party, alongside Sir David Attenborough, Queen guitarist Sir Brian May and model Lily Cole.
10. Her travel shows
Fancy seeing some of the world’s most extraordinary and important landmarks but can’t quite be bothered to shift your backside off the sofa? Well, Joanna’s got you covered.
In recent years, she’s become quite the travel reporter, with a number of documentaries under her belt that have seen her voyage all over the globe, from Egypt and India to Japan and Armenia, the latter of which she visited in Joanna Lumley: The Search For Noah’s Ark.
Plenty of strings to her bow, this one.
11. Her one-off show with will.i.am
Clearly sensing they were onto a winner when will.i.am hung out with Miriam Margoyles on Graham Norton’s sofa, the BBCy teamed him up with another of Britain’s favourite actresses for this 2014 show.
The results were predictably ridiculous, as you can see in the trailer above.
12. But she’s never afraid to show off her silly side
Despite being one of the country’s most celebrated actresses, Joanna is never afraid to let her hair down and be a bit silly.
Here she is in 2010, parodying Mamma Mia! with French and Saunders, sending up both the film and anyone who’d confused her for Christine Baranski when they first saw it in the cinema.
See Joanna presenting at this year’s Baftas on BBC One on Sunday from 9pm.