When The History Boys transferred to Broadway in 2006 after a successful run at London’s Royal National Theatre, expectations were high. The play had won three Olivier Awards: Best Director for Nicholas Hytner, Best Actor for Richard Griffiths, and Best Play. The work repeated its success in New York, winning six Tony Awards including Best Play, Best Actor again for Griffiths, Best Direction of a Play for Hytner, and Best Actress for Frances de la Tour, as well as Best Scenic Design and Lighting Design of a Play. Relatively unknown (particularly in the U.S.), the entire cast—with the exception of de la Tour—made their Broadway debuts with the Alan Bennett play about eight teenagers preparing for the Oxford and Cambridge entrance exams under the tutelage of three contrasting teachers. But the actors’ anonymity was only temporary; from talk show hosts to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child stars, here’s to where the history boys graduated:
James Corden, Timms
Corden’s star has risen to meteoric heights. After playing the class clown in The History Boys, Corden returned to London where he starred in the BBC Three series Gavin & Stacey, which he co-wrote. The show won multiple British Comedy Awards and Corden won a BAFTA for his performance. In 2012, he won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Play for his performance in One Man, Two Guvnors. And though his Tony speech had us (and him) believe he’d reached the pinnacle, Corden went on to star in the movie musical Into the Woods as The Baker, hosted the 2016 Tony Awards, and, since 2015, has been the host of The Late Late Show with James Corden, inventing staples of the pop cultural zeitgeist like Carpool Karaoke and Crosswalk The Musical. Corden also happens to be an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to drama.
Samuel Anderson, Crowther
Like Corden, Anderson was part of the original London cast of the production and, after Broadway, toured the world with the show and appeared in its film version. The actor appeared in a recurring role on Corden’s Gavin & Stacey as well as other British television comedies like Doctors and Casualty. In 2014, Anderson landed the role of Danny Pink in the hit Doctor Who series. Anderson’s career remains firmly planted in the television world, having appeared in Trollied, Witless, DCI Banks, and Loaded in his post-Doctor Who days up until the present.
Samuel Barnett, Posner
A graduate of LAMDA, Barnett too stayed with the play through its international and feature film iterations before returning to the London stage. His many credits include performances in Dealer’s Choice at the Menier Chocolate Factory, Women Beware Women at the Royal National Theatre, and as Rosencrantz in Rosencrantz and Guildentstern Are Dead at Chichester Festival Theatre. In 2012, he joined the all-male company of Richard III and Twelfth Night at Shakespeare’s Globe, both of which transferred to Broadway and played in repertory at the Belasco in 2013. Barnett was nominated for a Tony for his portrayal of Viola in Twelfth Night, then went on to play Renfield on Showtime’s Penny Dreadful, and co-starred as the title character of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency alongside Elijah Wood (The Lord of the Rings) on BBC America. He was recently announced to star in a new stage adaptation of Manuel Puig's novel Kiss of the Spider Woman at Menier Chocolate Factory.
Dominic Cooper, Dakin
Like his real-life friend Corden (with whom he shared an apartment during The History Boys), Cooper has skyrocketed to fame. He hasn’t been back to Broadway since The History Boys—for which he earned a Drama Desk nomination—but he did play the role of Sky in the movie musical Mamma Mia!. Still, the mainstream knows Cooper from the Marvel universe, having played the character of young Howard Stark in Captain America: The First Avenger and Agent Carter. In 2009, he was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award along with his castmates for An Education. Among his dozens of film credits, Cooper reunited with director Nicholas Hytner for the 2015 film The Lady in the Van. The actor landed the lead role on AMC’s Preacher, released in 2016. Next up: Cooper reprises his role as Sky in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, out later this year.
Sacha Dhawan, Akthar
Like his castmastes, Dhawan made his Broadway debut with The History Boys and continued on with the international productions and the film of the Tony-winning play. Dhawan made his way in British television with recurring roles on Weirdsister College and Out of Sight. But American audiences will know him for his appearances on 24: Live Another Day and as Davos on Netflix’s Iron Fist.
Richard Griffiths, Hector
Having won the Olivier, Theatre World Award, Drama Desk and Tony Award for his portrayal of Douglas Hector, the English and general studies teacher, Griffiths had one heck of a Broadway debut. Later, he earned a BAFTA nomination for his reprisal of the role in the film version. Griffiths returned to Broadway in 2008 in Equus, but eventually many would come to know him as Vernon Dursely in the Harry Potter film franchise. But the actor enjoyed a prosperous stage career prior to all of this. He played in multiple productions with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and made his big break on screen in 1975’s It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet, going on to notable supporting roles in Chariots of Fire and Ghandi. Sadly, Griffiths passed away March 28, 2013, after complications following heart surgery.
Jamie Parker, Scripps
The young actor was working his way up the ladder of British theatre, performing at the Oxford Playhouse and Chichester Festival Theatre, when he was cast in The History Boys. And Parker has continued his illustrious stage career across the pond playing Oliver in As You Like It at Shakespeare’s Globe in 2009, Guildenstern opposite fellow History Boy Barnette in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead at Chichester in 2011, the title role in Henry V at the Globe in 2012, Brick in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof later that same year, and starring in the Menier Chocolate Factory’s 2013 production of Proof. He’s even led musicals such as Guys and Dolls as Sky Masterson in 2014 at Chichester and later in 2016 at the Savoy, Assassins as the Balladeer, and Count Carl Magnus in A Little Night Music. Parker will return to Broadway this spring in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child as Harry Potter himself, the role for which he won the 2017 Olivier.
Andrew Knott, Lockwood
Though Knott’s one and only Broadway appearance was in The History Boys, most knew him from films that predated his Main Stem engagement. He starred in the 1993 movie The Secret Garden as Dickon and played Joe Green in Black Beauty. Since The History Boys, Knott collaborated with Corden on Gavin & Stacey and has appeared in episodes of Drop Dead Gorgeous and Black Mirror.
Stephen Campbell Moore, Irwin
The history teacher brought in as a special coach, Moore’s Irwin earned him a Drama Desk nomination (up against Cooper and Barnett, the latter of whom won). Prior to The History Boys, Moore starred alongside Scarlett Johansson in A Good Woman in 2004 and played the latter half of the titular dual on British TV drama Edward & Wallis in 2005. After The History Boys, Moore landed as a series regular on 2008’s BBC series Ashes to Ashes. Most recently, he starred opposite Nicole Kidman in Anna Zeigler’s play Photograph 51 about the overlooked contribution of scientist Rosalind Franklin to the discovers of the structure of DNA. Moore is married to Golden Globe-winning actor Claire Foy (The Crown).
Russell Tovey, Rudge
Tovey began his career as a child actor. After The History Boys, Tovey continued his screen work, appearing in Corden’s series Gavin & Stacey and as werewolf George Sands on the BBC’s Being Human (2008). In 2009, he returned to the stage for A Miracle at the Royal Court Theatre. But Tovey is best known to American audiences for his work on Looking alongside two-time Tony nominee Jonathan Groff. Tovey also returned to Broadway as Rodolpho in Ivo van Hove’s 2015 revival of A View From the Bridge. He is a series regular on ABC’s Quantico since 2016, and appears in the National Theatre's broadcast of Angels in America as Joe Pitt.
Frances de la Tour, Mrs. Lintott
In addition to her Tony, she was nominated for a BAFTA (one of three total nominations) for her work in the film. She is the sole member of the cast who made her debut prior to Bennett’s play; she played Helena in the 1971 Broadway production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She, too, is part of the Harry Potter film franchise, playing headmistress of Beauxbatons school Madame Maxime. You’ll also recognize her from movies like 2010’s Alice in Wonderland and 2016’s Alice Through the Looking Glass—as well as for playing The Giantess in 2014’s Into the Woods alongside Corden—and from television as Mother Hildegarde on the hit series Outlander and on Vicious Queens.
Clive Merrison, Headmaster
Merrison is actually best known for his long-running portrayal of Sherlock Holmes on BBC Radio, having performed the role over 75 times. A veteran of the stage, he was a member of Laurence Olivier’s National Theatre Company in the 1970s, as well as the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
The TV director in The History Boys, Colin Haigh returned to Broadway in the 2009 revival of Hamlet. Ensemblist Pamela Merrick has continued her work on screen, most notably in Ashes to Ashes and the film Jacob’s Ladder. Joseph Attenborough understudied Corden, Tovey, and Knott and continues working as an actor, musician, and teacher. After The History Boys, Rudi Dharmalingam played Jai Dutt in Rafta Rafta—also directed by Hytner—which won the Olivier for Best New Comedy in 2008. He worked again with Hytner in 2009 on England People Very Nice. While continuing his stage work, Dharmalingham is best known as a series regular in BBC’s Our Girl and BBC/Sundance’s The Split.