Gemma Chan is an English film, television and theatre actress and former fashion model. She portrays Charlotte in season four of the Showtime and ITV2 series Secret Diary of a Call Girl; Ruth in Channel 4's award-winning series Fresh Meat; Mia Bennett in the BBC's Doctor Who "The Waters of Mars" and Soo Lin in Sherlock. Chan portays Anita in AMC's Humans.

Early life and education Edit

Chan was born at Guy's Hospital in LondonEngland on November 29, 1982. Her father grew up in Hong Kong and was an engineer. Her mainland Chinese mother, a pharmacist at Guy's Hospital, emigrated from pre-Cultural Revolution Communist China via Hong Kong with her parents (Chan's maternal grandparents) and younger sister, growing up in GreenockScotland. Chan was raised near Sevenoaks, a town in west Kent, in South East England and attended Newstead Wood School for Girls in Orpington, in the London Borough of Bromley. She later went on to read law at Worcester College, Oxford.

Following graduation, she successfully gained a training contract offer as a graduate at leading law firm Slaughter and May; but, realising that her heart was not in the law and that her passion lay in drama and performance, she decided to pursue an acting career and gained admission and studied at the prestigious and notoriously tough Drama Centre London. Spotted at her showcase by British film producer Damian Jones, she then signed to acting agent Nicki van Gelder.

Career Edit

Modelling Edit

In 2006, Chan was one of the models in season one of Project Catwalk, the UK version of Project Runway. She was one of the top three models who made it to the final, although her designer did not win the final challenge. She has also been photographed by Rankin for a campaign for Nivea Visage, having previously worked as a model in order to fund her studies and drama school training, appearing in campaigns for Nokia and Selfridges and numerous magazines including ElleCosmopolitan and The Sunday Times Style.

Television Edit

Chan appeared in the autumn 2009 special of the BBC's Doctor Who ("The Waters of Mars") with David Tennant and Lindsay Duncan, which aired November 15, 2009 in the UK, playing geologist Mia Bennett. She was cast as a series regular in Secret Diary of a Call Girl alongside Billie Piper, the fourth and final series airing on ITV2 in the UK and Showtime in the US in 2011. Her other recent television projects include Fresh Meat, Channel 4's BAFTA nominated and British Comedy Award winning sitcom; Sherlock, BBC One's contemporary adaptation of Sherlock Holmes, alongside Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin Freeman as Dr. Watson which began airing on July 25, 2010 to overwhelmingly positive reviews and went on to win the BAFTA for Best Drama Series in 2011; and the fourth series of the BAFTA and Emmy award winning British sitcom The IT Crowd for Channel 4.

In 2012, Chan was seen as a regular in season two of Sky Living's supernatural drama Bedlam and in True Love, a five-part semi-improvised television series produced by Working Title for BBC One, with David Tennant, Billie Piper, Ashley Walters, Jane Horrocks, David Morrissey, Lacey Turner, Kaya Scodelario and Vicky McClure.

In 2013, she starred in new BBC One crime drama Shetland alongside Douglas Henshall and Steven Robertson and guest starred in the BBC's Death In Paradise. In February 2013, it was announced that she would star in new Channel 4 drama Dates from Skins creator Bryan Elsley alongside Ben Chaplin, Sheridan Smith, Oona Chaplin, Andrew Scott, and Katie McGrath.

Chan played the lead role Anita in Humans, the upcoming AMC/Channel 4 eight part sci-fi drama, alongside William Hurt, Colin Morgan and Katherine Parkinson. The series is an adaptation of the Swedish drama Real Humans. Filming commenced in autumn 2014 with a June 2015 premiere.

Film Edit

In 2010, she appeared in the World War II drama film Shanghai directed by Mikael Hafstrom, alongside John Cusack, Chow Yun-fat, and Gong Li and in the BAFTA nominated psychological thriller Exam directed by Stuart Hazeldine, alongside Jimi Mistry, Colin Salmon, and Luke Mably. Exam was also nominated for the Raindance Award at the 2009 British Independent Film Awards and was released in UK cinemas on 8 January 2010. She was also seen in the critically acclaimed 2011 comedy drama Submarine directed by Richard Ayoade, alongside Paddy Considine and Sally Hawkins. A passionate supporter of human rights, she has also made a film for Amnesty International to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

In 2014, she appeared in Paramount Pictures' action-thriller Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, directed by Kenneth Branagh, alongside Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, and Keira Knightley. She will appear in The Double directed by Richard Ayoade and starring Jesse Eisenberg and London Fields directed by Mathew Cullen alongside Billy Bob Thornton, Jim Sturgess, Amber Heard and Johnny Depp.

Chan will star in the upcoming feature film Belles familles, by French director and screenwriter Jean-Paul Rappeneau, which will premiere in 2015. She spent Summer 2014 shooting in Paris alongside Mathieu Amalric, Marine Vacth, Gilles Lellouche, Karin Viard and Nicole Garcia.

Theatre Edit

Chan made her professional stage debut in the British Premiere of Bertolt Brecht's last play Turandot at the Hampstead Theatre, London, directed by Anthony Clark. In November 2012, she performed in The Sugar-Coated Bullets of the Bourgeoisie, a new play by Anders Lustgarten at the Finborough Theatre. In June 2013, she performed in the UK premiere of Yellow Face by Tony Award-winning American playwright David Henry Hwang at The Park Theatre, London, directed by Alex Sims.

In November 2013, Chan performed in the world premiere of Our Ajax by Olivier and Tony Award-winning playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker at the Southwark Playhouse, London. Wertenbaker chose her to play the war goddess Athena after she saw her performance in Yellow Face. Michael Billington, writing in The Guardian, noted that she played Athena "with beautifully svelte omniscience".

In 2014, following a sell out run at The Park Theatre, it was announced that Yellow Face would be revived at the Royal National Theatre with the original London cast returning.

Radio Edit

On 6 August 2013, Chan was asked to appear as a guest on the "Cultural Exchange" feature of the BBC Radio 4 series Front Row, where she nominated the film The Princess Bride directed by Rob Reiner and based on the novel by William Goldman as an art work which she loves.

Personal life Edit

Chan lives and works in England. She is classically trained on the violin and piano Her parents are Chinese. As of 2013, she and comedian/actor Jack Whitehall had been dating for two years and lived together in Notting Hill.

She is a lifelong supporter of Arsenal F.C.

In September 2013, she appeared at the Old Bailey in Central London as a witness to a fatal stabbing outside Putney Bridge underground station.

Filmography Edit

Film Edit

Year Film Role Notes
2006 When Evil Calls Molly Nelson
2009 Exam Chinese Girl
2010 Pimp Bo
2010 Shanghai Shin Shin
2010 Submarine Kim-Lin
2013 The Double Glamourous Judge
2014 Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Amy Chang
2014 London Fields Petronella
2015 Belles familles Chen-Lin

Television Edit

Year Title Role Notes
2006 Project Catwalk Herself 10 episodes (was finalist)
2009 Doctor Who Mia Bennett Episode: Autumn 2009 Special "The Waters of Mars"
2010 The IT Crowd Ivana / Female Sulu Episodes: "The Final Countdown", "Reynholm vs. Reynholm"
2010 Sherlock Soo Lin Yao Episode: "The Blind Banker"
2011 Secret Diary of a Call Girl Charlotte Regular (Season 4)
2011 Fresh Meat Ruth Recurring
2012 Bedlam Kiera Regular (Season 2)
2012 True Love Kathy TV miniseries
2013 Shetland Hattie James TV drama
2013 Death in Paradise Jennifer Cheung Series two, episode 7
2013 Dates Erica Episodes: "Erica and Kate", "Erica and Callum"
2014 The Game Chen Mei TV miniseries
2015 Humans Anita/Mia TV miniseries
2015 Brotherhood] Miss Pemberton Recurring

Theatre Edit

Year Title Role Theatre
2008 Turandot Hampstead Theatre
2012 The Sugar-Coated Bullets of the Bourgeoisie Finborough Theatre
2013 Yellow Face (UK premiere) The Park Theatre
2013 Our Ajax Athena Southwark Playhouse
2014 Yellow Face Royal National Theatre

Trivia Edit

  • Studied law at Worcester College, Oxford University prior to training as an actress.
  • Graduated from the Drama Centre London in 2008.
  • Was one of three models to reach the final of the first season of Sky One's Project Catwalk, the UK version of Miramax's Project Runway.
  • Worked as a fashion model to fund her drama school training, appearing in campaigns for Nokia and Selfridges & Co and numerous magazines including Elle, Cosmopolitan and the Sunday Times Style.
  • Classically trained on the violin and piano, attaining the Diploma of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music on the violin whilst still at school.
  • In October 2012 she witnessed a murder of a homeless gentleman outside the Putney Bridge Tube station in West London. She stayed with the gentleman while medics and police were called, but he soon expired. In September 2013 she gave evidence in the trial of the defendant.
  • Appearing on stage in the British premiere of Bertolt Brecht's final play "Turandot" - Hampstead Theatre, London [October 2008]
  • Filming as a guest star on the Autumn 2009 special of the BBC's Doctor Who (2005), with David Tennant and Lindsay Duncan. [February 2009]
  • Filming as a new regular on the fourth season of Secret Diary of a Call Girl (2007) withBillie Piper. [August 2010]