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What ethnicity is lily james?

Lily James is a popular British actress known for her roles in films like Cinderella, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, and Darkest Hour. While she was born and raised in England, many people are curious about Lily James’ ethnic background given her unique look and talent for accents.

Lily James’ Background

Lily James was born Lily Chloe Ninette Thomson on April 5, 1989 in Esher, Surrey, England. Her mother, Ninette Thomson, is an actress, and her father, James Thomson, is a musician. She has two brothers, including famous actor Ben Lloyd-Hughes.

James grew up in Esher and attended Tring Park School for the Performing Arts as a teenager. She originally planned to focus on singing, but eventually switched her attention to acting. After graduating, she studied acting at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Her Ethnicity

So what is Lily James’ ethnicity? While she was born and raised in England, Lily James actually has mixed ethnicity.

On her mother’s side, James has English ancestry. Her maternal grandmother was born in India during the British Raj era, so she also has some Indian heritage.

Her father’s side includes some American roots. James’ paternal grandmother was born in New York to immigrant Russian Jewish parents. This gives the actress Eastern European Jewish ancestry as well.

Overall, Lily James has English, Indian, Russian Jewish, and American ancestry. This diverse background allows her to portray characters from many different cultures and ethnicities convincingly.

Her Career and Acclaim

Lily James started her professional acting career in 2010 with small roles in series like Just William. Her big break came in 2012 when she was cast as Lady Rose MacClare in the hit period drama Downton Abbey.

After Downton Abbey, James’ career took off. Some of her most notable roles include:

  • Cinderella in the 2015 live-action Disney film Cinderella
  • Debora in the war drama The Exception (2016)
  • Young Donna Sheridan in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)
  • Juliet Darling in the romcom Yesterday (2019)
  • Pamela Anderson in the biopic Pam & Tommy (2022)

James has received a lot of praise and award nominations for her roles. She was nominated for Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival for her part in The Exception. Her performance as Young Donna in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again also earned Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations.

Her Ability to Portray Diverse Roles

One thing that makes Lily James stand out is her ability to authentically portray a wide range of ethnicities and cultures. For example:

  • In Cinderella, she plays the quintessential British princess.
  • In War & Peace, she took on the role of Russian aristocrat Natasha Rostova.
  • In Darkest Hour, she portrayed Winston Churchill’s secretary Elizabeth Layton.
  • In Yesterday, she played an English love interest.
  • In Rebecca, she starred as the shy second wife of an aristocratic Englishman.

James’ diverse ancestry likely helps her successfully inhabit all these varied roles. She can tap into her own English, Indian, Eastern European, and American roots to connect with characters from different backgrounds.

Her Future Plans

Moving forward, Lily James shows no signs of slowing down her acting career. The 33-year-old actress has several major projects in the works, including:

  • Starring as Peggy Jo Tallas in the crime drama Peggy Jo (filming)
  • A lead role in the romantic drama What’s Love Got to Do With It? (filming)
  • Playing Pamela Anderson again in a Pam & Tommy sequel series (pre-production)
  • Starring as Frankie in an untitled Tony Kaye project (announced)

James also expressed interest in portraying notorious drug smuggler Cocaine Godmother Griselda Blanco in a biopic. With her talent and cultural heritage, she could undoubtedly excel in this Latino role.

The actress is clearly interested in pushing herself with diverse, challenging new characters across many eras and backgrounds. Her multi-ethnic roots give her an advantage when it comes to authentically portraying different cultures on-screen.


Lily James’ unique combination of English, Indian, Eastern European Jewish, and American ancestry allows her to take on roles across many ethnicities. While she was born and raised in England, her diverse family background helps explain her uncanny ability to adapt to different cultures on film.

As she continues taking on exciting new roles, James’ mixed heritage will likely further enhance her versatility and critical acclaim. Her ethnic diversity is an asset that enables the talented actress to fully immerse herself in characters from just about any background.

Lily James’ Ethnic Background
Russian Jewish