Born in Bermuda in 1973, British actress Lena Headey was discovered as a teenager during a production at London's Royal National Theatre. Following years of mostly supporting parts, she drew attention for her leading performances in the film 300 and the TV series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Her star turn came when she was tapped for the role of Cersei Lannister in the HBO hit series Game of Thrones.
Lena Headey was born on October 3, 1973, in Hamilton, Bermuda, to parents John and Sue. When John's assignment as a police cadet in Bermuda ended, Headey moved with her family at age 5 to Somerset, England, then across the country at age 11 to West Yorkshire.
Describing herself as rebellious in her youth, Headey intended to become a hairdresser. However, she also developed a love for movies and musicals and became involved in acting as a student at Shelley College. At 17, she caught the attention of a casting agent during a school performance at the Royal National Theatre in London, which led to her film debut, a supporting role in the 1992 movie Waterland.
Headey enjoyed more early success with parts in The Remains of the Day and The Summer House, both released in 1993. The following year, she starred as the romantic lead in the live-action version of Disney's The Jungle Book.
Although more headlining parts proved difficult to obtain, Headey earned steady work and quietly distinguished herself through a variety of roles. She played a character swept up by an Ecstasy-fueled nightlife in the 1995 TV movie Loved Up, followed by a recurring role as an S&M prostitute in the miniseries Band of Gold. Headey also delivered notable appearances alongside Vanessa Redgrave in Mrs. Dalloway (1997) and Penelope Cruz in The Man with Rain in His Shoes (1998). Her performance as Kaisa—a lawyer who reconnects with her estranged father—in the film Aberdeen garnered the Silver Iris award for best actress at the 2001 Brussels European Film Festival.
Following her role as the huntress Angelika in Terry Gilliam's The Brothers Grimm (2005), Headey found a groove with her portrayal of strong female characters on both the big and small screens. She was cast as Sparta's Queen Gorgo in the action blockbuster 300 (2006) and starred in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles for its television run from 2008 to 2009.
Tipped off to the TV adaptation of a fantasy-novel series by fellow actor Peter Dinklage, Headey landed a career-defining role on HBO’s Game of Thrones. As Cersei Lannister, Queen Regent, the British actress inhabited a complicated character torn by issues of power, adultery and incest, with Dinklage starring as her cunning brother. Since its premiere in 2011, the show has become a massive hit, and Headey earned recognition for her work by scoring an Emmy nomination in 2014.
Following her debut on Thrones, Headey portrayed a violent drug lord in the 2012 sci-fi movie Dredd and the female lead in the 2013 horror flick The Purge. In 2014 she reprised her role as Queen Gorgo for 300: Rise of an Empire.
In 2015 Heady was nominated for an Emmy in the Supporting Actress category for Game of Thrones. She received a Golden Globe nomination for the role in 2016.
Formerly engaged to actor Johnny Cicco, Headey was married from 2007 to 2013 to musician Peter Loughran, with whom she had a son in 2010. She has since been linked to fellow Thrones actor Pedro Pascal.
Since her divorce, Headey has opened up about her longtime struggles with clinical depression. She also admits to an obsession with tattoos, sporting several delicate ink depictions across her arms, shoulders and back. A vegetarian, she has campaigned against animal abuse for PETA.
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