Who's Who: "Special Case" Actor Biography
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Elizabeth Shepherd

Emma Peel, 1965 (never aired)

Image from Infinite Variety: Portrait of a Muse

by David K. Smith

Elizabeth Shepherd was born in 1936 and began her career in England, describing herself in that period as the "queen of the BBC mini-series." Her stage career eventually brought her to Canada in 1972 where she has lived ever since.

Her CV is quite extensive, having played the Shakespearean roles of Beatrice, Cordelia, Gertrude, Helena, Hermione, Isabella, Juliet, Lady Macbeth, Ophelia, Portia, Titania and Viola. Venues include New York on and off Broadway, London's West End, the Stratford and Shaw Festivals, San Diego's Old Globe Theatre, the Bristol Old Vic, and Montreal, Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa, Halifax and Edmonton. Repertory seasons include the Bristol Old Vic, Nottingham Playhouse, Manchester Library Theatre, plus repertory appearances in Milwaukee, Seattle, Cleveland, Philadelphia and Dorset. Additionally, she has starred in dozens of films, and her small screen appearances number over 500.

Seemingly indefatigable, she is still very busy. In 2001 she gave the UK premiere of Infinite Variety: Portrait of a Muse by Scot D. Ryersson and Michael Orlando Yaccarino, a one-woman dramatic presentation of the life of the Marchesa Luisa Casati, at the Italian Cultural Institute in London. The show was well received by standing-room-only audiences in New York City, Toronto, and London. (For more information, see the Portrait of a Muse website.) 2002 saw her as Miss Havisham in a new stage adaptation of Dickens' Great Expectations at The Derby Playhouse (Derby, England) and The Walnut Street Theatre (Philadelphia, PA), followed by Walk Right Up by Celia McBride at the Studio Theatre/Stratford Festival, Canada. And in May 2003 she guested on ABC's All My Children.

Her involvement with The Avengers was unplanned in its brevity. After filming all of "The Town of No Return" and part of "The Murder Market," it was announced that she was fired. There is no shortage of rumors as to why, but the consensus seems to be that she simply was not right for the part of Mrs. Emma Peel. Add to this an extravagant wardrobe, a tendency to rewrite dialog on the set, and a general lack of television experience, one might understand why the producers elected to take the costly and risky course of re-casting the part, and history shows that the choice of Diana Rigg was worth the risk.

In answer to one of the most frequently asked questions, it is unknown if any of the original footage of Elizabeth Shepherd as Emma Peel still exists. For a while rumors were circulating that Canal+ still had some in their vaults, but there has been no official word one way or the other.

All materials copyrighted per their respective copyright holders.
This website Copyright 1996-2017 David K. Smith. All Rights Reserved.
Page last modified: 5 May 2017.

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