Jenny Agutter: her husband, OBE and The Railway Children sequel

Find out all about actress Jenny Agutter, best known for Call The Midwife and The Railway Children.

Jenny Agutter

by Lorna White |

Jenny Agutter OBE is one of our favourite actresses, best known for her work in Walkabout and as Sister Julienne in Call the Midwife.

She also recently returned to the role that started her acting career, as Bobbie Waterbury from The Railway Children, in the sequel to the much-loved classic.

How old is Jenny Agutter?

Jenny was born in 1952 and is currently 69.

How tall is Jenny Agutter?

She’s a respectable 5’5.

Jenny Agutter’s childhood

Born in Somerset, Jenny lived in various places including Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, due to her father Derek being a former British Army officer.

She was discovered at Elmhurst Ballet School, and ended up with a role in East of Sudan when she was 12 years old.

In 1968 she appeared in The Railway Children for the first time in the BBC's adaptation of the famous book. She was just 17 when she starred in the film version of The Railway Children.

"I started very young but I have never regretted it,” says Jenny. “I thought filming was great fun and I soon learned that I should grab every opportunity that came my way, just go for it and do the best I possibly could. Acting at such a young age offered me some absolutely extraordinary opportunities like travel and working with the most talented people.

“I was very lucky in that they were so nice and very supportive. When I was 14, for instance, I worked with Julie Andrews who was just enchanting. I came to acting with no credentials and not that much of a clue of what I was doing. I constantly watched and learned on the job. The only regret I have about starting work so young is that I didn’t get a full education. All in all, though. I know how lucky am I.”

Jenny Agutter young

Take a look at a young Jenny Agutter in 1976 while starring in Logan's Run!

Jenny Augutter
©Alamy

Who is Jenny Agutter's husband?

Jenny met hotelier Johan Tham at an arts festival in Bath and the couple married in August 1990.

“He is my stay-young secret,” smiles Jenny. “He definitely keeps me on my toes and we still have lots of fun together.”

Jenny says that one of the main ingredients of their happy union is that she laughs at her husband’s bad jokes: “I think humour is so important in a long-term relationship, it binds you together.”

The couple live in London but at one point owned a second home in Cornwall.

Does Jenny Agutter have a son?

She and husband Johan have one son, Jonathan, who was born on Christmas Day in 1990.

In fact Jenny is a grandma to Oliver – the son of her doctor son Jonathan and his wife – who is now two.

“I love spending time with this wonderful little person who’s now in my life,” she smiles. “It’s lovely when your child has a child and you can revisit that baby time again.”

Jenny Agutter with her son Jonathan
©Alamy

Jenny Agutter in The Railway Children

One of Jenny’s best-loved roles was that of Roberta – or Bobby – in the 1968 film The Railway Children. If you can get through to the end without crying, you’re made of strong stuff.

"I almost turned down The Railway Children because I was almost 17 and thought perhaps I was too old to play Bobbie. Thank goodness I didn’t!” laughs Jenny

The star made her third appearance in a screen adaptation of the book in 2000 when she starred in an ITV version, this time as the mother.

THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
©Alamy

Jenny Agutter in The Railway Children Return

The sequel, which was made more than 50 years after the original, stars a new generation of child stars who are evacuated to a Yorkshire village during the Second World War, where they encounter a soldier who is far from home.

The Call The Midwife star is joined in the film by Sheridan Smith and Sir Tom Courtenay. The iconic Keighley & Worth Valley Railway from the original film also features.

UK filmmaker Morgan Matthews directed The Railway Children Return, which has a UK release date of 15 July.

In the sequel, Jenny revisits her child-acting past and plays Bobbie who is now a grandmother. The film is set in the second world war and Bobbie and her daughter, Annie (played by Sheridan Smith) take in a group of evacuees from Manchester who swiftly become firm friends with Bobbie’s 11-year-old grandson.

“As in the original film, the main theme is that of children having to move to a different place,” Jenny explains. “It’s a whole new story, although there are nods to the original – the trains, of course, plus we filmed at Oakworth Station and at various other locations in West Yorkshire. It felt like no time had passed at all and there were so many items on set that Bobbie would have kept from her childhood – like the little train her brother Peter had owned in the original film.

“Exploring Bobbie’s life as an adult was fascinating. It turns out that as a young woman, Bobby went on to become a suffragette and I loved thinking about that time in history when the world was opening up to women.”

railway children
©STUDIOCANAL

Jenny Agutter in Call the Midwife

One of our favourite roles for Jenny has been that of Sister Julienne in Call the Midwife. She’s been in the show from the very first series.

When the first series of Call The Midwife aired in 2012, Jenny confesses she was taken aback by the show’s success – but not surprised.

“It was the closest I’ve had to the reaction to The Railway Children – people approach me and want to talk about it and say how touched they are by it, which is lovely,” she says. “Men, women, young people, old people, they talk about it very personally. But it has all the ingredients for success. Great scripts and great casting too.”

Jenny is now filming the 12th series of Call The Midwife.

“I can’t believe it’s almost 12 years since Call the Midwife started,” she smiles. “I never imagined we’d last this long. We were just doing six episodes to begin with. Heidi Thomas’ scripts get better and better, and I just want to keep going! It’s such a joy to work on and we’re a very close-knit group. We see each other outside work and are rather like a family.”

Jenny-Augutter-as-sister-julienne

Call the Midwife thrust Jenny back into the limelight at the age of almost 60 when she took on the role of Sister Julienne, but she has no regrets. “I still love working on the series. Heidi Thomas and her team of writers are so clever and every time a new script comes, the stories seem to get stronger and stronger,” says Jenny.

Jenny’s character, the gentle and all-knowing Sister Julienne, is often called upon to mediate between her fellow sisters.

But could the much-loved show be coming to an end soon? Speaking to website AssignmentX.com, Jenny said: "I think, unlike EastEnders, Call The Midwife is something that belongs as a complete piece of just over a decade or so. That whole sense of the midwife in the community changes and then birth control takes much more effect."

“So it will not continue in the same way. You could have a series about the clinics that they started, the maternity homes they started, but not really about the nuns and their involvement.”

Read more: Pam Ferris: Films, TV shows and her love for dogs

What films has Jenny Agutter been in?

Jenny's acting career spans over 50 years.

“I went to Elmhurst Ballet School where by chance I started acting in films when I was 11,” Jenny recalls. “Walt Disney Studios were making a film that required a young dancer in a supporting role. I was sent from school to screen-test.

"While waiting to hear whether I had the role, an agent suggested me for the part of a young injured girl in a 1964 film called East of Sudan with Anthony Quayle and Sylvia Syms. Then I heard I’d got the part in the Disney film Ballerina.

"I was also doing quite a bit of acting on TV and when I was 14 the BBC made a TV series of Edith Nesbit’s The Railway Children and I played Bobbie, the character I would go on to play in the film. When I was 16, I played major roles in three films in a row – The Railway Children, a thriller called I Start Counting, and Walkabout which took me to Australia for five-and-a-half months."

As well as The Railway Children (which she described to the Guardian as the book which had "changed her life") she appeared in Star! alongside Julie Andrews, in 1968. Later she was in thriller I Start Counting.

Jenny also appeared in The Eagle Has Landed, Logan’s Run, Equus, An American Werewolf in London, The Survivor, The Man in the Iron Mask, Dark Tower, King of the Wind, Child’s Play 2, Glorious 39, Burke and Hare and several more.

She also found fame with a new, younger audience thanks to her role as Councilwoman Hawley in 2012 in The Avengers, and 2014 in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

What TV shows has Jenny Agutter been in?

As well as Call the Midwife, she’s known for her role as Kirsty in The Newcomers. You may also recogonuse her from The Snow Goose, Red Dwarf, Murder, She Wrote, Magnum PI, The Six Million Dollar Man, Spooks, Heartbeat, The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, New Tricks, Midsomer Murders, The Avengers and various others.

Jenny Agutter in spooks

Jenny Agutter OBE

Jenny is also committed to her charity work and in 2012 she was awarded an OBE for all her dedication over the last 20 years.

But of all the many charities that Jenny is involved with – from Ovacome, the ovarian cancer support network, to Action for Children to the St Giles Trust, which helps to integrate offenders back into society, it is the Cystic Fibrosis Trust that she is most passionate about due to family connections; her niece Rachel suffers from the condition.

“It’s the hardest for me emotionally, because of Rachel,”says Jenny who is the charity’s patron and trustee. Jenny decided to have herself tested for CF when she became pregnant with her son and the test revealed that, like her brother Jonathan, Rachel’s father, she was also a carrier of a faulty gene which causes CF. But a test of her husband revealed he didn’t carry the mutated gene, which meant their children would not be at risk.

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