Lily James and Chris Evans became one of summer 2020's surprise pairings last summer when they were photographed leaving a private members' club in London together and taking the same cab
back to Evans' hotel, where the two used different entrances to go in. While it's unclear whether the two are dating or just friends, Evans' British companion is also an accomplished Disney star with an extensive résumé, a past high-profile public romance, and many famous friends.
Here, what to know about Lily James and her connection to Evans.
Lily James is a 31-year-old British actress who has been acting in movies and TV shows for over 10 years.
James famously played Cinderella in Disney's live adaptation of the film that came out in 2015. She also starred as Lady Rose MacClare in Downton Abbey from 2012 to 2015. In Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, she played young Donna. Other high-profile projects include War & Peace's TV mini series (she played Natasha Rostova), Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (she played Elizabeth Bennet), Baby Driver (she played Debora), and Yesterday (she was Ellie Appleton).
James grew up in Esher, Surrey, and went to drama school.
James was a middle child, with two brothers. Her mother was a travel agent. Her grandmother was American actress Helen Horton, who famously voiced Mother in the 1979 film Alien. Her father James Thomson also acted, was a musician, and entrepreneur. He passed away from cancer in 2008 when James was just 18.
She spoke to Harper's Bazaar UKin its March 2019 issue about how being in an emotional household growing up shaped her. "I don’t always deal with pressure and stress well," she said. "I grew up in a house where tempers rose quickly... I think the extremes live quite happily in me. I can be really happy and I can be the opposite; I throw things and shout. My dad had a bad temper and I think it’s a family trait. I’ve always been quite explosive.’"
James studied musical theatre at Tring Park School for the Performing Arts in Hertfordshire, then went to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, according to her February 2020 AnOther magazine profile. She graduated in 2010 and started working steadily after.
She's playing Pamela Anderson in Hulu's upcoming limited series, Pam and Tommy.
A first look from Hulu in early May 2021 revealed just how much James has transformed for the role:
After some people expressed their doubts about whether she was the right fit for the role, James posted the following Anderson quote on her account:
“It’s great to be blonde. With low expectations it’s very easy to surprise people.”
"Lily James" is a stage name she took in honor of her late father.
James' real name is Lily Chloe Ninette Thomson, and her stage name came from her father James Thomson. James fondly remembered her dad growing up, telling Harper's Bazaar UK, "[he] told us made-up stories every night, with different accents and different voices...My dad had such a rich, varied life. He was an actor for a while, then he had an orchestra; he was an entrepreneur, but at the same time, he wrote music, he played in a band—he was just so clever."
She shared a tribute to her dad on Instagram in late June:
James actually lost three close family members within a short window of time: her grandmother, her uncle (who passed away from motor neuron disease), and her father. Their losses profoundly shaped her.
James told The Telegraphin its June 2o19 profile of her that "a lot of my family died in the space of five years, but I am glad that my grandma died before my dad, because if she had seen that… it was like our whole family was suddenly…" she paused, then said that her mother kept everyone together. "I haven’t always been the easiest daughter and life can be so hard, but she is the most amazing mum, kind and dedicated and my support in everything. I love her so much."
James lives in north London.
She spoke to The Timesabout her neighborhood in January 2019, saying, “I live in north London, where there are some of the best pubs, and I like to go out and dance every so often. I just went out to Rowans, the bowling alley in Finsbury Park with karaoke booths, for a friend’s birthday and did some very bad singing of Cher songs with my mates. I’ve been in a long phase of not looking after myself, so now I’m getting myself together again.” At the time, she shared a rented flat with her then-boyfriend Matt Smith. She said eventually, "I’d like to have a little place in the country."
James and Chris Evans were spotted out for the first time in July 2020.
The two were seen leaving London's Mark's Club in Mayfair together on Saturday, July 4, 2020. James wore a silky red dress and a navy trench with high heels, while Evans complemented her in a black top, blazer, and pants. They took a cab together to Evans' hotel, The Corinthia, around 1 AM and exited the vehicle separately. Evans went into the front entrance of the hotel and James to the back, presumably to spend more time together, since James has a home in the city. The Daily Mail has photos of them here.
While the two haven't been seen out together before, they do follow each other on Instagram.
Evans and James had their second public outing days after their first.
On Wednesday, July 8, 2020, Evans and James were photographed having ice cream together in a London park. The two sat alongside each other in the grass during the date-like outing.
James wore jeans, a pink graphic t-shirt, and a cream cardigan with a blue bandana as a face covering, while Evans wore a navy and gray t-shirt, dark denim, a New England Patriots bandana as his face covering, and a Boston Red Sox hat. The two were shot smiling and laughing alongside each other—though they avoided showing any overt PDA. Daily Mail has photos of that outing here.
James has spoken about being typecast in English rose, good-girl roles.
James spoke to AnOther magazine earlier this year about being typecast into "English rose," historical-film parts. “It’s funny because I wasn’t always the English rose,” she said. “I didn’t play those roles at drama school, or in my first theatre job. Over time, I’ve sort of morphed into a version of myself that I’ve been cast as. I think largely it’s because of England, because I’m based here. There’s a lot of period drama and England does it really well—it’s our history.”
She also touched on being pigeon-holed into the same kind of roles during her July 2018 interview with Allure. “I think every actor is typecast,” she said with a shrug. “You have to remind yourself, I can do this for a long, long time, and there’s so much time to reinvent yourself or move in a totally different direction.”
She added that she's ready to move away from wholly good-girl characters. “I’ve just had this feeling that I can’t get rid of recently—and sometimes what you think is right for you is total nonsense anyway—that I’ve wanted to step away from playing characters that feel quite honest and open," she said. "There’s a goodness to them that I want to get away from."
James has used her platform to advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement and Time's Up, among other causes.
She spoke to Allure about her decision to be get involved in social justice movements. “There’s one part of me that’s like, I’m an actor and I want to just do that,” she started. “A lot of the stuff that comes along with that isn’t stuff I would have ever thought I’d do. I want to be an actor and then have my own life be private. But then I also realize the importance of that platform. Why not use it and for the better? And why not really become passionate about something you think could make a difference? For me, I think a lot of the people who follow me might be young girls. That’s pretty important. If I feel like I could be some sort of useful voice to them, then that’s my responsibility and it’s worth taking on.”
James has talked about the downside of playing a Disney princess, saying it's hard to "shed" the role.
"Cinderella was a gift, and I will treasure it for the rest of my life,’ she told Harper's Bazaar UK in 2019. "But I wore a dress for the Mamma Mia! premiere that was blue and white and quite pouffy, and when I got out on the red carpet, all anyone said was 'Oh, it’s Cinderella!' It’s a happy association, but also something that you want to shed at some point..."
She also touched on her public persona versus who she actually is. In her 2019 Telegraph interview, James said her bubbly personality doesn't always capture how she's really feeling. "I can operate quite well in a certain level of who I am, but there is a part of me that I find harder to communicate," she said. "I think that is how I have learnt to cope with work and the press and life. It is a mechanism, but then the divide sometimes feels like it gets too big between who you are and who you show to the world… and then I think, 'Is it all in my head? Am I this person or am I that person?'"
James is a natural brunette who has gone blonde for roles.
She spoke to Harper's Bazaar UK about her natural hair color, saying, "I’m naturally a brunette, and I love it, but everyone else wants me to go blonde. Even my mum says, 'I think I secretly prefer you as a blonde.'" James has gone between being brunette and blonde, depending on the role she's playing. When photographed with Evans over the weekend, she was a light brunette.
James dated Doctor Who and The Crown's Matt Smith for over five years.
The couple didn't share much about their relationship publicly. They were last photographed together in May 2020. The Sunreported their breakup in December, with a source telling the outlet, "Things haven’t been right for a while, and a few months ago they decided to finally end it properly. It has been difficult because they have many mutual friends, so hopefully it will all stay civilized. But for now the relationship is formally off." The couple never confirmed or denied their split.
In June 2019, James discussed Smith a little in her interview with The Telegraph. She shared a rare photo of them on her Instagram in December 2018:
When discussing entering her 30s, she said, "you know what you feel, what you want, what you are about, when you don’t have to try to be something...As I get older I want to settle into a life that feels like it has continuity. Sometimes I am just desperately scouring my diary for a day that coincides with Matt."
She opened up about the public's initial reaction to them, Cinderella and Doctor Who, dating in 2015, "It was like a weird sci-fi universe," she said. The two lived together in north London.
She explained to The Telegraphin June 2019 that she purposely chooses to keep their relationship to herself to safeguard it. "There is more interest because we are both in the industry, so you have to be more protective," she said. "It is a weird thing to say, but I feel really proud that there aren’t too many photographs of us online. We don’t really do many official things together, because it feels like that [the relationship] is just for us." She declined to detail whether at the time, they were talking about marriage or starting a family together anytime soon. She did acknowledge she wants to be a mother someday though and that she looks forward to creating a life for her kids that is full of "freedom and mystical worlds. I can’t wait for that, it is so exciting."
James has mixed feelings about the institution of marriage.
In her January 2019 The Times interview, James said she wasn't sure how she felt about the prospect of marrying Smith then. “I’ve gone through different phases of wanting and not wanting to get married,” she said. “I don’t know where I sit with it now. What matters is the relationship and how you feel about each other.”
When asked whether she'd want to start a family with Smith in that interview, she laughed: “I’m definitely not answering that." (Smith said he wanted to have a lot of children in a 2018 interview with Desert Island Discs, going so far as to claim that "essentially, the purpose of us all is to procreate.")
James' famous friends include Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, and Jenna Coleman.
James was photographed out with Dominic Cooper, Gemma Chan, and Billie Piper at the end of June. In her Telegraph profile, the reporter added that her friend circle also imcludes Douglas Booth, Richard Madden, and Jenna Coleman.
James is an Aries.
James celebrated her 31st birthday on April 5 this year. Chris Evans, for those interested, is a Gemini, an excellent pairing astrologically, for what it's worth.