Submitted Date 09/22/2019

My ex and I sat together on my forest green couch, back when it was still bouncy. Facing the couch, a flatscreen showed streaming episodes of That Mitchell and Webb Look. Suddenly, I pointed to the screen saying, "I know that actor!" That's when my companion leaned over and told me something that stuck with me ever since. He said, "there are only ten British actors." I laughed at his joke and didn't think much more about it. As I venture further into the world of British entertainment, however, I notice the same actors appear more and more. Now, I'm starting to think that maybe he was right. Can there be more than ten?

To test his lighthearted assertion, I like to play a little game. It's played a bit like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. If you're not familiar with that game, it's a simple concept. The idea is to pick an actor and connect them to Kevin Bacon in six moves or less by naming shared appearances. I altered that game just a little by giving it a magical twist. I call my version Six Degrees of Harry Potter. To play, begin by naming a British actor. Then, connect that person to any of the Harry Potter movies in six moves or less. The thing is, you rarely need more than two, which lends support to the theory that the British entertainment industry is a small place indeed.

Academy Award-winning actress Olivia Colman was in an excellent, albeit depressing, show called Broadchurch. She co-starred in that show with actor David Tennant. Tennant played Barty Crouch, Jr. in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. That was only one step. Let's try another.

If you don't know actress Helen Mirren, you have some homework to do. She's one of those classic British Dames who's so famous she often appears as herself in things. In 2001, she was in a movie called Gosford Park. Maggie Smith was in that one too, and she plays Professor McGonagall in every Harry Potter movie. That was only one step as well. Let's have another go.

Daniel Craig is pretty famous on both sides of the Atlantic. He's the latest to play James Bond and you can see him in Knives Out when it's released in November. One of my favorite movies to see him in is The Golden Compass, which was based on Philip Pullman's novel. Playing the Gyptian King in that movie was Jim Carter, who is also the head butler in a show called Downton Abbey. Maggie Smith is in that show too, portraying the dowager countess. Maggie Smith is Minerva McGonagall and Bob's your uncle. That counts as two moves. Okay, one last just for giggles.

Comedian Noel Fielding is one of the new hosts of The Great British Bake Off. He and Sandi Toksvig replaced Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc. Sandi Toksvig was also a host of the show QI. All kinds of funny people were on QI, but one of my favorites is David Mitchell. Mitchell frequently performs alongside Olivia Coleman (Peep Show, That Mitchell and Webb Look), who, as we've already seen, was in Broadchurch with David Tennant. Tennant, again, was in Goblet of Fire. That wrapped up nice and tidy in just four moves.

If you want to play this yourself, here are the rules:

1. The actor you start with has to be British or Scottish.

2. Movies and shows do not have to be British.

3. Make "moves" by naming a production that connects two people.

4. "Win" by connecting the starting actor to any Harry Potter movie in six moves or less.

5. You can use movies or television shows to connect people, but using talk shows (like The Graham Norton Show or Loose Women) is cheating. In fact, when I used QI to connect Sandi Toksvig and David Mitchell, I was cheating too.

6. The actor you end with must have been in one of the eight Harry Potter movies.


The Golden Compass Downton Abbey

Daniel Craig ------------------------- > Jim Carter --------------------- > Maggie Smith

Move 1 Move 2


The next time you snuggle up next to someone and settle in for a binge round of The Detectorists or Black Mirror, see if you can play the game. If for some terrible reason, you don't like Harry Potter, you can probably do this with Doctor Who or Game of Thrones instead. The more you play, the more you'll be convinced that there are only ten British actors.

*photo by Maurice via Flickr (



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