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Diana Rigg (1938–2020), played Emma Peel in TV’s “The Avengers”

by Linnea Crowther

Diana Rigg was an actress best known for playing the tough, smart, and stylish spy Emma Peel in TV’s “The Avengers” from 1965 to 1968. Rigg also portrayed the Queen of Thorns, Olenna Tyrell, in “Game of Thrones.”

Emma Peel

Rigg is most closely identified with Emma Peel, though she played the role decades ago for just a handful of years. The effortlessly cool spy became an international sex symbol and fashion icon, helped along by the wardrobe Rigg was dressed in — short skirts, mod prints, and an iconic leather catsuit. Peel was calm under pressure, always prepared, and impressively well rounded, balancing her fighting skills with scientific genius and artistic talent.

Other notable roles

Rigg left “The Avengers” in part to take a role in a James Bond film — “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969), in which she played Bond’s wife, Tracy Bond, opposite George Lazenby. Her other movies include “Julius Caesar” (1970), “The Great Muppet Caper” (1981), and “Breathe” 2017). In 1973, Rigg starred in the one-season U.S. sitcom “Diana,” playing a British fashion designer living in America. Rigg won a Primetime Emmy Award for her 1997 role as Mrs. Danvers in the TV miniseries “Rebecca,” and she was nominated again for her roles in “Victoria & Albert” and “Game of Thrones.” She was also a seasoned stage actress, with notable productions including “Mother Courage and Her Children” at London’s National Theatre and “My Fair Lady” in the 2018 Broadway revival. Rigg won a Tony Award for her performance as the title character in “Medea.”


Rigg on her tough-as-nails reputation

“They always write about me that way ever since I made a bit of a ruckus about being paid less than the cameraman on The Avengers. I’m portrayed as this tough broad, but I’m not.” —from a 2014 interview with the Guardian

Tributes to Diana Rigg

Full obituary: BBC

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