Catherine Tate is an English actress and comedian, primarily known for the role of Donna Noble in the “Doctor Who” franchise.
Tate was born as “Catherine Ford” during 1968, in Bloomsbury. Bloomsbury is a district of the London Borough of Camden, known as the home of several of London’s museums, colleges, and universities. Tate’s mother Josephine was a florist and raised her daughter as a single mother. Tate was reportedly brought up in a “female-dominated environment”, as her grandmother and her godparents helped in her upbringing.
Tate attended St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Primary School in Holborn, which was also within the London Borough of Camden. She then attended the Notre Dame High School of Southwark, an all-girls’ Roman Catholic comprehensive school. The high school is owned and operated by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, a Roman Catholic institute of religious sisters.
In 1984, the 16-year-old Tate enrolled in the Salesian College of Battersea, a Roman Catholic, Voluntary Aided school for boys. She was one of the College’s rare female students, because she was interested in the drama lessons it offered and its theatrical facilities. Afterwards, she applied four times to become a student of the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, whose alumni included famed actors such Laurence Olivier and Peggy Ashcroft. Tate’s application became accepted at her fourth attempt.
In the 1990s, Tate started her television career with small roles in the police procedural “The Bill” (1984-2010) and the fire-brigade themed drama “London’s Burning” (1988-2002). In 1996, Tate started performing stand-up comedy. In 1998, she was one of the main performers and writers in the late night sketch comedy show “Barking”. The show lasted for 1 series, consisting for 6 episodes.
In 2000 and 2001, Tate performed at theatrical shows staged during the annual Edinburgh International Film Festival. The increased attention helped her gain a co-starring role in the sitcom “Wild West” (2002-2004). She played the role of Angela Phillips, a bored bisexual woman living in a small town of Cornwall, the westernmost and southernmost county of England. Angela is involved in an unsatisfying lesbian relationship with Mary Trewednack (played by Dawn French), but they are both seeking other lovers. Having decided that they will stay together until something better comes along. The series lasted for 2 seasons, and a total of 12 episodes.
In 2004, Tate was granted her own television series by BBC Two, called “The Catherine Tate Show” (2004-2007). It was a sketch comedy show, where Tate got to showcase some of the characters she had developed in her comedy routines. Among the most notable of them were the foul-mouthed grandmother Joannie “Nan” Taylor, and the argumentative teenager Lauren Cooper. The initial series lasted for 3 seasons. Tate has occasionally revived the characters in the number of television specials, broadcast from 2009 to 2015. The show allowed Tate to win 2 British Comedy Award, a Royal Television Society Award, and a National Television Award.
Tate’s newfound popularity in the United Kingdom helped her receive more theatrical roles, and to make frequent guest appearances in other television shows. In 2006, Tate played the character Donna Noble in the “Doctor Who” Christmas special “The Runaway Bride”. In the special, Donna is a secretary for a Torchwood Institute subsidiary company, who is about to get married to fiance. But she is actually a pawn in a larger conspiracy, and her fiance has is one of the conspirators. Donna serves as the Tenth Doctor’s companion for this episode. He offers her a more permanent position at the TARDIS time machine, but she declines.
In 2007, Tate played the role of frustrated mother Karen in the television film “The Bad Mother’s Handbook”, an adaptation of a novel by Kate Lomh (1964-). The film depicts Karen’s relationships with her Altzheimer-suffering mother Nan (played by Anne Reid), and her intelligent but temperamental daughter Charlotte (played by Holly Grainger).
In 2008, Tate returned to the character of Donna Noble in the “Doctor Who” television series. She was a main character during Series 4 of the television show, but has her memory erased at the series finale “Journey’s End”. Tate played an amnesiac Donna in the two-part episode “The End of Time” (December, 2009-January, 2010). Unlike other then-recent female companions of the Doctor, Donna was depicted as his best friend and not as his love interest. Tate was praised for performing well in both the comedic and tragic scenes involving the character. In a number of published polls, Donna was praised by show fans as the second-best companion in the television show’s history.
From 2011 to 2013, Tate appeared in the American sitcom “The Office” (2005-2013), playing the regular character Eleanour Donna “Nellie” Bertram. Nellie was depicted as a working-class British woman from the Borough of Basildon, Essex, who somehow got promoted to the position of President of Sabre’s special projects. The character often commented at her impoverished background and lack of formal education, and it was implied that she was promoted due to favoritism.
Freom 2013 to 2014, Tate appeared in the British sitcom “Big School” (2013-2014), playing the teacher Sarah Postern. The sitcom depicts comedic interactions between the teachers of Greybridge Secondary School, a typical British secondary school. Sarah is portrayed as an attractive French-language teacher, who is romantically pursued by the nerdy chemistry teacher Keith Church (played by David Walliams) and the stereotypical “jerk jock” sports teacher Trevor Gunn (played by Philip Glenister). The show lasted for 2 seasons, and a total of 12 episodes. While considered a ratings hit for the channel BBC One, it was criticized for its humor being overly traditional and inoffensive.
In 2017, Tate started doing voice work for the American animated television series “DuckTales” (2017-). She was cast in the role of Italian sorceress Magica De Spell, one of the main enemies of series protagonist Scrooge McDuck (played David Tennant). Tate served as the replacement for Magica’s previous voice actress June Foray (1917-2017), who had died prior to the series’ production.
By 2019, Tate was 51 years old, but she continued to remain popular in her native United Kingdom, and to make frequent appearances in American productions. She currently lives in the suburban town of Richmond, within Greater London. She lives with her 16-year-old daughter Erin, the result of a previous relationship. Tate has never married and remains a single mother.
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