English actress Emma Chambers sadly passed away on February 21, 2018; she was only 53 years old. And after the sad news had broken, fans who remembered her from her roles in Notting Hill and British sitcom The Vicar of Dibley fondly paid tribute to her online. In time, too, the star’s cause of death would be revealed.
Prior to Chambers’ rise to fame, however, she had spent part of her early life on the move. That ultimately meant relocating from Doncaster, in northern England, to Winchester, some 200 miles away. The future actress wasn’t born into a showbiz family, however; instead, her father John was a medical professional specializing in gynecology and obstetrics.
Sadly, though, John and Chambers’ mother Noelle eventually separated. And in time, John relocated to Australia – one of the reasons why he didn’t later attend his daughter’s wedding. Nevertheless, for the ceremony, Chambers found a suitable stand-in in veteran British star Sir Ian McKellen, whom she would call “a sort of father figure” in a 2002 interview with The Independent.
And like McKellen, Chambers chose to pursue an acting career, perhaps spurred on by her appearances in productions at school. To that end, then, she left for London to learn her craft at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art, where British actor Ross Kemp was among her classmates.
Before Chambers became a name on screen, though, she cut her teeth on the stage. In 1988, for instance, she would make her first appearance in London’s West End, playing the role of Geain in the Alan Ayckbourn play Henceforward…. Then, a year later, while in another Ayckbourn production, she was lauded by reviewer Harry Eyres for demonstrating her versatility and showcasing her character’s “kaleidoscopic emotional states with startling immediacy.”
But perhaps not merely content with treading the boards, Chambers subsequently ventured into TV. There, she first appeared as Margaret in a 1988 BBC adaptation of the D.H. Lawrence novel The Rainbow. Two years later, meanwhile, she was seen on screen in episodes of British police drama The Bill.
However, Chambers wouldn’t get her big break until 1994 – the year that she first appeared in The Vicar of Dibley. On the British sitcom, she starred as ditzy but kindhearted verger Alice Tinker, who through her frequent misunderstandings provided several moments of comic relief on the show. It would be a part that she played through the entirety of The Vicar of Dibley’s run from 1994 to 2007.
And, as it happens, Chambers’ time as Alice made her practically a household name in the U.K. The part brought her plaudits, too; in 1998, for instance, she was named Best TV Comedy Actress at that year’s British Comedy Awards.
Then, in 1999 Chambers made her big-screen debut, appearing in Notting Hill opposite Hugh Grant. She portrayed Grant’s character’s sister Honey, who arguably played a starring role in some of the movie’s most memorable moments. And given the success of the film, a career in Hollywood could very well have been on the cards.
Behind the scenes, though, Chambers battled with health complications. She was asthmatic, for example, and suffered from an allergy to animal fur that was so serious that it could potentially lead to hospitalization. The actress was also prone to eczema, for which she underwent often painful acupressure treatment.
Still, Chambers took measures to keep herself well. She incorporated walking around a nearby park as part of her everyday routine, for instance, and was an early riser. Unfortunately, though, these efforts did not ensure her longevity, as she would pass away while still relatively young.
Then, in February 2018 news broke that Chambers had died at 53 years of age. And in a statement from her agent John Grant, the effect of the loss and the lasting impact of her body of work were highlighted. He said, “She brought laughter and joy to many and will be greatly missed.”
Tributes also poured in from fans and fellow celebrities – among them Hugh Grant. He would take to Twitter to give his reaction, writing, “Emma Chambers was a hilarious and very warm person and, of course, a brilliant actress. Very sad news.”
The Vicar of Dibley’s Dawn French also paid her respects to her former co-star on Twitter. There, French called Chambers a “unique and beautiful spark” and declared her love for the late actress, alongside a throwback picture of the pair appearing in their TV roles together.
Meanwhile, The Vicar of Dibley writer Paul Mayhew-Archer sang Chambers’ praises during an interview with the BBC. In particular, he talked of the star’s incredible comic timing and reminisced about her work ethic. He added, moreover, that Chambers transcended sitcom cliché to make her character on the show “a completely unique, very special idiot.”
Three days after Chambers’ passing, though, the cause of her death was apparently revealed. On that occasion, TV producer Jon Plowman was reflecting on the seemingly sudden and unexpected nature of the news to the BBC. And while doing so, he remarked, “It’s no age to have a heart attack, as I understand it.”
Meanwhile, Chambers leaves behind her husband Ian Dunn, also an actor. They had been married for more than 26 years at the time of the star’s death, having wed in a ceremony held in the New Forest in southern England in 1991.
At that time, however, Chambers didn’t get to celebrate for long. Indeed, while talking to The Independent, she revealed, “My wedding was very short. I was playing the lead in an Alan Ayckbourn play and was only given one day off.” The actress added, “We didn’t have a honeymoon. I was back at work on the Monday.”
Chambers is also survived by her brother Simon and sister Sarah, both of whom run renowned agency Storm Model Management. Sarah set the company up in 1987; and she also had a hand in making Kate Moss a household name after originally spotting the future supermodel in New York.
Perhaps, though, Chambers’ loved ones can celebrate her life safe in the knowledge of the joy she brought to so many people. Indeed, despite the actress’ untimely passing, she will live on – in the memories of the public and through the roles she brought to life so vividly on the big and small screens.