Dakota Blue Richards

Dakota Blue Richards (born 11 April 1994) is an English actress. Her film debut at the age of 13 was in The Golden Compass, as the lead character Lyra Belacqua.[1][2] Other lead roles include the wayward teenager April in Dustbin Baby and Maria in the 2009 film The Secret of Moonacre.[3] In 2011 she played Franky Fitzgerald in the third generation cast of British teen drama Skins. She has also played roles in television, film and on stage.

Dakota Blue Richards
Richards in 2012
Born (1994-04-11) April 11, 1994
London, England
Years active2006–present

Early life and education

Richards was born at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in the Fulham Road, London. The family moved to Sussex, where she attended Newlands School. She attended St Paul's Primary School in Brighton,[4] and later Blatchington Mill School in Hove and KBis Theatre School in Brighton.[4]


The Golden Compass

After seeing the stage adaptation of His Dark Materials at the National Theatre, she says she "just wanted to be Lyra".[5] Philip Pullman, author of the books, said, "As soon as I saw Dakota's screen test, I realised that the search was over."[6] Chris Weitz, the director, added that Richards "made what should have been an extremely difficult decision quite easy."[6] The Golden Compass with Richards as Lyra was released worldwide in December 2007 and grossed $372 million.

Richards' performance in The Golden Compass was variously described as "efficient",[7] "a decent job",[8] "nicely played",[9] and "enchanting." One review called the selection of Richards for the role of Lyra "terrific casting".[10] Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian commented "Lyra is nicely played by 13-year-old newcomer Dakota Blue Richards, though with an Artful Dodger-ish 'urchin' accent that comes and goes a bit",[9] while Empire noted that she "struggles with lumpy dialogue".[8] Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Roger Ebert was more effusive, calling Richards "a delightful find" who was "pretty, plucky, forceful, self-possessed, charismatic and just about plausible as the mistress of an armoured bear and the protector of Dust."[11]


Richards appeared in series 5 and 6 of the E4 teen drama Skins, which premiered on 27 January 2011. She played the character of Franky Fitzgerald with her androgynous looks, wacky dress sense, two gay dads (one played by John Sessions) and a tragic cyber-bullying backstory.[12] Originally she auditioned for the role of Liv, and in an interview explained "only became Franky right at the very end of the audition process".[13] As a member of the third generation of its young cast, Richards said "It's crazy to be part of this Skins phenomenon, it's as much a lifestyle choice as anything because of the attention that comes with it."[14]


In this full-length film Richards plays a protagonist's sister-in-law, cajoled into acting the role of author of a chick-lit novel written by four patrons of a local pub in Norfolk. The character, Zoe, demands £500 a week for as long as the four true authors need her. The film is an erotic British comedy.[15]

Other roles

Richards (left) as April with Marion (played by Juliet Stevenson) in Dustbin Baby
Richards in Dustbin Baby

Before The Golden Compass was released, Richards had already been cast as the lead in another film, The Secret of Moonacre, her second book-to-film adaption, in which she would play Maria Merryweather from the book 'The Little White Horse'. Principal photography began in October 2007[16][17] and the film was eventually released February 2009.[3]

In December 2008, Richards played April Johnson in Dustbin Baby, the BBC dramatisation of the Jacqueline Wilson novel of the same name. She described April as a difficult character to play, "she is a really different person to me. On the one hand, she does go through normal things that I can relate to, such as fighting with your parents or getting presents you don't like; but on the other, she has had such a hard life."[18]

In April 2012, she performed a British indie feature The Fold in Bristol and Cornwall, playing Eloise, the daughter of an Anglican priest. The film is written by Poppy Cogan, winner of the Harpers/William Morris Short Script Award, and directed by John Jencks. It commercially opened in limited release in UK on 24 March 2014. The movie won best screenplay at the Women's Independent Festival in LA, Best Picture at the Independent Film Makers Showcase and was nominated for best drama at the National Film Awards.[19]

Richards played a title role in ITV thriller Lightfields alongside Jill Halfpenny and Kris Marshall. It's a supernatural five-part drama which follows on from the ITV drama Marchlands and tells the story of three families living in the same house with a ghost during different time periods.[20]

In 2013, she appeared in French filmmaker Stéphanie Joalland's sci-fi thriller The Quiet Hour, about a brother and sister trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic England. During the same year she filmed a short film entitled Girl Power.[21]

Richards made her stage debut in English Touring Theatre's 2015 revival of Tom Stoppard's Arcadia.[22]

Between 2016 and 2018 she was cast in the part of WPC Shirley Trewlove in the Endeavour television series and in 2018, she was cast for the part of Margaret Osborne in the ITV drama Beecham House.[23] which began airing in 2019.

Personal life

Richards revealed that as a young actress, she "suffered... at the hands of school bullies because of her ginger hair", which had been dyed for her role in The Golden Compass.[4]

In 2008, she attended the "Our Space" camp of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (in the Lake District), which gathered "teenagers from different backgrounds to discuss human rights and discrimination".[4] Since 2010 she has supported Action for Children, a charity in the United Kingdom helping vulnerable young people overcome injustice and deprivation. In 2011, she fronted their advertising campaign to promote a new charity project.[24][25]

Richards also backs The Young Actors Group, an acting school in Brighton opened in 2014 that gives children and teenagers the training to work professionally in stage and screen.[26]

Richards describes herself as "quite into modern art and abstract stuff"[13] and a fan of photographer Christian Coigny, artists Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst, and films from Studio Ghibli.[13]



Year Title Role Notes
2007The Golden CompassLyra BelacquaDebut role
2008 The Secret of MoonacreMaria Merryweather
2009 Five Miles OutCasseyShort film
2014 The FoldEloise Ashton
The Quiet HourSarah
Girl PowerCasseyShort film
2016 ChickLitZoeFeature film


Year Title Role Notes
2008Dustbin BabyApril JohnsonTelevision film
2011–2012SkinsFranky Fitzgerald18 episodes
2013LightfieldsEve5 episodes
2016–2018EndeavourWPC Shirley Trewlove13 episodes
2019Beecham HouseMargaret Osborne6 episodes


Year Title Role Notes
2015 Arcadia Thomasina English Touring Theatre
A Streetcar Named Desire Stella Curve, Leicester
2017 What The Butler Saw Geraldine

Awards and nominations

Year Organisation Award Work Result
2007 Broadcast Film Critics Association Critics' Choice Award[27] The Golden Compass Nominated
London Film Critics Circle Breakthrough Award[28] (num)
2008 Young Artist Award Best Performance in a Feature Film – Leading Young Actress[29]
Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films Saturn Award[30]
2011 TV Choice Awards Best Actress[31][32] Skins
Royal Television Society (RTS)


  1. "Lyra cast in Dark Materials film". CBBC Newsround. 29 June 2006.
  2. Higgins, Charlotte (30 June 2006). "Dark Materials film gets green light". The Guardian. London.
  3. "Richards Returns in Moonacre". SciFi Wire. 3 December 2007. Archived from the original on 3 February 2008.
  4. Acford, Louise (16 January 2009). "Star bullied for her ginger hair". The Argus. London.
  5. "The calm before the storm". The Guardian. London. 30 November 2007.
  6. Irvine, Lindesay (29 June 2006). "Lyra found for $150m Dark Materials film". The Guardian. London.
  7. Landesman, Cosmo (2 December 2007). "The Golden Compass". The Sunday Times. London.
  8. "The Golden Compass". Empire magazine. 5 December 2007.
  9. Bradshaw, Peter (30 November 2007). "The Golden Compass". The Guardian. London.
  10. Christopher, James (27 November 2007). "The Golden Compass". The Times. London.
  11. Ebert, Roger (7 December 2007). "The Golden Compass". Chicago Sun-Times.
  12. Chater, David. "Thursday's TV: Skins". ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  13. "Dakota Blue Richards plays Franky". Channel 4 Press Info. January 2011.
  14. Molloy, Kate (2012). "D is for...". Skins A-Z. John Blake Publishing. p. 2 (of chapter). ISBN 9781857826982.
  15. "ChickLit (2016 film)". IMDb. Retrieved 17 June 2020.
  16. Lawrence, Will (30 November 2007). "Dakota Blue Richards: The 13-year-old poised to conquer the world". The Telegraph. London.
  17. "Lyra actress Dakota gets new role". CBBC Newsround. 2 October 2007.
  18. McNulty, Bernadette (19 December 2008). "Dustbin Baby". The Telegraph. London.
  19. "Poppy Cogan". JTM. 2 February 2017.
  20. "Jill Halfpenny to star in ITV's Lightfields". thestage. 29 August 2012.
  21. "Interview with Dakota Blue Richards". ASFF. Retrieved 9 April 2014.
  22. Hutchison, David (17 December 2014). "Dakota Blue Richards to make stage debut in touring Arcadia revival". The Stage News.
  23. Ling, Thomas (20 August 2018). "ITV announces star-studded period drama Beecham House". Radio Times.
  24. "Action for Children Launch". Action for Children. 8 February 2011. Archived from the original on 9 August 2014.
  25. Dakota BlueSource (16 July 2015), Dakota Blue Richards talks through My Action for Children
  26. Cobley, Mike (8 July 2014). "Dakota Blue Richards Helps New Brighton Acting School To Search for the Next 'Golden' Star". The Brighton Magazine.
  27. "13th Annual Critics Choice Awards - Best Young Actress". VH1. Retrieved 16 May 2008.
  28. "Atonement film up for more awards". BBC News. 14 December 2007.
  29. "2008 nominees and winners". Young Artist Awards. Archived from the original on 4 December 2013. Retrieved 16 May 2008.
  30. "2008 Saturn Awards". IMDb. Retrieved 16 May 2008.
  31. "2011 TVChoice Awards 2011". E4. Archived from the original on 23 May 2011. Retrieved 20 May 2011.
  32. "RTS Awards - Best Actress". Bristol Business. 17 February 2012.
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