Dame Diana Rigg is primarily a classical actor, despite the success of The Avengers. She entered RADA in 1955, and made her professional debut in 1957 in The Caucasian Chalk Circle. She was in the RSC from 1959 to 1964. At the end of this she got the part of Emma Peel, which she was not at all happy with a lot of the time: she felt she was being ill-paid and exploited. However she has recently admitted that the young cat-suited Emma Peel was "rather tasty".
After that she returned to the stage, and was notable in Tony Harrison's Phaedra Britannica, and in two Tom Stoppard plays: as Ruth Carson in Night and Day and as Dorothy Moore in Jumpers. She and Keith Michell had a nude scene in Abelard and Heloise. It was this that prompted the famous description of her as "built like a brick basilica with too few flying buttresses". There was also a poorly-received American sitcom called Diana; also in the US she hosts the PBS series Mystery.
Diana Rigg's stage career picked up in the 1990s when she worked at the Almeida Theatre in Islington, home of many ground-breaking productions. She starred in Medea in 1993, Mother
Courage in 1995, and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in 1996. To my great regret, this last was the only one of hers I've seen her in, but she was superb in that.
Dame Diana was born in Doncaster in Yorkshire on 20 July 1938, and lived in India between the ages of two and eight. She was married to Menahem Gueffen from 1973 to 1976, and to Archibald Stirling of Keir from 1982 to 1990; she has a daughter Rachael Stirling (b. 1977, now also an actor) by her second husband. In 1987 she received the CBE and in 1994 was created a Dame. In that year she also received a Tony Award for her Medea.
Editor's note: Dame Diana Rigg died September 10, 2020.