Piper's transition into acting began in 2004. She played Rose Tyler, companion to The Doctor from 2005 to 2006, in the BBC sci-fi series Doctor Who, reprising the role in 2008, 2010, and 2013. From 2007 until 2011, she starred as the high-flying escort Belle de Jour in the television series Secret Diary of a Call Girl. She also starred as Brona Croft/Lily in the Showtime series Penny Dreadful.
More recently Piper has taken to the stage. She has starred in five critically acclaimed plays and picked up numerous Best Actress awards, most notably an Olivier Award for her performance in Yerma which was described as "earth-quaking" by The Guardian and "a generation's greatest performance" by The Stage. She went on to pick up a total of six Best Actress awards for that one performance, making it one of the most acclaimed and awarded stage performances in British theatre history - and the only female actor to have picked up six out of an available six Best Actress awards for a single performance.
Piper was born in Swindon, Wiltshire. Her first name, Leian, was legally changed to Billie on 25 April 1983, by her parents, Paul Victor Piper and Mandy Kane Kent. She has one younger brother, Charley, and two younger sisters, Harley and Elle. She studied at the Sylvia Young Theatre School and Bradon Forest School.
Piper's career began when she was selected to appear on the Saturday morning children's television show Scratchy & Co. She later landed a role in a television commercial promoting the pop magazine Smash Hits. She was offered a record deal at the age of 15, and in 1998, became the youngest artist ever to debut at number one in the UK Singles Chart with "Because We Want To", released under the stage mononym "Billie". Her follow-up single "Girlfriend" also debuted at number one.
Piper's debut album Honey to the B was released immediately afterwards, and debuted and peaked at Number 14 in the UK album charts, selling more than 300,000 copies in the UK alone along with a Platinum certification, and a 2x Platinum certification in New Zealand, where it reached No. 3. However, Honey to the B found limited success in other territories, such as Australia where it debuted and peaked at No. 31 despite the success of "Honey to the Bee", and in the US it almost went completely unnoticed, peaking at No. 17 on the Heatseekers.
At the 1998 Smash Hits Poll Winners' party, Piper was nominated for Best New Act (for which she came second, it being won by B*Witched) and won Princess of Pop (she was the first to win this award). She then released "She Wants You" as the third single from the album. The song reached No. 3. "Honey to the Bee" was released as the fourth single from the album; like the previous single, it reached No. 3. At the same time, "She Wants You" was released in the US, reaching No. 9 on the "Hot Club Dance Play" chart.
In 1999, Piper was nominated for two BRIT Awards and won two awards at the 1999 Smash Hits Poll Winners' party, although she was reduced to tears at the latter ceremony after being booed by fans of Ritchie Neville, who she was dating at the time. She then started to tour and release in Asia. The singles and the album were released during mid-to-late 1999. In August of that year, the follow-up to "Because We Want To" was released in Japan, a single comprising "Girlfriend" and "She Wants You" combined. She recorded a song for Pokémon: The First Movie titled "Makin' My Way (Any Way That I Can)".
During that time, Piper recorded her second album. She decided to release further records under her full name of Billie Piper. She returned to the Singles Chart in May 2000 with her third number one single "Day & Night". She waited until September to release "Something Deep Inside", which reached No. 4, but her success waned. In October 2000, Piper released her second album, Walk of Life, which reached Number 14 in the UK Album Chart, but quickly fell off the charts and was certified Silver in the UK. The album only charted in two other countries: New Zealand, where it reached No. 17 only, and Australia, where it was a minor success and peaked at No. 23. In Piper's autobiography, she states that the album was a "commercial bomb". The song "Walk of Life", the final single off this album, was released in December 2000 and reached Number 25 in the UK Singles Chart.
In February 2001, Piper appeared in court to testify against a woman named Juliet Peters. Peters was charged with, and eventually convicted of, stalking as well as making numerous threats against Piper and members of her family. Peters received psychiatric treatment as part of her sentence. According to her autobiography, Piper was reluctant about the court case, but was pushed by her parents and her label. She also stated in the book that this was why "The Tide Is High" wasn't released as a single, writing: "The court case succeeded in doing what I alone could not – cutting the ties. Without it I might have been tempted back."
In January 2007, BBC Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles started a campaign to get "Honey to the Bee" back into the Top 100 on download sales as a way of testing out new chart rules that favour download sales. The campaign was successful, with "Honey to the Bee" re-entering the official UK singles chart at No. 17, eight years after it was first released.
In the autumn of 2003, it was announced that Doctor Who would be resurrected in 2005; the casting of Piper as Rose Tyler, a travelling companion to the ninth incarnation of The Doctor (to be played by Christopher Eccleston), was announced in May 2004. Piper won the Most Popular Actress category at the 2005 and 2006 National Television Awards for her work on Doctor Who. BBC News named her one of its "Faces of the Year" for 2005, primarily due to her success in Doctor Who. At The South Bank Show Awards in January 2006, she was awarded The Times Breakthrough Award for her successful transition from singing to acting. In March, the Television and Radio Industries Club named her as the best new TV talent at their annual awards ceremony. In September, she was named Best Actress at the TV Quick and TV Choice Awards.
After the completion of the very successful first series of the revamped Doctor Who, the British media regularly released conflicting reports about how long Piper would be staying with the show. In March 2006, she claimed that she would continue on Doctor Who into its third series in 2007. In May, however, she was reported to be considering quitting the series, although she did express an interest in playing a female version of the Doctor in the future (possibly related to a proposed Doctor Who spin-off series about Rose, which was later dropped). In June, the BBC announced that she was to depart in "Doomsday", the final episode of the second series. Her decision to leave had been made a year previously, but remained a secret until news of her departure became public. Although Piper was absent in the 2007 series, her character Rose was mentioned several times and seen in archive footage on some occasions. In November 2007, the BBC confirmed that she would reprise her role as Rose Tyler in the fourth series of Doctor Who for three episodes. Later, it was confirmed by Russell T. Davies in Doctor Who Magazine that this return had been planned since she left. It was also revealed in Doctor Who Confidential that Piper had made arrangements to return as Rose since she decided to leave.
The series began in April 2008, and after several cameos, Piper made her official return as Rose in the series four final episodes "Turn Left", "The Stolen Earth", and "Journey's End". She did not initially state whether she would be reprising the role again. Interviewed on Doctor Who Confidential, she commented that "it's never really the end for the Doctor and Rose, but it's certainly the end for the foreseeable future". She reprised her role as Rose Tyler in "The End of Time", the last of the 2009–2010 Doctor Who specials, as a younger version of Rose Tyler (specifically 3 months before her initial meeting with the Ninth Doctor in 2005 episode Rose).
In January 2013, Piper confirmed on The Graham Norton Show that the producers had not asked her to take part in an episode for the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who. However, in March 2013, the BBC announced that she would be returning to Doctor Who for the special.
Piper once again returned to Doctor Who in November 2013, for the show's 50th anniversary special The Day of the Doctor. Even though she is credited as appearing as Rose Tyler once again, her actual role is the consciousness of "The Moment", a super weapon, which takes on the form of Rose's "Bad Wolf" personality.
On 15 May 2017, Big Finish Productions announced that Piper would return to the role of Rose Tyler alongside David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor in three new audio stories from Big Finish. One of the stories features Camille Coduri reprising her role as Rose's mother Jackie Tyler. The three stories are expected to be released in November 2017.
Piper starred as Hannah Baxter in Secret Diary of a Call Girl, an ITV2 adaptation of Brooke Magnanti's The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl, a memoir detailing the life of a high-class prostitute who adopted "Belle de Jour" as her pseudonym, which aired from September 2007. As part of her preparation for the role, Piper met the memoir's author two years before her identity as a research scientist was revealed in a Sunday newspaper: "I absolutely had to meet the person behind the words to be able to take the part... people did ask me about her and I just had to smile, to avoid giving anything away." A second season, with Piper again in the starring role, started filming in May 2008, during which two body doubles were hired to hide Piper's pregnancy during the sex scenes. The third season began airing in January 2010. For the third and fourth series Piper was credited as executive producer.
In January 2010, tying in with the broadcast of the third season and following on from the real Belle de Jour confirming her real identity, ITV2 broadcast an interview special, Billie and the Real Belle Bare All, which saw Piper meeting with Dr. Brooke Magnanti on-camera for the first time.
On 11 May 2014, Showtime aired a new horror series called Penny Dreadful in which Piper plays Brona Croft, a poor Irish immigrant who is trying to escape a dark past. In the show's second season, Brona is resurrected by Victor Frankenstein as "Lily". She was nominated for "Best TV Supporting Actress" in the 2015 Fangoria Chainsaw Awards. The show was renewed for a third and final season, which she began filming on 17 September 2015.
Piper starred in an adaption of Federico García Lorca's 1934 play Yerma at the Young Vic, written and directed by Simon Stone. Upon opening the play received critical acclaim, namely for Piper's performance. She was described as "earth-quaking" by The Guardian and "a generation's greatest performance" by The Stage. The Independent described her as "shattering" with the reviewer admitting he found himself "still visibly shaking from its effects on the Tube home afterwards." The Jewish Chronicle warned that Piper's performance was "dangerously draining" whilst The Arts Desk told its readers that her performance was "an utterly grueling, almost unbearable 100 minutes."
In total, Piper went on to pick up a total of six out of an available six Best Actress awards for that one performance, making it one of the most acclaimed and awarded stage performances in British theatre history - and making her the only female actor to have picked up all six Best Actress awards for a single performance. Among others, she fended off competition from former Labour MP and veteran actor Glenda Jackson to win the coveted Olivier Award for Best Actress. See main article: List of awards and nominations received by Billie Piper
On 31st August, Yerma streamed live into more than 700 cinemas across the UK. Whilst ticket sales are yet to be confirmed, more than 100 cinemas confirmed they had sold out to capacity with many requesting encore copies. . In an unprecedented event, after the live screening had finished, '#Yerma' trended on Twitter at number three, with some writers claiming Twitter had 'gone into complete meltdown' over Piper's performance. The play will stream across the world, including America, from 21st September.
In 2004, Piper appeared in the films The Calcium Kid and Things to do Before You're Thirty. Shortly before starting work on Doctor Who, she had a starring role in the horror film Spirit Trap, released in August 2005 to poor reviews. In November 2005, she starred as Hero in a BBC adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, updated for the modern day in a similar manner to the Canterbury Tales series in which she featured, with Hero now being a weather presenter in a television station.
Piper completed work on two stand-alone television productions. In the first, a BBC adaptation of Philip Pullman's historical novel The Ruby in the Smoke which was broadcast in December 2006, she played protagonist Sally Lockhart, a Victorian orphan. The BBC planned to film all four of Pullman's Sally Lockhart novels, with Piper continuing in the role in The Shadow in the North, which was shown in December 2007. Piper made her stage debut in a touring production of Christopher Hampton's play Treats, which opened in early 2007 in Windsor, Berkshire. Treats was to have ended its tour in the West End, at the Garrick Theatre, starting in February 2007 with previews. The play officially closed in May.
In 2007, Piper appeared as Fanny Price in an adaptation of Jane Austen's novel Mansfield Park, screened on ITV1. This was her first acting role on television for a broadcaster other than the BBC.
Piper has provided voice-overs for various television commercials, including one for Comfort fabric-softener airing in June 2007 and Debenhams airing in 2011. She also shared the role of Betty with Sue Johnston in the two-part TV adaptation of A Passionate Woman, screened on BBC 1 in April 2010.
In May 2011, it was announced that Piper would join the cast of a romance-comedy film directed by Robin Sheppard titled Truth about Lies.
Piper played Carly in the UK premiere of Neil LaBute's play reasons to be pretty at the Almeida Theatre, running from November 2011 to January 2012. It received critical acclaim, with Quentin Letts claiming it was "one of the better theatre productions I have seen". The Guardian, The Observer, Daily Mail, London Evening Standard, Metro, The Times, The Telegraph, Time Out, The Arts Desk, Daily Express, and The Financial Times all gave the production rave reviews with a minimum of four stars.
BBC Radio 4 reviewed the show live, applauding Piper as "fantastic, completely brilliant. Her performance is so convincing and moving, an absolutely terrific performance". The Jewish Chronicle hailed Piper's performance as second to none, being the best of the night, and stating that "no actor can cry more convincingly than Piper", giving the show four stars.
Piper made her National Theatre debut in The Effect by Lucy Prebble, which ran from November 2012 to February 2013. The play went on to become the most critically acclaimed show of the season with Piper going on to be nominated for the WhatsOnStage Best Actress award for her work in The Effect. The play was also nominated for Best New Play and Best Set Designer.
Due to success and demand, the show was extended for a further month and an online petition was started for the show to be added to the National Theatre's Live Programming. In 2013, Piper was nominated for Best Actress at the Olivier Awards and Evening Standard Theatre Awards for The Effect.
Piper also starred in Great Britain at the Royal National Theatre in 2014. On 29 May 2014, Piper appeared alongside Ben Whishaw in the Playhouse Presents television special Foxtrot.
In 2016, Piper starred in an adaption of Federico García Lorca's 1934 play Yerma at the Young Vic, written and directed by Simon Stone. Piper won several "Best Actress" awards that year for her performance, including an Olivier Award, a WhatsOnStage Award, and an Evening Standard Theatre Award.
Piper married DJ, television presenter and businessman Chris Evans in a secret ceremony in May 2001, in Las Vegas after six months of dating. Their marriage attracted much comment due to Evans being 16 years older than Piper. The couple separated in 2004, and divorced in May 2007. They have remained friends.
A report in The Independent on 27 June 2006, stated that Piper has declared that she does not wish to claim any money from Evans' reported £50 million wealth or his £540,000 salary from BBC Radio 2. In an interview with the Radio Times, she said: "I'm not taking a penny from him. I think that's disgusting." She also revealed that she left her pop-star career with very little money. Evans has admitted that the age gap was a reason in seeking the divorce.
Piper married actor Laurence Fox in December 2007, at St Mary's Church in Easebourne, West Sussex, where they lived as of 2007. Their first son, Winston James, was born in October 2008, via emergency C-section after a 30-hour labour. They had a second son, Eugene Pip, in April 2012. On 24 March 2016, Fox announced on his Facebook page that the pair had split after eight years of marriage. He stated that no third party was involved in the separation. On 12 May 2016, it was announced that Piper and Fox had divorced.Honey to the B (1998)
Walk of Life (2000)