Ovenden was born on 29 November 1976 in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England. He is one of three children of the Reverend Canon John Ovenden, a former chaplain to Queen Elizabeth II. He sang in the St Paul's Cathedral Choir, London as a child. He later won a music scholarship to Eton College. He subsequently read music at New College, Oxford on a choral scholarship.
Whilst he has received training as an opera singer, he has professionally used his music training in musical theatre. He continued academic studies in drama at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art.
His theatre work includes the multi award-winning Merrily We Roll Along (Franklin) (2000) and Grand Hotel (The Baron) (2004) for Michael Grandage at the Donmar Warehouse; Annie Get Your Gun (Butler) (2009) for Richard Jones at The Young Vic; Michael Legrand's Marguerite (Armand) (2008) at the Haymarket for Jonathan Kent; King Lear (Herald) (1999) for Yukio Ninagawa at the RSC; Butley (play) (Joseph Keyston) (2006) at the Booth Theatre on Broadway opposite Nathan Lane; Death Takes a Holiday (Death) (2011) for The Roundabout Theatre Company in New York; A Woman of No Importance (Gerald) (2003) for Adrian Noble at the Haymarket; Finding Neverland (J. M. Barrie) (2011) for The Weinstein Company; the Parisian premiere of Sunday in The Park With George (Seurat) (2013); Show Boat (Gaylord) (2015)at the Lincoln Centre in New York and most recently My Night with Reg (John) (2014).
Ovenden has also sung musical theatre songs in several concerts at the Proms, in particular concerts of Stephen Sondheim and of Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Ovenden first appeared on British TV in 5 seasons of Foyle's War (Andrew Foyle) opposite Michael Kitchen. He has most recently starred in two seasons of worldwide show, Downton Abbey (Series 4 and 5) (Charles Blake). Other British TV work includes The Forsyte Saga (Val Dartie), Any Human Heart (William Boyd), The Royal (Dr David Cheriton). On US TV, Julian has been in Person of Interest (Season 3 and 4, CBS) (Jeremy Lambert) over the last three years. He has also appeared in seasons of Cashmere Mafia (Eric Burden), Related (Jason Greenstein) and SMASH (John F. Kennedy).
Julian’s recent film work includes Colonia (Roman) opposite Emma Watson and Daniel Bruhl, The Confessions (Matthew Price) with Daniel Auteuil, Toni Servillo and Connie Nielsen and British indie war film, Allies (Captain Gabriel Jackson).
As a solo singer Julian has appeared with many of the world’s leading orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, the New York Pops, The Northern Sinfonia, the Liverpool Philharmonic, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the John Wilson Orchestra, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and the BBC Concert Orchestra. He has also appeared at The Proms at London’s Royal Albert Hall, where he is a regular performer. Julian made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2014 and followed it up with another headlining concert in 2015.
Julian recorded a debut album for Decca Records in 2013 titled If You Stay and has since made a Rodgers and Hammerstein record with John Wilson for Warner Classics and a Downton Abbey Christmas record for Warner Music that went double platinum. In late 2015, he signed a multiple record deal with East West Records and his new album debuts April 2016.
Ovenden lives with his wife, opera singer Kate Royal, their son Johnny Beau, daughter Audrey, and Roman the dog. Julian and Kate married on 20 December 2010, the ceremony being conducted by Ovenden's father, who also christened their son in a double ceremony.