Oscar Directors: Fennell, Emerald–Background, Career, Awards (Only 7th Woman to be Nominated for Best Director)

Emerald Lilly Fennell (born October 1, 1985) is an English director, actress, and author. She appeared in numerous period drama films, such as Albert Nobbs (2011), Anna Karenina (2012), The Danish Girl (2015), and Vita and Virginia (2018).

She received wider recognition for starring roles in the BBC period drama series Call the Midwife (2013–2017) and the Netflix period drama series The Crown (2019–2020).

Fennell is also known as showrunner for season two of the BBC America thriller series Killing Eve (2019), which earned her two Primetime Emmy Award nominations. She gained further acclaim for writing, directing, and producing the thriller film Promising Young Woman (2020), for which she received three Academy Award nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay.

She is the first British woman to be nominated by the Academy for directing.

Born in Hammersmith in London, Fennell went to Marlborough College. She then studied English at Greyfriars, Oxford, where she acted in university plays.

She was spotted by Lindy King of United Agents.

Her sister, Coco Fennell, is a fashion designer. Her parents are jewellery designer Theo Fennell and author Louise Fennell (née MacGregor).

Fennell appeared in the Channel 4 sitcom Chickens with Simon Bird, Joe Thomas and Jonny Sweet. She then joined the cast of the BBC One series Call the Midwife as Patsy Mount,[9] after dyeing her blonde hair red.

She is also known for her film roles in Albert Nobbs (2011), Anna Karenina (2012), The Danish Girl (2015), and Vita & Virginia (2019).

Fennell played Camilla Shand in the third season of the Netflix series The Crown. Fennell made a brief appearance in her directorial debut film Promising Young Woman as the host of a ‘blow job lip’ make-up tutorial video.

Writing and directing
In 2008, Fennell was commissioned to write a film script (co-produced by Madeleine Lloyd Webber). Titled Chukka, it’s a romantic comedy about a group of teenagers who fight the closure of their school by taking on the rich kids at polo.

Her first novel was published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books in January 2013: Shiverton Hall, a children’s fantasy.

In December 2012, it was released as an ebook by Bloomsbury USA.

The Creeper, a sequel, was published mid-2014. ISFDB catalogues them as the Shiverton Hall series. It was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize in 2014. She then released Monsters in September 2015, her first adult horror book.

In July 2018, Fennell was hired by her close friend Phoebe Waller-Bridge as head writer for the second season of the BBC America series Killing Eve, replacing Waller-Bridge, who remains as a producer. Fennell wrote 6 episodes for the season. Fennell also become one of the show’s executive producers.

Speaking to The New York Times, Fennell said “Phoebe Waller-Bridge and I had worked together in the past, and we’ve been friends for nearly 10 years. We met on a film — Albert Nobbs — which we both had tiny parts in. I started in the very early days as a writer in the Season 2 writer’s room. Because it’s such an unusual show, they did a very loose writers’ room for a week just to see, and then wonderfully and luckily for me they promoted me to head writer.”

The second season began broadcast in April 2019. At the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards, Fennell was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series for the season 2 episode “Nice and Neat.”

Fennell was seven month’s pregnant during the 23 day shoot of Promising Young Woman. The movie premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival to critical acclaim.

She produced the film with, amongst others, Margot Robbie and her LuckyChap Entertainment production company.

The film earned five Oscar Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay for Fennell.

She became one of only 7 women and the first British woman to earn a nomination in the directing category. As well, Fennell’s directing nomination alongside that of Chloé Zhao marked the first instance of two women earning directing nominations in the same year.

In January 2020, Andrew Lloyd Webber announced he would collaborate with Fennell on the musical Cinderella, set to open in London in May 2021.

Fennell’s partner is film and advertising director and producer Chris Vernon. The pair welcomed a son in 2019.


2010 Mr Nice Rachel
2011 Albert Nobbs Mrs Smythe-Willard
2012 Anna Karenina Princess Merkalova
2015 The Danish Girl Elsa
2015 Pan Commander
2018 Vita & Virginia Vanessa Bell
2018 Careful How You Go None Short film; Director and writer
2020 Promising Young Woman, director, writer, and producer


2007 Trial & Retribution Sheena Episode: “Sins of the Father – Part 1”
2010 New Tricks Vicky (Receptionist) Episode: “Coming Out Ball”
2010 Any Human Heart Lottie 3 episodes
2011–2013 Chickens Agnes 7 episodes
2013 Blandings Monica Simmons Episode: “Problem with Drink”
2013 The Lady Vanishes Odette Television film
2013 Murder on the Home Front Issy Quennell Television film
2013–2017 Call the Midwife Nurse Patsy Mount 27 episodes
2016 Drifters Lizzie Episode: “Halloween”; also writer (6 episodes)
2017 Victoria Ada Lovelace Episode: “Green Eyed Monster”
2019 Killing Eve None Writer and executive producer; 8 episodes
2019–2020 The Crown Camilla Parker Bowles 7 episodes