Chris Jarman was born and raised in Watford, Hertfordshire. His first taste of fame came at the tender age of 5, when he and several classmates were cast for a TV commercial for BT.
As a child, Chris took part in as many school productions as possible, including The Wizard Of Oz and A Christmas Carol. He also found time outside of school to join a local kids’ agency, Aladdin’s Cave, subsequently gaining his first role on the BBC TV series Grange Hill. Starting off in the series as a supporting artist, Chris soon found himself cast in a character role; it was around this time that he started to earn awards including ‘Best Young Male Performer in Hertfordshire’.
As a school-leaver Chris decided to follow a career in the arts and enrolled onto a B-Tech course in Performing Arts at West Herst College, soon taking on weighty roles such as John Proctor in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Chris’ holidays were filled by The National Youth Theatre’s Summer School, during which he earned acclaim from for his role in the musical Pippin from The Independent’s David Benedict, who said: ‘the Mephistophelian Leading Character (a slick, energetic Chris Jarman) which showcases the performer’s genuine potential.’
After completing the B-Tech and taking a year out to work at Jongleurs Comedy Club, Chris successfully secured a place on a 3-year classical acting course at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. During his second year at L.A.M.D.A. Chris was given the opportunity to work with the late Ken Campbell, who directed Chris in Makbet, a production that would later be transferred to The National Theatre. Chris was also directed by Campbell and his daughter Daisy in a production of The Warp at The Albany Theatre.
Three years at L.A.M.D.A. concluded in 1999, when Chris took only a 2-week hiatus before immediately joining the original west-end cast of Disney’s The Lion King as an ensemble member, also covering the role of Mufasa, a part that he played over 30 times in an extraordinary kick-start to his career. Then, as if to clearly demonstrate that the dividing line between musical theatre and ‘straight’ acting did not apply to him, Chris landed the role of The Prince of Morocco in The Merchant Of Venice with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), the tour of which included performances not only across the UK, but also in Japan, Malaysia, China and the USA. The Spectator’s Toby Young specifically highlighted Chris in his review of the production:
‘the performer that really stands out is Chris Jarman! His all too brief appearance, in which he leaps about the stage like one of the Arabian Knights, gives the play a much-needed boost of comic energy, and, after he’s gone, it’s almost as if someone’s turned out the lights.’
Following this, Chris auditioned for the Winter Seasons Christmas show, The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, and was cast as the menacing Maugrim, a role in which The Christian Herald’s Karen Carter said ‘Jarman bared his fangs toterrifying effect’. It has been suggested that this production of The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe provided the inspiration for Disney’s 2005 feature film.
The Royal Court Theatre’s production of Rampage (for New Writers’ Season) saw Chris performing the part of Phillip in John Donnelly’s There. Soon after, Chris received great praise from a BBC reviewer for his portrayal of Bagheera the panther in The Tobacco Factory’s production in Bristol of The Jungle Book:
‘a ferocious intensity to Chris Jarman as Bagheera the panther – whose cat-like movements gave a real feeling of the animal.’
Chris’ theatrical career at this stage took him to Chichester with performances on both the main stage and the studio theatre. Whilst bringing to life the role of Mars (the God of War) in Cole Porter’s controversial musical Out Of This World, Chris simultaneously performed the abstract writings of Botho Strauss in Seven Doors. With his productions still gaining the attentions of theatre critics, Chris also found himself highlighted in a review by John Hannam of The Stage, who said that ‘The Guards, featuring Chris Jarman as The Bodyguard and Steven Beard as the Security Guard, is a definite hit.’
By this time, Chris was also being kept very busy with screen work. His multiple screen appearances at this stage included work for the BBC on State of Play and Holby City. Chris also featured heavily as Nordo in the Alan Bates film Spartacus, working alongside Goran Visnig and Rhona Mitra. In feature work, Chris also worked closely with Christian Slater in Churchill: The Hollywood Years.
After a short but successful run of ‘Bites’ by Kay Adshead at The Bush Theatre, Chris began work on Julius Ceasar, working alongside Ralph Fiennes, Simon Russell Beale and Fiona Shaw in a production directed by Deborah Warner. This Bite 05 production and The Barbican went on a sell-out tour of Europe. The time was right for Chris to tour again, and to take on more Shakespearean roles, and he was swiftly involved in three RSC productions, the first of which was Patrick Stewart and Harriet Walter’s Anthony & Cleopatra, directed by Greg Doran. In Sean Holme’s Julius Ceasar, Chris played Merellus Cimber and understudied Mark Anthony; a role that Chris was to take on early in the production’s run. These two shows went to America, playing at Michigan University along with Rupert Gould’s production of The Tempest, starring Sir Patrick Stewart as Prospero and Chris as Adrian; the tour played its final months at The Novello Theatre in London’s west end.
Dr Jonathan Holmes researched the war in Iraq extensively, putting together a verbatim piece of theatre named Fallujah in which the entire ensemble cast portrayed multiple roles; Chris was joined in this production by such names as Harriet Walter and Imogen Stubbs. He subsequently went on to play screen roles in The Bill, Roman Mysteries, Demons, The Omid Djalili Show and feature film Sand Serpents. Sir Trevor Nunn directed the much talked about musical
production of Gone With The Wind at The New London Theatre, in which Chris realised the role of Big Sam. He next played the lead role in Beauty And The Beast at The Warwick Arts Centre.
In a defining moment of his career so far, Chris starred in Sister Act The Musical at The Palladium Theatre London, originating the role of Curtis Shank alongside co-star Patina Miller, who now continues the role on Broadway in New York. During his run in this hit show, Chris starred alongside Shiela Hancock, Ian Lavender and Whoopi Goldberg.
Early last year completed his run performing in Lakeboat and Prairie du Chien, a David Mamet double-bill directed by Abbey Wright at The Arcola Theatre. You can also currently see him playing the role of Dancer, a pirate, in series six of BBC’s Doctor Who.
Chris performed in the much acclaimed R.S.C. show Merchant of Venice, directed by Rupert Goold at the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford upon Avon in this version Chris is reprising the role of The Prince of Morocco and starring alongside Sir Patrick Stewart
You can see Chris in the Shakespearean tale A Comedy of Errors on the Olivier stage at The National Theatre. This Hit show is Chris’ debut at the National under the direction of Dominic Cooke, Leading in the role of ‘Antipholus of Ephusus’, co-starring alongside Lenny Henry playing his twin brother of ‘Antipholus of Syracuse’. You also have the opportunity to see Chris on screen in the Feature Film Johnny English Reborn Playing the role of Michael Tembe, aide-de-camp to the President of Mozambique.