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Allen Leech Biography

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Birth Name: Allen Leech
Born: 05/18/1981
Birth Place: Killiney, Dublin, IE

Born May 18, 1981 in the season resort town of Killiney, a suburb of Dublin, Ireland, Allen Leech was the third of four children by computer systems company CEO David Leech and his wife, Kay. As a child, Leech was bullied for being overweight, which left him withdrawn and fearful until his teenaged years. However, he found an outlet in acting, which he began at the age of 11 in school productions at St. Michael's College. Though his parents hoped that Leech would become an architect, they supported his decision to become a professional actor, which began in earnest with a small role in a 1998 stage production of "A Streetcar Named Desire" with Frances McDormand. While studying drama and theater studies at Trinity College in Dublin, Leech appeared in a production of "This Lime Tree Bower," which helped him to land his first agent. More stage roles followed, as well as minor roles on Irish television, before Leech earned his breakout role in "Cowboys & Angels" (2003), an Irish drama feature about a gay fashion student who convinced his straight-laced, civil servant roommate to become a runway model.

He gained further notice as a West Belfast youth caught in underhanded dealings in the dog racing world in Paddy Breathnach's "Man About Dog" (2004) and on the television drama series "Love is the Drug" (RTE Two, 2004-05), which concerned the lives of a large Irish family. Leech received a nomination for Best Supporting Actor from the Irish Film and Television Awards, as well as the title of Sexiest Irish Male in 2005 from U magazine. He also earned a second Best Supporting Actor nod from the Irish Film and Television Awards for "Legend" (RTE, 2006), a drama about a middle-class family who have fallen upon hard times following the death of their mother. Stateside audiences then caught what was likely their first glimpse of Leech in the HBO/BBC/RAI series "Rome" (2005-07), which cast him as Marcus Agrippa, close friend to ascendant emperor Octavian/Augustus Caesar. In 2009, Leech appeared in the supernatural drama "From Time to Time," which marked his first collaboration with "Downton Abbey" creator Julian Fellows, as well as many of its stars, including Dame Maggie Smith and actor Hugh Bonneville. The following year, he played an old boyfriend who brought turmoil to the newly calm life of a recovering addict (Amy Huberman) in "Rewind" (2010), but the picture, along with Leech's two-episode turn as Francis Derenham, whose relationship with Catherine Howard sealed both of their fates on "The Tudors" (BBC Two/CBC/Showtime/TV3, 2007-2010), was largely overshadowed by his role as chauffeur Tom Branson on "Downton Abbey."

On the wildly popular British series, his fierce devotion to the Irish nationalist cause put him at odds with the show's central family, the Crawleys, a status that only increased in vehemence after his clandestine romance with and marriage to their third daughter, Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay), who became aware of the class struggles in England through Branson. The Crawleys later took up his case after his involvement in Irish Republican-caused violence, but the subsequent truce between Branson and the Crawleys was overshadowed by the death of Lady Sybil during childbirth. The star-crossed romance between Branson and Lady Sybil helped to make Leech something of a heartthrob for "Downton" fans. He would subsequently parlay his newfound fame into feature roles in "The Sweeney" (2012), the film version of the long-running British police drama of the same name (ITV, 1975-78).

By Paul Gaita