Related Artists

Billie Piper Biography

Home > Music > P > Piper, Billie > Biography

Genres: Pop, Rock

Born Lianne Paul Piper in Swindon, Wiltshire, England on Sept. 22, 1982, her parents reportedly changed her name to Billie three weeks after her birth. Determined to become a performer at an early age, she enrolled at the prestigious Sixth Sense Theatre Company in 1990, and was accepted to the Sylvia Young Theatre School, a performing arts school that counted numerous British pop acts among its alumni. Minor, uncredited appearances in the films "The Leading Man" (1996) and "Evita" (1996) and on children's television shows and commercials preceded her first recorded vocals on a 1996 track by the group h20. That same year, she was discovered by Innocent Records director Hugh Goldsmith, who signed her to a three-record deal; in 1998, the 15-year-old became the youngest artist in British pop history to land a debut album at no. 1 with "Because We Want To." An additional single, "Girlfriend," also hit the top of the charts, and the album itself, Honey to the B, reached no. 14. She earned two BRIT Awards for the album and Best Female Artist from the magazine Smash Hits.

Her second album, 2000's Walk of Life, yielded another no. 1 hit with "Day and Night," but subsequent singles and the album itself did not repeat the chart-topping success of her first effort. She took an extended break from music for the next few years and kept herself busy with acting lessons and appearances on several UK game shows and variety programs. She also earned her share of time on the scandal sheets for her 2001 marriage to influential radio and television DJ Chris Evans, who was some 16 years her senior at the time of their nuptials. The couple split amicably in 2005 after separating the year before.

In 2003, Piper appeared in "The Canterbury Tales" (BBC, 2003), an updated version of the Geoffrey Chaucer stories; her episode, based on "The Miller's Tale," cast her as a landlord's wife who is seduced with the promise of pop stardom. The following year, she played Orlando Bloom's love interest in the low-budget comedy "The Calcium Kid" (2004), and was a member of the ensemble cast of "Things To Do Before You're Thirty" (2004), which earned largely negative reviews. That same year, she was announced as the new companion to the Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) in a revival of the long-running science fiction series "Doctor Who." Piper played Rose Tyler, a shop assistant who is whisked away by Eccleston's Doctor and is later instrumental in his transformation into the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant, who replaced Eccleston in 2006). Rose was perhaps the first of the Doctor's many companions to have a full history and characterization prior to meeting the Time Lord (in previous incarnations, the Doctor's companions reveal their past over the course of the series), and enjoyed a more even-handed relationship with him, including occasional nods towards romance. Piper's performance earned her worldwide fame thanks to the show's massive fan base, as well as several notable awards, including the "Times" Breakthrough Award in 2006 and two National Television Awards in 2005 and 2006.

At the height of her popularity on "Doctor Who," Piper announced that she was leaving the program, and she marked her final full appearance on the series in 2006 (she returned for cameos in three episodes in 2007). Initially, Piper was to appear in a spin-off series devoted entirely to her character, but the idea was abandoned and she continued to hone her talents in a string of popular and well-received TV features. While on "Doctor Who," she had impressed as Hero in an updated take on Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing" (2005), and won more acclaim as Sally Lockhart, the spunky Victorian heroine of four adventure-mystery novels by Philip (His Dark Materials) Pullman. The first of these books, The Ruby in the Smoke, was adapted for television in 2006 by BBC One, and was followed in 2007 by The Shadow in the North. Both aired in America as part of "Masterpiece Theatre" (PBS, 1971- ), and gave Piper her first exposure to a wider, adult audience in America. In 2007, she repeated her success with the lead role of Jane Austen's teenaged heroine Fanny Price in an adaptation of "Mansfield Park," her first for ITV. Piper also made her London theater debut that year in a touring production of Christopher Hampton's "Treats."

In 2006, Piper published her autobiography, Growing Pains, which detailed many of the struggles she endured while navigating her way through the complicated pop music world. Among the surprising details revealed in the book was a lengthy struggle with anorexia, which she said was the result of comments by television presenters about her weight. Her marriage to Evans gave her a reprieve from starvation, but the problem returned anew after their divorce. Piper also admitted to thoughts of suicide after a disastrous tour of the United States and faltering record sales.

In 2007, Piper traded in her 19th-century garb for more daring outfits (and much less) to play Belle, a high-end prostitute in "Secret Diary of a Call Girl," which was based on the popular blogs by a real-life call girl who operated under the name of Belle du Jour. The series garnered controversy for its frank and adult scenes - Piper was featured semi-nude in several bedroom romps - and for the main character's attitude towards her profession, which she had entered for sexual reasons as well as financial ones. "Call Girl" attracted massive ratings for its network, ITV2, and assured a second season, which began in May of 2008. News quickly reached the press that a body double would be required for Piper's more graphic scenes, as she was pregnant by her second husband, actor Laurence Fox, whom she married in 2007. The show was picked up by Showtime in the States, raising her acting profile to a new level in 2008.