Game Of Thrones And The Avengers Star Diana Rigg Is Dead At 82

olenna tyrell game of thrones

The world of entertainment lost another talented soul this week. It was announced that the award-winning actress Dame Diana Rigg, the Avengers TV show star best known in recent years for her work on Game of Thrones, has died. She was 82 years old.

A specific cause of death was not included in the initial report from the BBC, but it sounds like a case of natural causes. Here's a statement from her agent:

She died peacefully early this morning. She was at home with her family who have asked for privacy at this difficult time.

Born in Doncaster, England on July 20, 1938, Diana Rigg – whose full name was Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg – got into acting through stage work in the theatre. She'd trained through the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and went on to perform in productions from the Royal Shakespeare Company in the late 1950s and 1960s, among several other works. She earned her first Tony Award nomination for Best Actress for 1971's Abelard and Heloise, and another for 1975's The Misanthrope, but it wasn't until 1994 that she took home the Best Actress Tony, this time for her work in Madea. She was also nominated for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her 2018 Broadway return in My Fair Lady.

But while her theatre career is highly impressive, the biggest group of Diana Rigg's fans no doubt know her best from her iconic TV roles over the years. The first of those came in 1965 when she joined the beloved '60s secret agent series The Avengers as the instant sensation Emma Peel, who quickly became known as a sex symbol of the era, although Rigg wasn't entirely comfortable with that distinction. She only appeared as Emma Peel for a few years, comprising 51 episodes, but it definitely feels like a lot more.

Quite a few years after she brought Emma Peel to life on the small screen, Diana Rigg landed roles in two TV shows with wildly obsessive fans, Doctor Who and Game of Thrones. The Who episode was written by Mark Gatiss specifically for her and daughter Rachael Stirling, and was part of Matt Smith's run as the Time Lord.

Joining the HBO epic in 2013, Dame Diana Rigg really shined in such subtle ways as Game of Thrones' Olenna Tyrell, whose clever political machinations were responsible for some of the show's biggest shocks. Ahead of her character's exit, Rigg ended up landing four Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series, but unfortunately lost out every time. (It's definitely worth noting that Rigg won one Emmy in her career, which was for her Best Supporting Actress role in the 1997 TV movie version of Rebecca.)

Years after she began portraying Lady Olenna Tyrell, Diana Rigg reflected on the Game of Thrones role being part of a larger fabric than she first realized, telling the BBC back in 2016:

I wasn't aware I was getting involved in something so huge. I really had no idea. She is also pretty evil; I'm good at evil.

While many people spend their 70s in retirement, Diana Rigg kept her acting career going. In recent years, the actress could be found in such comedies as Detectorists and You, Me and the Apocalypse, as well as the PBS drama Victoria. Her final TV role, for the FX- and BBC-produced miniseries Black Narcissus, still hasn't aired yet. The same goes for her final film role, which will be in Edgar Wright's highly anticipated psychological horror Last Night in Soho.

Dame Diana Rigg definitely maintained a good sense of humor throughout her life, telling this to The Guardian back in 2014:

The older you get, I have to say, the funnier you find life. That's the only way to go. If you get serious about yourself as you get old, you are pathetic.

Here at CinemaBlend, we send our thoughts and condolences to the family and friends of Diana Rigg as they mourn the loss of such a talented woman.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.