When Americans first saw PBS’ “Sherlock” series in 2010, they were beguiled by Benedict Cumberbatch as a Sherlock Holmes who managed to be both snarkily contemporary and true to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original character. But those of us who’ve been hanging tough with PBS’ “Masterpiece” over the years are old friends with Cumby’s talent — and his cartoony name. Before “Sherlock” and his noted appearances in films including “Atonement” and “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” he had the starring role in a fine 2005 “Masterpiece” miniseries called “To the Ends of the Earth.” To get all first-gradery about it, yeah, we knew him first.
A lot of great older actors, such as Michael Gambon, Judi Dench, Imelda Staunton, Charles Dance, Maggie Smith, and Derek Jacobi, continue to bring their decades of experience to “Masterpiece.” But the series is also a launching pad for up and comers, from Emily Blunt to Rose Byrne. Here are a few now-known British actors whom American “Masterpiece” fans saw first.