The Queen's Gambit, Netflix's thrilling new miniseries about a young woman's quest to become a chess grandmaster, is full of familiar faces. There's horror queen Anya Taylor-Joy in the lead role of Beth Harmon; Marielle Heller, director of Can You Ever Forgive Me? and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, as her adoptive mother; Dudley Dursley (aka Harry Melling) as one of Beth's competitors and friends; and the Love, Actually kid (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) swapping his childhood singing skills for a stint as the "bad boy" of chess.
Much less recognizable, though no less crucial to Beth's story, is Jacob Fortune-Lloyd, who plays D.L. Townes, another competitor, friend, and maybe-love interest for Beth. Townes, a college-level chess player, pops up multiple times throughout the series: He plays (and loses to) Beth in her first chess meet, interviews and photographs her for a newspaper story in a one-on-one hotel room hangout that quickly turns awkward, and, ultimately, reunites with the prodigy to support her as she battles multiple Soviet grandmasters in the series' climax.
Townes is one of Fortune-Lloyd's biggest onscreen roles to date, but we'd be willing to bet that he'll soon be everywhere, thanks to his charming star turn in The Queen's Gambit. In the meantime, here's everything we already know about the actor.
Who is Jacob Fortune-Lloyd?
Fortune-Lloyd is a Brit who earned his bachelor's degree in English literature from Oxford University before attending the prestigious Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London. According to his Guildhall bio, he can speak Italian and French, boasts impressive singing, dancing, and stage combat skills, plays multiple instruments, and can beatbox. He's also an avid sportsman, dabbling in rugby, tennis, horse riding, swimming, and soccer, the latter of which is confirmed by one line of his Instagram bio: "Actor, still planning on being a footballer."
The school bio also notes that Fortune-Lloyd has a "strong ear for accents," which is clearly on display in The Queen's Gambit, in which he replaced his Oxford English accent with a near-flawless American one.
Where else have you seen Jacob Fortune-Lloyd?
While The Queen's Gambit is his most prominent role, Fortune-Lloyd has also had recurring roles on Medici, as Medici family enemy Francesco Salviati, and in the 2015 Golden Globe-winning BBC/PBS miniseries Wolf Hall. On the big screen, you may have spotted him in the 2017 film adaptation of Agatha Christie's Crooked House or in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, although he unfortunately joined the series on the wrong side of history, as a Sith fleet officer.
Offscreen, Fortune-Lloyd is a prolific stage actor. On top of the many roles he held during his time at Guildhall, he starred as Jack Worthing in a 2018 West End revival of The Importance of Being Earnest—for which he received rave reviews—and in Royal Shakespeare Company performances of Othello and The Merchant of Venice.
How did he prepare for The Queen's Gambit?
Fortune-Lloyd hasn't actually given any interviews about his part in the hit miniseries, but according to his costars, his onscreen chess moves were backed by actual expertise. In a recent interview in which Melling and Brodie-Sangster admitted that they had no idea what they were doing as they moved their chess pieces around in The Queen's Gambit, they agreed that Fortune-Lloyd was "really good" and "played properly."
While his costars didn't mention whether Fortune-Lloyd arrived on set as a fully formed chess whiz, or if he learned to play specifically for the role, totally immersing himself in his roles is kind of the actor's M.O. In an interview on the set of Medici, for example, Fortune-Lloyd shared that he achieved Salviati's particularly serpentine way of moving and speaking by studying literal snakes—and most notably The Jungle Book's Kaa.
What we do know for sure, however, is that Fortune-Lloyd set at least one very important goal for his part in The Queen's Gambit: to make chess sexy. For one thing, when the show premiered, he posted a photo with Taylor-Joy on Instagram captioned, "Chess was always sexy, y'all just catching up." And if that wasn't clear-cut enough, his Instagram bio concludes with, "Bringing sexy back to chess." As the countless Netflix users who have already binged the entire mesmerizing series in the first few days since it premiered can surely attest: Mission accomplished.
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Andrea Park is a Chicago-based writer and reporter with a near-encyclopedic knowledge of the extended Kardashian-Jenner kingdom, early 2000s rom-coms and celebrity book club selections. She graduated from the Columbia School of Journalism in 2017 and has also written for W, Brides, Glamour, Women's Health, People and more.
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