Kathryn Bailey "Kate" Beckinsale is an English actress. She first gained notice, while a student at Oxford University, for making her debut in the film adaptation of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing
. Throughout the 1990s, she worked on both film and television, most notably by portraying the title character in the 1996 BBC television series Emma. In 2001, Beckinsale garnered international recognition when she was cast as the romantic lead opposite Ben Affleck in her breakthrough film, Pearl Harbor
(2001). Since then, she has portrayed a variety of characters in projects such as Underworld
(2003), The Aviator
(2004), and Van Helsing
(2004). In 2008, she earned a Critic's Choice Award nomination for her performance in Nothing But the Truth
. Born in Finsbury Park, London, Beckinsale is the daughter of actor Richard Beckinsale, who died from a heart attack in 1979, and actress Judy Loe. She has a paternal half-sister, Samantha, who is also an actress. Her paternal grandfather was half Burmese, and she has said that she was "very oriental-looking" as a child.