Miriam Margolyes // MAR-gə-leez; born 18 May 1941) is a British-Australian actress. She has gained prominence as a character actor on stage and screen. She received a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her role in Martin Scorsese's The Age of Innocence (1993) and portrayed Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter film series (2002–2011). Margolyes was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2002 New Year Honours for Services to Drama.(
|Born||18 May 1941|
|Citizenship||United Kingdom |
|Alma mater||Newnham College, Cambridge|
|Partner||Heather Sutherland (1968–present)|
After starting her career in theatre, she made her film acting debut in the British comedy A Nice Girl Like Me (1969). She has since appeared in Yentl (1983), Little Shop of Horrors (1986), Little Dorrit (1988), Romeo + Juliet (1996), and Being Julia (2004). She is also known for her voice roles in Babe (1995), James and the Giant Peach (1996), Mulan (1998), Happy Feet (2006), Flushed Away (2006), and Early Man (2018).
Margolyes is also known for her television appearances including Kizzy, Blackadder, Cold Comfort Farm (1995), Vanity Fair (1998), and The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (2004). She is also known for her recurring roles as Prudence Stanley in Australian series Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries (2012-2015) and Sister Mildred in the BBC series Call the Midwife (2018-2021). She has starred in productions in both the United Kingdom and Australia, including her 1989 one-woman show Dickens' Women and the Australian premiere of the 2013 play, I'll Eat You Last.
Margolyes has spent many years dividing her time between the United Kingdom, Australia and Italy. She became an Australian citizen in 2013. She has also written three books, Dickens' Women (2012), her autobiography This Much is True (2021) and Oh Miriam (2023)
Early life Edit
Margolyes was born in Oxford on 18 May 1941, the only child of Joseph Margolyes (1899–1995), a Scottish physician and general practitioner from the Gorbals area of Glasgow, and property-developer Ruth (née Sandeman; 1905–1974), daughter of a second-hand furniture dealer and auctioneer at Kirkdale, Liverpool, who later relocated to London. The maternal family surname changed from Sandeman to Walters before Margolyes' birth. She grew up in a Jewish family. Her ancestors moved to the UK from Belarus and Poland. Her maternal great-grandfather, Symeon Sandmann, was born in the Polish town of Margonin, which Margolyes visited in 2013. Her grandfather Margolyes was born in a small shtetl called Amdur (now Indura) in Belarus, which at that time was part of the Russian Empire.
Margolyes attended Oxford High School and Newnham College, Cambridge, where she read English. There, in her 20s, she began acting and appeared in productions by the Cambridge Footlights. She represented Newnham College in the first series of University Challenge, where she may have been one of the first people to say "fuck" on British television; she claims to have used the word in frustration on the show in 1963.[a]
With her versatile voice, Margolyes first gained recognition for her work as a voice artist. In the 1970s, she recorded a soft-porn audio called Sexy Sonia: Leaves from my Schoolgirl Notebook. She performed most of the supporting female characters in the dubbed Japanese action TV series Monkey. She also worked with the theatre company Gay Sweatshop and provided voiceovers in the Japanese TV series The Water Margin (credited as Mirium Margolyes).
Margolyes's first major role in a film was as Elephant Ethel in Stand Up, Virgin Soldiers (1977). In the 1980s, she made appearances in Blackadder opposite Rowan Atkinson: these roles include the Spanish Infanta in The Black Adder, Lady Whiteadder in Blackadder II and Queen Victoria in Blackadder's Christmas Carol. In 1986, she played a major supporting role in the BBC drama The Life and Loves of a She-Devil. She won the 1989 LA Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Flora Finching in the film Little Dorrit (1988). On American television, she headlined the short-lived 1992 CBS sitcom Frannie's Turn. In 1994, she won the BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Mrs Mingott in Martin Scorsese's The Age of Innocence (1993).
In 1989, Margolyes co-wrote and performed a one-woman show, Dickens' Women, in which she played 23 characters from Dickens' novels. In 2005 Margolyes hosted a ten-part BBC Four documentary, Dickens in America, which retraced Dickens's 1842 journey across the United States of America.
Margolyes played Aunt Sponge and voiced the Glow-Worm in James and the Giant Peach (1996). She played the Nurse in Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet (1996). She voiced the rabbit character in the animated commercials for Cadbury's Caramel bars and provided the voice of Fly the dog in the Australian-American family film Babe (1995).
She played Professor Sprout in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) and again in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (2011). In a 2011 interview on The Graham Norton Show, in regard to her Potter costars, Margolyes said that she got on well with Maggie Smith, but rather bluntly admitted that she "didn't like the one that died", referring to Richard Harris.
Margolyes voiced the role of Mrs. Plithiver, a blind snake, in the 3D-animated-epic film Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole (2010).
Margolyes played recurring character Prudence Stanley in the Australian-based TV series Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries from 2012 to 2015.
In January 2016, Margolyes appeared in The Real Marigold Hotel, a travel documentary in which a group of eight celebrities traveled to India to see whether retirement would be more rewarding there than in the UK. The series was reprised for two Christmas Specials The Real Marigold On Tour, from Florida and Kyoto. She narrated the 2016 ITV documentary about Lady Colin Campbell entitled Lady C and the Castle.
In December 2017, Margolyes appeared in the second season of The Real Marigold On Tour to Chengdu and Havana. She appeared in the first episode of the third series, in which she traveled to St Petersburg with Bobby George, Sheila Ferguson and Stanley Johnson.
In January 2018, Margolyes hosted a three-part series for the BBC titled Miriam's Big American Adventure, highlighting the citizens of the United States and the issues facing the country. She voiced Queen Oofeefa in the film Early Man.
Since 2018, Margolyes has portrayed Mother Mildred in the BBC One drama, Call The Midwife.
In October 2021 she played Lillian opposite Helen Monks in the BBC Radio 4 sitcom Charlotte and Lillian, where she introduced her autobiography This Much Is True. On 5 November she appeared on BBC One's The Graham Norton Show, where she discussed the book, explaining that it was written only because she "was paid an enormous amount of money". On 16 September the book was published by Hachette Books.
In November 2022 it was rumoured Margolyes had been signed up to appear in the Doctor Who 60th anniversary specials. In September 2023, she was confirmed to be in the specials as the voice of Beep the Meep.
Personal life Edit
Margolyes is a lesbian. On becoming an Australian citizen on Australia Day 2013, she referred to herself as a "dyke" live on national television and in front of the then Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. Since 1968, she has been in a relationship with Heather Sutherland, an Australian now-retired professor of Indonesian studies. They divide their time between homes in London and Kent in England, Robertson in Australia, and Montisi in Italy.
Margolyes is a Patron of My Death My Decision, an organisation in the UK which seeks a more compassionate approach to dying, including the legal right to a medically assisted death, if that is a person's persistent wish.
Margolyes is a supporter of Sense (the National Deafblind and Rubella Association) and was the host at the first Sense Creative Writing Awards, held at the Charles Dickens Museum in London in December 2006, where she read a number of works written by talented deafblind people.
Margolyes has been accused on several occasions of making racist comments or jokes. During a 2012 appearance The Graham Norton Show, Margolyes said to Will.i.am "I'm just fascinated by you, because, unfortunately, I don't know many black people in show business”, and went on to state that it was surprising that a rapper would be philanthropic. In 2016 Margoyles was accused of making a racist joke which left a black man reportedly "humiliated" at the London Film Convention. 
During a 2022 appearance on This Morning, Margolyes responded to one caller to "lose weight", telling another "not to mix with other cripples". In a separate 2022 interview with Radio Times, Margolyes came to the defence of J. K. Rowling, commenting that "There is a spectrum and people can be anywhere along that. There isn't one answer to all these trans questions".
Political activism Edit
Margolyes' political activism started at university. "I came from a very middle-class Jewish background, always Tory-voting", she later said. However, in the 1970s, she joined the Workers Revolutionary Party with other actors and Equity members such as Vanessa Redgrave, Frances de la Tour and Tom Kempinski. She is a signatory of Jews for Justice for Palestinians. Margolyes said, "What I want to try to do is to get Jewish people to understand what's really going on, and they don't want to hear it. If you speak to most Jews and say, 'Can Israel ever be in the wrong?' they say, 'No. Our duty as Jews is to support Israel whatever happens.' And I don't believe that. It is our duty as human beings to report the truth as we see it." She is also a campaigner for the respite care charity Crossroads.
Margolyes is a member of the Labour Party and is registered to vote in Vauxhall. In August 2015, she was a signatory to a letter criticising The Jewish Chronicle's reporting of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's alleged associations with antisemites. In November 2019, she endorsed the Labour Party in the UK general election because of their policies on the National Health Service. Later in the month, along with other public figures, she signed a letter supporting Corbyn and describing him as a "beacon of hope in the struggle against emergent far-right nationalism, xenophobia, and racism in much of the democratic world".
Margolyes was very critical of the British Government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic. She considered that it was "a public scandal" and "a disgrace". With the Prime Minister hospitalised suffering from COVID-19, Margolyes said "I had difficulty not wanting Boris Johnson to die."
On 15 October 2022, after being interviewed by Justin Webb about the recently deceased Robbie Coltrane on BBC Radio 4's Today, she commented to the presenters that she had never expected to be in a seat that had just been vacated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt. She said, live on air, "When I saw him there I just said, 'You've got a hell of a job, the best of luck', and what I really wanted to say was 'Fuck you, you bastard!'"
In popular culture Edit
Author and comedian David Walliams says he used Margolyes as a model for the title character in his children's book Awful Auntie after an argument with her during a stage production, though he stressed that he has nothing against her and is a fan of her work.
|1969||A Nice Girl Like Me||Pensione 'Mama'|
|1974||On the Game||Narrator||Uncredited|
|1975||Rime of the Ancient Mariner||Dorothy Wordsworth|
|1977||Stand Up, Virgin Soldiers||Elephant Ethel|
|Confessions from a Holiday Camp||Blackbird||Uncredited Voice Role|
|The Battle of Billy's Pond||Tour Guide|
|1978||On a Paving Stone Mounted||Performer|
|The Awakening||Dr Kadira|
|1981||Reds||Woman writing in notebook||Uncredited role|
|1984||Electric Dreams||Ticket Girl|
|1985||The Good Father||Jane Powell|
|Morons from Outer Space||Doctor Wallace|
|1986||Little Shop of Horrors||Dental Nurse|
|1987||Body Contact||Mrs. Zulu|
|1988||Little Dorrit||Flora Finching|
|1990||The Fool||Mrs. Bowring|
|I Love You to Death||Mrs. Boca|
|1991||The Butcher's Wife||Gina|
|Dead Again||Lady||Uncredited role|
|1992||As You Like It||Audrey|
|1993||The Age of Innocence||Mrs. Mingott|
|Ed and His Dead Mother||Mabel Chilton|
|1994||Immortal Beloved||Nanette Streicherová|
|Babe||Fly the Female Sheepdog||Voice role|
|1996||Different for Girls||Pamela|
|Romeo + Juliet||The Nurse|
|James and the Giant Peach||Aunt Sponge/Glowworm||Voice role|
|Babe: Pig in the City||Fly the Female Sheepdog||Voice role; cameo|
|The First Snow of Winter||Sean the duck||Voice role|
|Left Luggage||Mrs. Goldman|
|1999||Magnolia||Faye Barringer||Uncredited role|
|End of Days||Mabel|
|Dreaming of Joseph Lees||Signora Caldoni|
|2001||Not Afraid, Not Afraid||Performer|
|Cats & Dogs||Sophie the Castle Maid|
|2002||Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets||Professor Pomona Sprout|
|Plots with a View||Thelma & Selma|
|2004||Being Julia||Dolly de Vries|
|Ladies in Lavender||Dorcas|
|End of the Line||Bag Lady||Short Film|
|2006||Happy Feet||Mrs. Astrakhan||Voice role|
|Flushed Away||Rita's Grandma|
|2007||The Dukes||Aunt Vee|
|2008||How To Lose Friends and Alienate People||Mrs. Kowalski|
|2009||A Closed Book||Mrs. Kilbride|
|2010||Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole||Mrs. Plithiver||Voice role|
|2011||Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2||Professor Pomona Sprout|
|2012||Sir Billi||Baroness Chantal McToff||Voice role|
|The Wedding Video||Patricia|
|The Guilt Trip||Anita|
|2014||The Legend of Longwood||Lady Thyrza|
|Maya the Bee||The Queen||Voice role|
|2017||The Little Vampire 3D||Wulftrud|
|The Man Who Invented Christmas||Mrs. Fisk|
|2018||Early Man||Queen Oofeefa||Voice role|
|2019||H Is for Happiness||Miss Bamford|
|2020||Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears||Prudence Stanley|
|2023||My Happy Ending||Judy|
|1965||Theatre 625||Rita||Episode: "Enter Solly Gold"|
|1967||Crossroads||Mrs. Perkins||3 episodes|
|ITV Play of the Week||Heidi||Episode: "The English Climate"|
|Boy Meets Girl||Maria||Episode: "Flight of the Kingfisher"|
|1968||Dixon of Dock Green||Anna||Episode: "An Ordinary Man"|
|1969||Thirty-Minute Theatre||Voice||Episode: "The Boat to Addis Ababa"|
|ITV Playhouse||Kathie||Episode: "The Ha Ha"|
|1972||A Place in the Sun||Maid||Episode: "Achilles Heel"|
|Jackanory Playhouse||The Witch||Episode: "The Wily Wizard and the Wicked Witch"|
|1972–1973||Words and Pictures||Various Voices||20 episodes|
|1973||Doctor in Charge||Doris||Episode: "Men without Women"|
|1974||World of Laughter||Various parts||6 episodes|
|Fall of Eagles||Anna Vyrubova||Episode: "Tell the King the Sky is Falling"|
|1975||The Girls of Slender Means||Jane Wright||3 episodes|
|1976||Christmas Box||Mrs. Kaplan||Television film|
|Angels||June Morris||2 episodes|
|Kizzy||Mrs. Doe||2 episodes|
|The Glittering Prizes||Olive Wise||TV serial|
|1976, 1982||Crown Court||Marilyn Munro; Mrs. King||2 episodes|
|1976||The Water Margin||Voice||English dub of Japanese series|
|1977||Play for Today||Veronica||Episode: "The Thin Edge of the Wedge"|
|Spasms||Rose Finn||Television film|
|1978||Monkey||Voice||English dub of Japanese series Saiyûki |
|1980||The Lost Tribe||Queenie||TV serial|
|Tales of the Unexpected||Mary Burge||Episode: "Fat Chance"|
|1981||Take a Letter, Mr. Jones||Maria||6 episodes|
|A Kick Up the Eighties||Various roles||3 episodes|
|The History Man||Melissa Tordoroff||3 episodes|
|1983||The Black Adder||Infanta Maria Escalosa of Spain||Episode: "The Queen of Spain's Beard"|
|1985||Oliver Twist||Mrs. Corney||TV serial|
|Honour, Profit and Pleasure||Elephant and Castle||Television film|
|1986||The Life and Loves of a She-Devil||Nurse Hopkins||2 episodes|
|Blackadder II||Lady Whiteadder||Episode: "Beer"|
|A Little Princess||Miss Amelia||6 episodes|
|Scotch and Wry||Various||Television film|
|1987||Poor Little Rich Girl:
The Barbara Hutton Story
|Elsa Maxwell||Television film|
|1988||Blackadder's Christmas Carol||Queen Victoria||Television Special|
|Mr Majeika||Wilhelmina Worlock||2 episodes|
|1989||Murderers Among Us||Mrs. Rajzman||Television film|
|1990||Orpheus Descending||Vee Talbot|
|Screen Two||Nellie||Episode: "Old Flames"|
|1991||Tonight at 8.30||Mrs. Wadhurst||2 episodes|
|1992||Stalin||Nadezhda Krupskaya||Television film|
|Frannie's Turn||Frannie Escobar||6 episodes|
|1993||The Comic Strip Presents...||Mother||Episode: "Demonella"|
|1994||Just William||Miss Polliter||Episode: "William's Busy Day"|
|Moonacre||Old Elspeth||6 episodes|
|1995||Cold Comfort Farm||Mrs. Beetle||Television film|
|1997||The IMAX Nutcracker||Sugar Plum||Short film|
|The Phoenix and the Carpet||Cook||BBC TV serial|
|The Place of Lions||Miss Cole||Television film|
|1998||Vanity Fair||Miss Crawley||TV serial|
|1998, 2001||Rugrats||Shirley Finster||Voice; 3 episodes|
|1998||The First Snow of Winter||Sean McDuck||Voice; UK version|
|Supply & Demand||Chief Superintendent Edna Colley||TV serial|
|2000||Dharma & Greg||Chloe||Episode: "Midwife Crisis"|
|2004||Agatha Christie's Marple||Mrs. Price-Ridley||Episode: The Murder at the Vicarage|
|The Life and Death of Peter Sellers||Peg Sellers||Television film, HBO|
|2005||Wallis & Edward||Bessie Merryman||Television film|
|Inconceivable||Malva||Episode: "Balls in Your Court"|
|2006||Jam & Jerusalem||Mrs. Midge||Season 2, Episode 6|
|2009||The Sarah Jane Adventures||Leef Slitheen-Blathereen||Voice; 2 episodes|
|2010||Tinga Tinga Tales||Giraffe and Squirrel||Voice; Recurring Role|
|Merlin||Grunhilda||Episode: "The Changeling"|
|2011||Doc Martin||Shirley||Episode: Born with a Shotgun|
|2012–2015||Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries||Prudence Elizabeth Stanley||12 episodes|
|2014||Nina Needs to Go!||Nana Sheila||Voice; 15 episodes|
|2016||Plebs||Iona||Episode: "The Cupid"|
|2016–2017||Bottersnikes and Gumbles||Weathersnike||3 episodes|
|Family Guy||Right Eyeball||Voice; Episode: "Emmy-Winning Episode"|
|2018–2021||Call the Midwife||Sister Mildred/Mother Mildred||7 episodes|
|2019||101 Dalmatian Street||Bessie||Voice; Episode: "A Summer to Remember"|
|2020||The Windsors||Queen Victoria||Episode: #3.1|
|2022||Dog Squad||Sylvie||Voice; 3 episodes|
|2023||Doctor Who||Beep the Meep||Voice; 2023 specials|
Non-fiction television Edit
|2005||Dickens in America||Herself||10 episodes|
|2016||The Real Marigold Hotel||BBC TV documentary series|
|2018||Miriam's Big American Adventure||BBC TV documentary series|
|2019||Miriam's Dead Good Adventure||BBC TV documentary series|
|2020||Miriam's Big Fat Adventure||BBC TV documentary series|
|Miriam Margolyes: Almost Australian||ABC TV documentary series|
|2021, 2022||Miriam and Alan: Lost in Scotland||C4 TV documentary series|
|2022||Miriam Margolyes: Up for Grabs||An Alan Yentob imagine... documentary for BBC TV|
|Miriam Margolyes Australia Unmasked||ABC TV documentary series|
|Miriam's Dickensian Christmas||C4 TV documentary|
|2023||Irish Road Trip with Miriam Margolyes||SBS TV documentary series|
- The Thief and the Cobbler (1993) – the voice of the Maiden from Mombasa (original version only; the character was not heard at all in the re-edited versions and another actor was never available in all the re-edited versions)
- The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (2004) – Peg Sellers – note this film was shown in cinemas in the UK, Ireland, and Australia – it aired on cable television on the HBO network in the US.
|1970||Fiddler on the Roof||Matchmaker||UK Tour|
|1972||Threepenny Opera||Nelly||Piccadilly Theatre, London|
|1974||Canterbury Tales||Wife of Bath||Bristol Old Vic|
|1975||Kennedy's Children||Performer||Arts Theatre, London|
|1976||The White Devil||Zanche the Moor||Old Vic Theatre, London|
|1978||Cloud Nine||Performer||Joint Stock/Royal Court Tour|
|1984||84 Charing Cross Road||Helen Hanff||Colchester|
|1985-87||Gertrude Stein and a Companion||Gertrude Stein||Edinburgh Festival |
|1986||Man Equals Man||Widow Begbick||Almeida Theatre, London|
|1988||Orpheus Descending||Vee Talbot||Theatre Royal Haymarket, London|
|1989–91||Dickens' Women||Performer||Edinburgh Festival |
Duke of York's Theatre, London
|1993||She Stoops to Conquer||Mrs. Hardcastle||Queen's Theatre, London|
|1995||The Killing of Sister George||June Buckridge||Ambassadors Theatre, London|
|1999||The Cherry Orchard||Madame Ranevskaya||Theatre Royal, York|
|2001||Romeo and Juliet||Nurse||Ahmanson Theater, Los Angeles|
|2001||The Vagina Monologues||Performer||Arts Theatre, London|
|2003||The Way of the World||Lady Wishfort||Sydney Theatre Company|
|2004||Blithe Spirit||Madame Arcati||Melbourne Theatre Company|
|2006||The Importance of Being Earnest||Miss Prism||Ahmanson Theater, Los Angeles |
Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York
|2006||Wicked||Madame Morrible||Apollo Victoria Theatre, London|
|2008||George Gershwin Theater, New York|
|2009||Realism||Performer||Melbourne Theatre Company|
|2009||Endgame||Nell||Duchess Theatre, London|
|2010||Me and My Girl||The Duchess||Crucible Theatre, Sheffield|
|2011||A Day in the Death of Joe Egg||Grace||Citizens' Theatre, Glasgow|
|2012||Dickens' Women||Performer||World Tour|
|2014||Neighbourhood Watch||Ana||Adelaide State Theatre|
|2014||I'll Eat You Last||Sue Mengers||Melbourne Theatre Company|
|2015||The Importance of Being Miriam||Performer||Australian Tour|
|2017||Madame Rubinstein||Helena Rubinstein||Park Theatre, London|
|2019||The Lady in the Van||Miss Shepherd||Melbourne Theatre Company|
|2019||Sydney & The Old Girl||Nell Stock||Park Theatre, London|
Awards and nominations Edit
|1989||Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle||Supporting Actress||Little Dorrit||Won|||
|1991||Laurence Olivier Award||Best Actress in a Musical||Dickens' Women||Nominated|||
|1993||Sony Radio Award||Best Actress On Radio||The Queen and I||Won|||
|1994||British Academy Film Award||Best Supporting Actress||The Age of Innocence||Won|||
|1997||The Talkies Performer of the Year||—||Oliver Twist||Won|||
|2001||Audiofile's Earphones Award||—||A Christmas Carol||Won|||
|2007||Theatregoer's Choice Award||Best Supporting Actress in a Musical||Wicked||Won|||
|2010||Best Supporting Actress in a Play||Endgame||Won|||
|2018||Audiofile's Earphones Award||—||Bleak House||Won|||
- However, at least two others said it on British television before that: Brendan Behan on Panorama in 1956 (although his drunken slurring was not understood), and an anonymous man who painted the railings on Stranmillis Embankment alongside the River Lagan in Belfast, who in 1959 told Ulster TV's magazine show, Roundabout, that his job was "fucking boring".
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- Newnham College Register, 1871-1971: 1951-1970, Newnham College, Cambridge (Cambridge University Press), 1990, pg. 130
- England & Wales Birth registration index record for Ruth Sandeman, mother's maiden surname Posner, April–June quarter 1905, West Derby registration district, Lancashire, vol. 8B, pg. 450.
- This Much Is True by Miriam Margolyes, John Murray Publishing, 2021.
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- University Challenge The Story So Far - Documentary, Granada for BBC, aired by BBC 27 December 27, 2008, 14:15
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I had difficulty not wanting Boris Johnson to die, I wanted him to die, and then I thought that reflects badly on me and I don't want to be the sort of person who wants people to die. So, then I wanted him to get better, which he did do, he did get better, but he didn't get better as a human being and I really would prefer that.
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