Male British actor Aj donnelly

About British Actor AJ Donnelly

Male British actor

british actor

AJ Donnelly is a Male British actor and voice artist. Born in Bedford, England, he performed for the first time at the age of 7, as Father Bear in his school’s performance of ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’, having been picked out by a teacher for unknown reasons. From that first performance, he appeared in multiple productions throughout his childhood, both at school and with various drama clubs.

AJ describes acting in his childhood simply as a necessity, never having even thought it could one day develop into a professional career. Suffering bullying and loneliness most of his childhood, both at home and at school, acting for him was a form of self-defense, a way to hide from the world and distract others from what he felt were his vulnerabilities and weaknesses, a ‘character shield’, behind which he could be anyone or anything he wanted.

british actor

AJ Donnelly, 19 years old, performing with the Bedford Marionettes in ‘The Merry Widow’

But as he developed, and his confidence and personality through acting and performance grew, so did his desire to perform, continuing into early adulthood when he joined local amateur theatre group the Bedford Marionettes, where he began developing his skills in physical comedy.

british actor

AJ Donnelly, 14 years old, in his high school’s performance of ‘Murder at the Old Red Barn’

However, despite praise from peers, teachers, family, and friends, acting still did not appear to be a viable career choice. In fact, after considering the military (diabetes precluded him from signing up), anthropology (a brief distraction), law (too expensive to study), and eventually journalism (going as far as being accepted into a very good university in London), after a gap year, AJ realized that another three years of study wasn’t what he wanted, and so he set his eyes on a bigger goal.

In 1999, AJ moved to China to pursue his love of martial arts. He chose a job working at a kindergarten, sold on the idea of “by the people, for the people” which was how the kindergarten introduced itself. That job took him to the transport hub of China’s train system, Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei Province, where despite the relatively large population and proximity to Beijing, people were not accustomed to foreigners walking around, especially ones 190cm tall and with hair braided into a queue!

british actor

AJ in 1999, practicing kung fu in a park in Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province

While Shijiazhuang was a comparatively quiet city at that time, AJ’s life was not without drama, though mostly through his own actions. He freely admits that he wasn’t the nicest person whilst living there, especially with regards to many of the relationships he had. Over the years, he developed a reputation as a philanderer and two-timer, something he deeply regrets, both because of the pain he caused and the time he wasted. It is a period of his life he has worked hard to atone for, but he knows it’s a past he can never change.

AJ was a teacher in Shijiazhuang for 3 years, before turning to business consulting. In 2004, this then developed into project management, which saw him moving to Beijing, where he was hired by a local investment firm to meet with overseas startups applying for Chinese capital. AJ worked on and off for the investment firm for 6 years, before becoming disillusioned with the company’s business practices.

He finally crossed off a childhood bucket list item when he became a reporter for a national Chinese newspaper. While his tenure as a journalist was short-lived, it was one of his happiest experiences. Around the same time, AJ started dating another British expat who would eventually become his wife, Nic Doering. Apart from bringing love and happiness into his life, AJ also credits Nic with helping him establish the stability necessary for him to focus on his life goals.

british actor

AJ in 2011, as Leisle Arthur in ‘Love, Sex and the IRS’ in his first role for Beijing Playhouse

AJ returned to the stage in 2011 with amateur theatre group Beijing Playhouse’s production of the comedy ‘Love, Sex and the IRS’, playing the lead role of Leslie Arthur, and then in the Christmas panto ‘Cinderella’, playing Cinderella’s father, The Baron.

In 2013 AJ landed a small role in the Chinese TV drama ‘Rong Hong’. That was also the year that AJ took the stage name AJ Donnelly, to keep his acting work and business work separate. Since his on-screen appearance in 2013, AJ has appeared in both amateur and professional stage performances, short films, internationally released movies, TV shows, and TVCs, including ‘Wild Cards’ (2016), ‘Sky Hunters’ (2018) and ‘The Legend of Kunlun’ (2018), playing a lead role opposite Taiwanese stars Anthony Bao and Winston Chao. In 2016 he was the first foreigner to star in a Chinese play at the Beijing Capital Theatre, playing Mr. Sattel in the drama ‘Paifang’, directed by Yang Lixin.

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AJ Donnelly with Directors Zhang Yimou and Zhang Mo

In 2021, he was chosen by directors Zhang Yimou and Zhang Mo to play southern US Army officer Captain Williams in the movie ‘Ju Ji Shou’ (Snipers AKA Sharpshooter), which was released in Chinese mainland cinemas on February 1st 2022. Most recently, AJ took the role of British loan shark Andrew Williams in 1850s Guangzhou in ‘The 13 Hongs of Canton’, due to be released on streaming platforms in 2023.

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AJ’s highest ranking position on industry website IMDb

Aside from acting, AJ works as a voice artist, creating audio materials for educational institutes in China, the UK and Singapore, and doing movie narration and dubbing for Chinese productions such as The 800, The Foreigner and Defiance.

AJ and Nic live in the suburbs of Beijing with their two dogs, husky Angel and schnauzer Ruby. Not wanting to put all their eggs in one acting-shaped basket, AJ and Nic also run their own cultural education company ( which promotes the value of traditional Chinese culture through information and experiences. In his free time, AJ is an avid PS4 gamer and Kindle user, carrying both with him whenever he travels for acting projects. AJ never drinks alcohol, but does enjoy the occasional cigarette. While he was vegetarian for a decade, he now considers himself more of a ‘reducetarian’, but hopes to return to full vegetarianism in the future.

british actor

AJ Donnelly and wife Nic Doering

While he is passionate about all forms of acting and performance and has played mostly dramatic roles including military officials, terrorists, scientists, Shakespeare, and Copernicus, his true love is comedic performance. While being based in China doesn’t offer AJ many chances to show his comedic abilities, he is actively pursuing more opportunities to do so, both in China and internationally. He hopes to return to the UK in the near future to continue developing his career and is currently seeking representation, in both the UK and the US.

As actors, I don’t think it’s our job to pretend to be someone. I think it’s our job to find those characters within ourselves, then simply show that side of ourselves to the world. In that way, it’s always truth that we are bringing to the audience. I started acting because I wanted to hide, to shield myself from the world behind another character. Now I act because I want to explore and expose every facet of myself through those characters.

british actor

AJ is currently seeking representation in the UK and US. Please connect with him to discuss representation, cooperation, endorsement, sponsorship, or media opportunities.