Karen David is a Canadian-British actress, singer and songwriter, who is best known for portraying Francesca "Cesca" Montoya in the BBC television series Waterloo Road, and Layla in the American action film The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior. Karen portrayed Isabella Maria Lucia Elisabetta in Galavant.
Fully revealing her comedy chops, David plays Princess Isabella, who seeks out and engages a once-gallant prince in order to save her people from an evil king in the comedy extravaganza “Galavant,” from Dan Fogelman (“Cars,” “Tangled,” “Crazy, Stupid, Love”), with songs by Oscar-winning composer Alan Menken.
From India to Canada, England to America, Karen David has crisscrossed the world making true fans everywhere along the way. With her exotic beauty and multicultural pedigree, of which she includes Chinese, Indian and Jewish heritage, the actress and singer/songwriter has found equal diversity in her film, television, stage and recording career, fueled in no small part by an extraordinary talent and natural charisma.
Born in Shillong, India in the foothills of the Himalayas, Karen was raised in Toronto and came of age in the UK. At age 17, she won a scholarship to Berklee College of Music in Boston, where she studied jazz and gospel. It was here she discovered a flair for songwriting and a love for drama, which led her to study at the Guildford School of Acting in London. It wasn’t long after finishing drama school that she landed her first acting role in the original stage cast of the London West End musical “Mamma Mia!”
Her talent as a singer and all-around performer led her to sign a record deal with BMG Europe, generating the 2003 single “It’s Me (You're Talking To),” which became a Top Ten hit in Austria, Germany and Switzerland as well as BMG’s fourth highest airplay hit for a debut artist. Soon after, she was discovered by composer A.R. Rahman (“Slumdog Millionaire”) who, impressed by her talents, invited David to help develop the soundtrack for the Bollywood-themed musical “Bombay Dreams” alongside Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black. They subsequently created the theme tune for the British drama “Provoked,” in which David had a supporting role.
Unquestionably, it is her acting work in television that has earned her the majority of her diehard fans in the UK and America. In the BBC’s BAFTA-nominated “Waterloo Road,” she played Francesca Montoya, a teacher who fell in love with a student. The storyline generated plenty of controversy, and more and more admirers fell for her compelling performance, with the series generating over nine million viewers per episode.
Going on to co-star for two seasons on the hugely popular BBC comedy series “Pixelface,” produced by comedian Graham Norton’s BAFTA award-winning company So Television, Karen David has begun to reap success on the other side of the pond: in MTV’s “Top Buzzer” as a co-lead, in the action/thriller “Strike Back” for Cinemax, and in guest roles in the Fox drama “Touch” and the ABC crime drama “Castle.”
Her film career began with a supporting co-lead role as a member of an R&B band in the UK cult hit “Bollywood Queen,” leading to a supporting role in “Batman Begins,” a co-leading role in “The Scorpion King: Rise of a Warrior,” and notable performances in the Vince Vaughn comedy “Couples Retreat” and in the Sigourney Weaver and Robert De Niro drama “Red Lights.” More recently, she portrayed a tough FBI agent in the blockbuster “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” and just wrapped the independent comedy “The Tiger Hunter,” alongside Danny Pudi, Kevin Pollak, Sam Page and Jon Heder.
On the musical front, she is continually refining her passion for writing and recording “feel-good, indie-girl pop with a twist.” In the wake of her hit 2003 single “It’s Me (You're Talking To),” she released her first two EPs, “The Live Sessions” EP (2008) and “Magic Carpet Ride” (2009), followed by the 2010 single “Hypnotize” and three mixes. She shepherded the 2013 EP “Dust to Stars,” collaborating with such established songwriter/producers as Stefan Skarbek, Carl Ryden and Boots Ottestad as well as Adam Argyle & Martin Brammer.
An entrepreneur who launched Queen’s Trunk, a pop-up shop in Toronto offering “British high street and vintage fashion,” Karen is also an avid supporter of charity who and devotes much of her time to campaigning for various issues. She has been active in raising funds for breast cancer awareness and is also an ambassador for the Prince’s Trust. Combining her love of music and support for charity, she released a charity Christmas album in 2010, entitled “My Christmas List,” to raise money for a housing and homelessness shelter. She is also an active supporter of SOS Children’s Villages Foundation and Designers Against AIDS.