The Untold Truth Of Nanny McPhee Actor Raphael Coleman

The world has already said goodbye to several celebrities in 2020 — ranging from basketball legend Kobe Bryant to Oscar-nominated actor Kirk Douglas. On Feb. 6, 2020, Nanny McPhee actor Raphael Coleman died at age 25, according to CNN. While you'd likely recognize Coleman from his British child star days, he transitioned from acting to a career focused on activism, as well as studying and protecting wildlife.

Coleman's mother, Liz Jensen, announced his passing on Twitter. "Rest in peace my beloved son Raphael Coleman, aka Iggy Fox," she wrote. "He died doing what he loved, working for the noblest cause of all. His family could not be prouder. Let's celebrate all he achieved in his short life and cherish his legacy." Jensen also posted a follow-up tweet, thanking everyone for all of their "beautiful tributes" to her son. Per CNN, Coleman's stepfather, Carsten Jensen, shared on Facebook: "Raph wasn't my child, even though I was close to him. But I can feel it myself. I see it in his mother's eyes, and I hear it in her voice, the irreversible loss of the most precious thing in life." He also mentioned that Coleman "collapsed without prior health problems" while on a trip.

Let's take a closer look at what Coleman accomplished on-screen and beyond.

Raphael Coleman knew he didn't want to act forever

Raphael Coleman's acting debut was 2005's Nanny McPhee, where he starred alongside Emma Thompson and Colin Firth. Director Kirk Jones reflected on working with Coleman in an USA Today interview after his passing. "I remember him as a 9 year old child and initially for me that was who we lost last weekend but after reading more about him, I was amazed and incredibly proud of what he had achieved as an adult," Jones said. "Many child actors hold on to their ambition to become 'famous' and dream of stardom but for Raph I suspect acting was just a stepping stone, a learning process that would see him eventually make his own films and take a much more important and admirable journey in adulthood far away from the fragile pretense of acting."

In October 2005, an 11-year-old Coleman spoke to BBC's CBBC about getting into character for Nanny McPhee. "It wasn't actually that easy for me because I had to act as if I was a 40-year-old professor trapped in the body of a seven-year-old boy and I'm not really like that." When asked if he wanted to keep acting, he responded, "Not really no." Per Coleman's IMDb, he had three other acting roles, all in 2009: It's AliveThe Fourth Kind, and a short called Edward's Turmoil, where he played the title character.

He studied zoology and immersed himself in his work

Raphael Coleman studied zoology at the University of Manchester, per his LinkedIn. However, as he explained on Instagram in August 2017, he skipped his graduation ceremony for a very good reason. "I didn't work my mind to its limits for four years so that I could write the name of a prestigious institution on my CV, have a 'respectable' qualification, and I certainly didn't do it so that I could pay for the pleasure of being handed a roll of fancy paper whilst wearing strange clothing," Coleman wrote. Instead, he went to Mexico for a conservation research expedition and had a "makeshift graduation" in the jungle. 

In other words, he was already putting that degree to good use. "Rather than following traditions, I prefer to celebrate finishing my degree by continuing to do what I love, and by loving what I do. Between being out here and attending the ceremony back home, there was no doubt in my mind where I should be," Coleman wrote. He closed out the post by promising to continue documenting his wildlife adventures. His IG feed was flooded with photos of baby cheetahs, coral reefs, and so much more.

Raphael Coleman shifted his focus from science to activism

In a post published on Feb. 7, 2020 — the day after his death, Raphael Coleman (a.k.a. James "Iggy" Fox) explained why he had shifted his focus to activism — or as he called it, rebelling. In the post, titled "This Is Why I Rebel," he wrote, "After seven years studying, researching and protecting nature as a wildlife conservationist, I stopped fieldwork and deferred an MSc in order to rebel full-time," he wrote on the Extinction Rebellion website. "Because no matter how many surveys I ran, how many turtle nests I protected, or how many young people I educated about 'sustainability', the seas kept rising, forests kept burning, plastic kept clogging the beaches, and our data kept showing that wildlife was being decimated... I realized that as an activist my voice could be far more influential than it had been as a scientist."

According to the website, Extinction Rebellion is "an international movement that uses non-violent civil disobedience in an attempt to halt mass extinction and minimise the risk of social collapse." At the top of Coleman's blog post, the organization noted that he "fought hard for the cause, especially for Indigenous rights. Iggy was a burning bright soul and he will be deeply missed by us all."

He was arrested for protesting an 'ecological and human rights emergency'

Raphael Coleman gave his all to supporting the causes he was most passionate about. Per Deadline, Coleman was arrested for participating in an environmental protest at London's Brazilian Embassy on Aug. 13, 2019. He wrote about the experience in an Extinction Rebellion article. "I don't want to go to prison, but I'll face whatever I need to. My actions aren't about sacrifice, or arrest for the sake of it," he said. "Knowing the science, I have no choice but to tell the truth, and stick to my morals in the face of that truth. I won't stand by and watch the world burn."

Coleman said he and five others were arrested for "taking non-violent direct action to highlight an ecological and human rights emergency. We did it as two thousand Indigenous women marched on Brasilia to defend their lives and lands, and three days after the Dias do Fogo, when thousands of fires were lit to clear deforested land in the Amazon." In that same post, he wrote, "I'm rebelling in love for this world and the wild." 

Coleman was a man on a mission, and it's heartbreaking that his time was cut far too short. His words and his legacy will live on. As he said in an Instagram post: "Some people wish for power, fortune, fame... I just wish I was still up a tree somewhere with good people.