Lily James and Meryl Streep hugging

Mamma Mia stars Meryl Streep and Lily James are actually related in real life

The pair both play Donna Sheridan in the Mamma Mia franchise

Emmy Griffiths

Meryl Streep and Lily James were delighted to discover that, while they play two different versions of the same character in the Mamma Mia films, they are also actually related in real life! It was revealed that the two stars, who play older and younger versions of Donna Sheridan in Mamma Mia 2, are in fact ninth cousins, three times removed, and are both descended from Henry Howland in Cambridgeshire in 1634.

Meryl and Lily are cousins

Speaking about the amazing coincidence, the Florence Foster Jenkins actress said: "I love it. Absolutely wonderful news to hear I am in any way related to this delightful person. What a kick to find we share jeans AND genes." Lily has previously spoken of her admiration for Meryl, explaining: "Everywhere you look there were these movie legends, and it was very overwhelming. Not to mention the fact that I danced with Meryl, which that's something that only happens in your wildest dreams. We were all wearing these ridiculous costumes, and there was fireworks, and there was smoke, and there was glitter. It was so mad."

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Speaking about casting Lily as a young Donna, the film's director Ol Parker told Variety: "I knew she would be brilliant but what I also came to find out was how nice she was. To me, one of the keys of casting the younger cast was casting people I really liked, because I can attest to having seen the first film and seeing that cast really unite and see that close bond they formed, I wanted that with this younger cast as well." Fans of the original film have been delighted by the new sequel, with many taking to Twitter to express their thoughts on Lily as the younger version of Donna. One person wrote: "Mamma Mia 2 is FAB and now I'm going to grow my hair long and get a perm and only wear dungarees because I want to be Lily James," while another wrote: "The most realistic thing about Mamma Mia 2 is every guy falling in love with Lily James two minutes after meeting her."

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