Shaw graduated from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, and earned an honours degree in psychology from London University. She started her acting career in the theatre, moving into television, where she had extensive experience. She is best known for her roles in General Hospital, Jane Eyre (with Timothy Dalton), Diana: Her True Story, and James Cameron's Titanic Explorer.
Shaw is descended from the actor William Powell. The Victorian folk heroine Grace Darling was also a family member. Other notables in Shaw's family are her Second World War poet father, Oliver Shaw, who was one-time Attorney General of Sierra Leone, and her elder son Daniel Fathers who is also an actor. Shaw resides in Los Angeles with film producer Richard Winter-Stanbridge, to whom she has been married since 23 September 1989; she has three children.
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