The actress learned her paternal great-grandfather, Francis LeMoyne, fought to end slavery in the 1800s while tracing her roots at the Washington Historical Society in Washington, Pennsylvania, during an appearance on U.S. TV show Who Do You Think You Are?

LeMoyne, who worked at the historical society, was a radical abolitionist who risked his life to free slaves.

Bowen found the history lesson riveting and admits there are parallels to modern life in America.

"We're in a moment where people feel very threatened by people that they consider 'other', whatever 'other' is represented by religion, colour, taking their jobs, and it just sounds so current at the same time. It sounds so old and so new at once."

Julie's Who Do You Think You Are? episode airs in America on Sunday (12Mar17).