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Jennifer James' parents divorced when she was two years old. She attended St Aidan's Primary School in Winstanley before attending St Edmund Arrowsmith School in Ashton in Makerfield. At the age of 18 she went to Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama, Sidcup, Kent where she trained to be an actress from 1996-1999.
Her first TV role was in a German advertisement for cleaning powder. Shortly afterwards she took the role of Geena Gregory in Coronation Street which she played from 2000 to 2002. After learning she was to be written out of her role as barmaid Geena, she brought out a fitness video entitled Get Fit Quick with Jennifer James with Suzanne Cox. She auditioned for and took the role of Joyce in The Second Quest, directed by David Jason, for Yorkshire Television in 2003.
In May 2005 she began playing WPC (later Detective Constable) Kim "Posh" Spicer in Dalziel and Pascoe.
It was during her time on Coronation Street that she met the actor Lee Boardman who played drug dealer Jez Quigley. They married at Manchester Town Hall on 12 May 2001. During the filming of The Second Quest she was expecting her first child by Boardman, a boy who was born in March 2004. James decided to take a short break from acting to spend time with her child. She gave birth to her and Boardman's second child, a girl, in April 2010.
On 23 April 2006 James completed the London Marathon, for Barnardo's and said that becoming a mum herself encouraged her to run. "Being a mum is the best thing in the world, having Jack has encouraged me to run the marathon for Barnardo's. I run round the local park every day and would never imagine that I’d say I loved running!"[this quote needs a citation]
James and Boardman live in Cheshire. They are both patrons of a charity called CAFT(Children's Adventure Farm Trust) which provides holidays for sick, disabled, disadvantaged and terminally ill children.
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