Alphonsia Emmanuel (born 7 November 1956) is an actress known for her appearances in Under Suspicion (1991), Peter's Friends (1992) and Still Crazy (1998) among other roles. She is a former member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre.
Emmanuel was born as Alphonsia Pamela Williams in Pointe Michel in Dominica in the British West Indies in 1956. When she was an infant her parents Lewis and Portia Williams moved to the United Kingdom in search of work while Emmanuel stayed in Dominica with her grandparents until she joined her parents in London aged two years. She attended Carlton Vale School and Ayleston High School where she gained A levels in Law and English. At this time she gained an interest in performing and attended dance classes and took part in school productions. About to leave school, Emmanuel considered a theatrical career but was put off by the advice of a career guidance counsellor “to whom I confessed my secret for the first time. She smiled indulgently and said that acting was not for people like us.”
She attended Kingston University from 1977 to 1980 where she took a Bachelor of Education degree with specialisms in English and Drama. She worked as a teacher from 1980 to 1981 but she still longed for a career in the theatre. She trained at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London and took a post-graduate qualification in theatre techniques in 1983. On embarking on an acting career she appeared in pantomime and toured in the play Bitter Milk with the all-black Temba Theatre Company.
She was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1983 to 1984 and played the Nurse, a part written for a black actress, in The Dillen (1983) as well as playing Sophia de Lyonne in Pam Gems’ play Camille (1984) and Muriel Farr in Louise Page’s Golden Girls (1984) in which Emmanuel appeared with Cathy Tyson, Josette Simon and Kenneth Branagh. In addition, Emmanuel understudied in two Shakespearean productions, Love’s Labour’s Lost and Measure for Measure and also for the RSC in 1985 she played Johanna in Trilogy of Reunions and Ilona/Marica in The Maple Tree Game. In 1989 she played Valeria in Coriolanus at the Young Vic and in 1997 played Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra at the Bridewell Theatre.
She regularly appeared in television dramas and comedies from 1985 including recurring roles as WPC Janice Hargreaves in Rockliffe's Babies and Desmond's and appeared as Penny Guy in House of Cards (1990). She was also a regular on stage in London during the 1980s and early 1990s, including playing Duckling in This Country’s Good (1988) by Timberlake Wertenbaker at the Royal Court Theatre and Lucy in The Recruiting Officer (1988) and Irina Platt in Murmuring Judges by David Hare (1991), both at the National Theatre, while in 1995 she acted in Venice Preserv’d at the Almeida Theatre. Her film roles include Selina in Under Suspicion (1991), Sarah Johnson in Peter's Friends (1992), Camille in Still Crazy (1998) and Miss James in Peggy Su! (1998).
Despite her success in classical roles Emmanuel was never asked to appear again with the Royal Shakespeare Company or the National Theatre, ascribing the lack of roles for black actors to institutional racism and prejudice within the industry. Deciding to concentrate on television and film roles, Emmanuel made an appearance as Mrs. Litton in the series Dynasty in 1991 and considered moving to the United States in the hope of more regular acting opportunities. In 1998 she played The Lady in an episode of The Demon Headmaster.
In 1999 Emmanuel married American lawyer Marc Rosenfeld, an environmentalist based in Antigua, and she now divides her time between London and the Caribbean. In 2002 she returned to the UK to appear as Karen Delage in the BBC drama Fields of Gold. In 2007 she co-founded the Gale Theatre of London and Barbados, appearing as Ruth in Blithe Spirit in the same year. She also co-founded the Caribbean Unity Theatre in Antigua in 2008.