Charlene McKenna

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Charlene McKenna
McKenna (centre) with Carice van Houten (left) and Sean Stewart (right)
Born Charlene Lee McKenna
(1984-03-26) 26 March 1984 (age 33)
Glaslough, County Monaghan, Ireland
Nationality Irish
Occupation Actress
Years active 2005-present

Charlene Lee McKenna (Irish: Searlaoin Nic Chionaoith; born 26 March 1984)[1] is an Irish actress. Born in Glaslough, County Monaghan, she became a household name and face in Ireland after starring as Jennifer in the television series Pure Mule in 2005.[2] She has had numerous other roles in television dramas in Ireland, including Raw, Single-Handed 2 and Whistleblower. She won the Best Actress (Television) award at the Irish Film and Television Awards in 2009 for Raw and won the Outstanding Actress in a Mini-Series award for her role in Whistleblower at the Monte Carlo Television Festival in June 2009.


McKenna first appeared on stage at the age of eleven, playing a small role in Oklahoma! with the Monaghan Youth Theatre.[2] She studied Religious Education and Music at Mater Dei Institute of Education, Dublin.[2] Her first large-scale production was Pure Mule which launched her career.[2] She played Jennifer, a racy character, in the series.[3]

McKenna has had roles in several other Irish television shows as well, including Raw, Single Handed and Whistleblower.[4] She had a role in a two-hour Dickensian period drama filmed in Dublin and broadcast on ITV in late 2007.[5] The drama also featured Derek Jacobi, Toby Jones, Bradley Walsh, Zoë Wanamaker, Martin Freeman, Steve Pemberton, Anna Madeley and Gina McKee.[5]

In 2007, she filmed the short film Danger High Voltage at the Electric Picnic music festival in Stradbally, County Laois. The film, which also starred Barry Ward and was directed by Luke McManus, went on to win awards at both the Galway Film Fleadh and the Cork Film Festival in 2008.

She appeared in the second episode of Single Handed 2, broadcast on 1 January 2008, in which Garda Sergeant Jack Driscoll investigated the case of the missing two-year-old son of her character, Eilish.[3][6] Eilish also had to endure several resentful in-laws.[7] This performance was described as "outstanding".[8]

Whistleblower, a two-part fact-based drama broadcast in August 2008, was based on the late 1970s scandal at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, County Louth, involving gynaecologist Michael Neary.[9] McKenna played Karen, a young mother who has an unnecessary hysterectomy performed on her after giving birth.[9] Emma Stansfield played the nurse who blew the whistle.[9]

In 2009, McKenna played the role of Paula Abbot in the second series of The Fixer.

For her role in Raw, McKenna stripped naked for a full frontal scene in the fourth episode.[4] The actress was pleased with the lack of complaints about the scene, apparently considering it an indication of the growing tolerance of Irish audiences. Scenes involving restaurant staff tampering with their guests' food similarly failed to attract much complaint.[4] McKenna's character in the series is Jojo, a young chef, working under Tanya, a stressed manager, and a head chef. In the second episode, Jojo organises a party but the alcohol runs out and tensions rise.[10][11] Raw, a six-part series set in a fictitious restaurant in Dublin, saw McKenna interact with Bachelors Walk actor Keith McErlean and Mistresses actress Shelley Conn.[12] McKenna departed RAW following the Season 5 finale on 10 February 2013.

McKenna also appeared in the film Dorothy Mills, which was released in 2008, as the role of Mary McMahon.

She narrowly lost out on a role in the film Land of the Lost opposite Will Ferrell.[4] Despite meeting the director, the part was given to Anna Friel instead.[4]

In 2011, McKenna appeared in an episode of Channel 4 comedy-drama Sirens. She played the eponymous antagonist "Lamia" /lɑːmə/ in that episode (the eighth) of the fourth season of the BBC TV series Merlin. She starred as Seth's dead girlfriend Shannon in Misfits.[13] In 2013 she appeared on "Skins Pure" as Maddie.

Between 2012 and 2016 McKenna appeared as Rose Erskine in Ripper Street on BBC One and Amazon Prime Instant Video.



McKenna won the Best Actress (Television) award at the Irish Film and Television Awards in 2009 for her role in Raw.[14][15]

Year Nominee/work Award Result
2009 Raw Best Actress (Television) Won

Monte Carlo[edit]

McKenna won the Outstanding Actress in a Mini-Series award for her role in Whistleblower at the Monte Carlo Television Festival in June 2009.[14] McKenna used to date Adrian Kerley from Scotstown.

Year Nominee/work Award Result
2009 Whistleblower Outstanding Actress in a Mini-Series Won

Personal life[edit]

McKenna is originally from Monaghan but now based in New York.[4] Since 2013 she has been dating actor Adam Rothenberg, whom she met on the set of Ripper Street.[16]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c d "Lonesome West for Charlene". Laois Nationalist. 2005-03-11. Archived from the original on 17 February 2012. Retrieved 2009-06-14. 
  3. ^ a b Dunne, Hannah-Louise (2008-05-08). "Raw talent: New RTÉ drama series ready to cook up a storm". Irish Independent. Retrieved 2009-06-14. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f "It's the Raw truth: Charlene McKenna nabs The Clinic's Aidan Turner". Sunday Tribune. 2008-10-05. Archived from the original on 23 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-14. 
  5. ^ a b "What the Dickens! Stars film classic novel". Irish Independent. 2007-05-30. Retrieved 2009-06-14. 
  6. ^ Whitington, Paul (2009-04-11). "Single-Handed 3: The Drowning ManSunday, RTE1, 9.25pm". Irish Independent. Retrieved 2009-06-14. 
  7. ^ Whitington, Paul (2007-12-29). "Singlehanded 2". Irish Independent. Retrieved 2009-06-14. 
  8. ^ Boland, John (2008-01-05). "Grim tale of abduction a dramatic victory for RTÉ". Irish Independent. Retrieved 2009-06-14. 
  9. ^ a b c Whitington, Paul (2008-08-30). "Syriana". Irish Independent. Retrieved 2009-06-14. 
  10. ^ Whitington, Paul (2008-09-13). "Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit". Irish Independent. Retrieved 2009-06-14. 
  11. ^ Whitington, Paul (2008-09-06). "Schindler's List". Irish Independent. Retrieved 2009-06-14. 
  12. ^ Horan, Niamh (2008-09-14). "Raw's racy sex scenes failing to rattle viewers". Irish Independent. Retrieved 2009-06-14. 
  13. ^ "Charlene McKenna - Raw Talent". RTÉ News. 2011-10-11. Archived from the original on 4 January 2012. 
  14. ^ a b "Irish star a winner in Monte Carlo". RTÉ. 2009-06-12. Archived from the original on 15 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-14. 
  15. ^ Horan, Niamh (2009-05-15). "Fassbender secures top IFTA acting honour for hard-hitting 'Hunger' role". Irish Independent. Retrieved 2009-06-14. 
  16. ^ "Charlene McKenna and Adam Rothenberg enjoy some quality time together in Dublin". The Daily Mail. 10 February 2016. 

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