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Cheryl Campbell is the daughter of an airline pilot. She was educated at Francis Bacon Grammar School, St Albans and at London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA). Her repertory theatre experience includes the Palace Theatre, Watford, Birmingham Rep and the Citizens' Theatre, Glasgow.
Campbell is known for her starring role as Vera Brittain in the BBC's television dramatisation of Testament of Youth (1979), for which she received Best Actress awards from the British Academy Television Award (BAFTA) and the Broadcasting Press Guild Award.
Her first BAFTA nomination, Campbell earned the previous year for Eileen Everson, a very different character, opposite Bob Hoskins in Dennis Potter's television serial Pennies from Heaven (1978). Campbell's one other role in a work by Potter is as Janet in Rain on the Roof (1980).
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Campbell is stage performer of considerable note and great range. She has been twice a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. At the RSC in 1982, she played Nora Helmer in Adrian Noble's memorable production of Ibsen's A Doll's House (for which she was awarded the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Revival). In that same season, she also appeared as Diana in All's Well That Ends Well.
She returned to the RSC in the 1992-94 season, playing Lady Macbeth to Sir Derek Jacobi's lead in Noble's controversial production of Macbeth; Beatrice-Joanna in The Changeling; Mistress Ford in The Merry Wives of Windsor  and Natasha in Misha's Party. She worked at the Royal National Theatre: playing as a junior member of the company in 1975, as Freda in Sir Peter Hall's Old Vic production of John Gabriel Borkman (starring Sir Ralph Richardson, Dame Peggy Ashcroft and Dame Wendy Hiller) and as Maggie in W. S. Gilbert's Engaged; in 1995, as Lady Politic Would-Be in Matthew Warchus's Volpone; and in 2003 as Dotty Otley in the NT's touring (and London) revival of Noises Off.
Campbell's other stage performances in London have encompassed the classics as well as new plays; they include You Never Can Tell (Lyric, 1979); Miss Julie (1983) in the title role; Little Eyolf (1985) as Asta; The Daughter-in-Law (1985) as Minnie; The Sneeze (a Chekhov selection) (1988) in various roles; Betrayal (1991) as Emma; The Strip (1995) as Loretta; Some Sunny Day (1996) as Emily; The Seagull (1997) as Arkadina; Passion (2000) as Nell; and Life After George (2002) as Beatrix.
In provincial theatre, she has appeared in: The Country Wife (Manchester Royal Exchange) as Margery Pinchwife; The Constant Wife (Theatr Clwyd) as Constance; A Streetcar Named Desire (Leicester Haymarket) as Blanche (for which she received a Regional Theatre Best Actress award); and So Long Life (touring production) as Wendy.
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She has appeared regularly on British television:
- In period pieces: Sarah Bernhardt in Lillie, Winnie Verloc in The Secret Agent, Bessy Tulliver in The Mill on the Floss, Lady Carbury in The Way We Live Now, Lady Somerset in To the Ends of the Earth.
- In dramas: Madeleine Cranmere in Malice Aforethought, Lady Eileen 'Bundle' Brent in The Seven Dials Mystery, Eva Jackson in Absurd Person Singular, Caroline Ashurst in A Winter Harvest, Elizabeth Fellowes in A Sort of Innocence, Maria Wearing in Centrepoint, Louie Williams in Fantabulosa.
- In episodic TV: Erica Taylor in The Sweeney, Griselda Clement in Miss Marple: The Murder at the Vicarage, Pamela Drake in Boon, Sylvie Maxton in Inspector Morse, Lady Frances Carfax in the The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes: The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax, Aline Bauche in Maigret, Emily Coxon in Bramwell, Louise McAllister in Wing and a Prayer, Diana Grey in A Touch of Frost, Sandra MacKillop in Midsomer Murders "Beyond The Grave" and Vivian Stannington in Midsomer Murders "The Sicilian Defence", Emily Gascoigne in Foyle's War (in the episode entitled "A Lesson in Murder"), Maureen Hunt in Waking the Dead, Deputy PM in Spooks, Jean Swainbank in Dalziel and Pascoe, Valli Helm in Lewis, Ocean Waters in The Sarah Jane Adventures story The Vault of Secrets.
- In regular series: Madeleine Claveau in Monsignor Renard, Molly Gilcrest in William and Mary, Lola's mum in Funland, Sophie's mum in Peep Show. In 2011 she joined the cast of Casualty as the ED's new joint Clinical Lead Miriam Turner. In 2012, she played Lady Browne (Chummy's mother) in Call the Midwife.
On film, her roles have included: Sheila McVicar in McVicar (1980); Jennie Liddell in Chariots of Fire (1981); Lady Aline Hartlip The Shooting Party (1984; with Dorothy Tutin, James Mason and John Gielgud); and Lady Alice Clayton in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984).
- McVicar (1980)
- Hawk the Slayer (1980)
- Chariots of Fire (1981)
- Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984)
- The Shooting Party (1985)
- Tamara Drewe (2010)