6 June 1959
Josie Lawrence (born Wendy Lawrence; 6 June 1959) is an English comedian and actress best known for her work with the Comedy Store Players improvisational troupe, the television series Whose Line Is It Anyway? and as Manda Best in EastEnders.
Lawrence was born Wendy Lawrence in Old Hill, Staffordshire. Her parents were Bert Lawrence and Kathleen Lawrence, née Griffin, who were married in 1948. She has older twin siblings, John and Janet, who are ten years her senior. (1949). They were brought up in nearby Cradley Heath, where her father worked for British Leyland and her mother as a dinner lady. She knew she wanted to be an actress at the early age of 5, and by the time she was 16 she joined the Barlow Players in Oldbury.
She studied at Dartington College of Arts from 1978 to 1981, receiving a Bachelor of Arts honours degree.
Her first acting role was as a young boy in a production of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists at the Half Moon Theatre (in 2016 she became a patron of the theatre). During the 1980s, she was also involved in a play called Passionaria at the Newcastle Playhouse, starring Denise Black and Kate McKenzie, and they later formed the jazz group Denise Black and the Kray Sisters.
Her work in comedy began as a result of starring in a Donmar Warehouse play called Songs For Stray Cats and hearing the audience invited to supply lines and ideas for improvisers appearing in after-show cabaret.
"I played a manic depressive Glaswegian in the play and I'd seen Jim [Sweeney] on the circuit when I was a singer with Denise Black and The Kray Sisters. So I stayed behind and watched one night and then, because I knew Jim, I said could I try it because it looked brilliant and it was one of those things I found I could do. You suddenly find your little baby. After that I joined The Comedy Store Players and then this TV show called Whose Line Is It Anyway? came along."
From 1994–96, Lawrence played Katharine in the Royal Shakespeare Company production of The Taming of the Shrew in both Stratford-upon-Avon and London, for which she received a Dame Peggy Ashcroft award for Best Actress. She also appeared in Faust and The Cherry Orchard and starred as Benedick in an all-female production of Much Ado About Nothing at Shakespeare's Globe, having played Beatrice previously at Manchester's Royal Exchange. She made her West End theatre debut in 2001 taking over the lead role of Anna in the stage musical The King and I, replacing Elaine Paige. In 2005, she appeared with Victoria Wood, Julie Walters and Celia Imrie in the cult West End production of Wood's Acorn Antiques: The Musical.
In April and May 2008, Lawrence took the lead role in Tom Stoppard's Hapgood at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre and later at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in which she was a secret spymaster given the task of exposing a traitor who is leaking vital information to the Russians. In the same year, she co-directed The Time Step, a comedy about fantasies and talent contests, with Linda Marlowe at the Edinburgh Festival.
Television and film
Lawrence came to public attention as a regular guest on the Channel 4 improvisational comedy series Whose Line Is It Anyway? at its launch in 1988. Lawrence's speciality on Whose Line was her ability to improvise songs on the spot. She was the first female performer to perform regularly and featured on the show until 1997, which was the final UK series to be made in London. She also performed in two episodes of the American edition of the show in 1999.
In 1991, she had her own short-lived comedy series Josie, also on Channel 4. The next year she starred in Enchanted April a British remake of the 1935 film based on Elizabeth von Arnim's novel. Her other television work includes the comedy series Not with a Bang and Downwardly Mobile, and she is remembered for her performances as Maggie Costello in the cricketing comedy drama Outside Edge alongside Timothy Spall and Brenda Blethyn, for which she was awarded the Spectacle Wearer of the Year award in 1993. She went on to perform in Sealed with a Loving Kiss and Lunch in the Park as part of the Paul Merton in Galton and Simpson's... series on 16 February 1996 and 21 October 1997. She appeared in the 1999 made-for-TV movie The Flint Street Nativity as both Debbie Bennett and Debbie's mother. In 2000 she played Camilla in A Many Splintered Thing. Between 1999 and 2001 she was the voice of "Duck" in the children's TV show Dog and Duck.
In 2006 she starred alongside Peter Davison in The Complete Guide to Parenting as Phoebe Huntley. She has also appeared in the BBC 1 drama series Robin Hood and as Mrs Jiniwin in the 2007 ITV adaptation of The Old Curiosity Shop. She appeared in an episode of the 2007 E4 teen comedy/drama Skins, playing Liz Jenkins, estranged mother of Sid Jenkins, a role which she reprised in the second series.
Lawrence was in EastEnders from March 2009 to February 2010. She played Amanda Best, an old flame of Minty Peterson. She was featured with Meera Syal in a celebrity special of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? that aired on 31 January 2009. She has appeared as a guest on the panel show games QI and Never Mind the Buzzcocks.
In 2010 Lawrence appeared in series 25, episode 3 of Casualty named "The Chaos Theory". Lawrence played Mrs Janet Haines, head teacher of a school where sixteen children were admitted to the emergency department having taken LSD. Also in 2010 she played the part of Sandra, Tony's agent, in the 2010 British feature film version of Tony Hawks' best selling book Round Ireland with a Fridge that was released in September 2010 and was released on DVD in November 2010.
In 2012, she appeared in Doctors alongside Louise Jameson who has also appeared in EastEnders. Lawrence played Cathy Dayman, and Jameson played Shirley Carter. Also in 2012, she appeared on one episode of the US improv series, Trust Us With Your Life, similar to Whose Line is it Anyway?, but never made it to air.
Lawrence provided the voice of "The Brain" in the 2015 BBC Two quiz show Beat The Brain.
In 2020 she appeared in the BBC TV series Shakespeare & Hathaway: Private Investigators episode 3.5 "Thy Fury Spent" as Dr Helen Middleton.
Lawrence starred in three series of the improvised comedy series The Masterson Inheritance from 1993 to 1995 on BBC Radio 4 alongside Paul Merton, Phelim McDermott, Caroline Quentin, Lee Simpson and Jim Sweeney. Each episode comprised a different time period, and the plots were improvised based on suggestions from the studio audience. One unaired episode was produced and narrated by Lawrence, but it was released on the internet by Jim Sweeney on his official site.
The BBC Radio 4 series The Lawrence Sweeney Mix aired from 27 February to 20 March 2007 and was described as "Josie Lawrence and Jim Sweeney create improvised sketches from audience suggestions". Series 2 began airing on 29 January 2008.
She has starred in three other BBC Radio 4 comedy series: the science fiction comedy Married in 1996 and the dark comedy series Vent in 2006 as well as appearing in a Galton and Simpson Radio Playhouse 50th Anniversary recording of Clicquot et Fils alongside Richard Griffiths and Roger Lloyd-Pack that originally aired on 29 December 1998.
She played the role of 'Amanda' in the comedy series Reluctant Persuaders on BBC Radio 4.
Lawrence made her debut appearance in the long-running BBC Radio 4 show Just a Minute on 7 January 2008 and returned again in the following series.
In December 2014, Lawrence played the role of Agnes Nutter in an adaptation of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's book Good Omens for BBC Radio 4. In 2019, she reprised the role for the Amazon/BBC television production of the book.
Lawrence has lent her voice to several audiobooks, the majority of which were books for children. She has recorded several of the books in Roger Hargreaves' Little Miss series, namely, Bossy, Giggles, Trouble, Tiny, Sunshine, Naughty, Somersault and Neat and four of Jacqueline Wilson's books, Secrets, The Illustrated Mum, Bad Girls and The Bed and Breakfast Star. She has also recorded books from Emma Thomson's Felicity Wishes, Eric Hill's Spot the Dog and Tony Bradman's Dilly the Dinosaur, as well as Philip Ridley's Mercedes Ice and Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler's Room on the Broom as well as the 2005 Muffin The Mule story books for a grand CD release. For adults, Lawrence has recorded audiocassettes of Rosie Thomas's Sun at Midnight, Lynne Truss's Going Loco and Daphne du Maurier's Jamaica Inn.
In mid-February 2021, Lawrence will record all the Percy the Park Keeper story books for two grand CD releases, replacing Richard Briers, taking care to create the best possible voices for all the animal characters as well as Percy the Park Keeper himself.
In 2003 Lawrence spent eight months walking across China, Cuba, Peru and Tanzania for Breakthrough Breast Cancer and helped to raise over £550,000. She had to wear a knee brace throughout the trek because of damage to her anterior cruciate ligament.
In 2005 she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro for Sunfield, a school for children with autism and complex learning needs, of which she is a patron. On 21 April 2008, she hosted a VIP-night performance of Hapgood at The Birmingham Rep in aid of Sunfield and raised a further £3,500 for the charity. She is also a supporter of the National Autistic Society's Make School Make Sense campaign. In 2009, Lawrence raised £25,000 for Sunfield by appearing on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? with Meera Syal.
Lawrence and actor Shane Richie participated in the final leg of the celebrity Around the World in 80 Days challenge to raise money for Children in Need 2009. They travelled from Memphis to Wilmington, North Carolina and then to London over 15 days.
Honours and personal life
Lawrence is single. In an interview with good friend Jim Sweeney, she said, "It's always the same: 'You're 41, and not married and no kids', God, I'm so bored with it" [having to explain herself]. She resides in Hackney, London. She has two cats, a long-haired ginger (Aynuk) and a black-and-white (Ayli), named after the Black Country characters Aynuk and Ayli, who feature prominently in jokes about Black Country dialect. As a guest on QI she named David Attenborough "her God".
In 1994, Lawrence was awarded an honorary doctorate by Dartington College of Arts, and she has since been awarded two more, an honorary doctorate of letters from the University of Wolverhampton in 2004 and in 2006 a doctorate by Aston University for "services to the entertainment industry."
|1979||A Christmas Carol at Ford's Theatre||Mrs. Dilber/Fred's Younger Sister/Shopper No. 2||TV movie|
|1985||Summer Season||Rachel||TV series (1 episode: "Rachel and the Roarettes")|
|1986||The American Way||Guerillette|
|1987||Comedy Wavelength||TV series (1 episode: "Episode #1.5")|
|1988||Campaign||Linda Prentice||TV series (4 episodes)|
|Get Fresh||Presenter – Get The Joke||TV series (21 episodes)|
|1989||Agatha Christie's Poirot||Ernestine Grant||TV series (1 episode: "The Third Floor Flat")|
|Norbert Smith, a Life||Ruby Lawrence||TV movie|
|Alas Smith and Jones||TV series (1 episode: "The Untreated Version")|
|1990||Not with a Bang||Janet Wilkins||TV series (7 episodes)|
|The Green Man||Lucy||TV series (3 episodes)|
|Jackson Pace: The Great Years||Ryveeta Tusk||TV series (6 episodes)|
|1991||Enchanted April||Lottie Wilkins|
|1992||A Word in Your Era||Cleopatra||TV series (1 episode: "Episode #1.7")|
|1993||The Comic Strip Presents...||Susie||TV series (1 episode: "Queen of the Wild Frontier")|
|1994||The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends||Pigwig||TV series (1 episode: "The Tale of Pigling Bland")|
|Downwardly Mobile||Sophie||TV series (7 episodes)|
|Outside Edge||Maggie Costello||TV series (22 episodes: 1994–1996) |
Nominated — Best TV Comedy Actress
|1995||Absolutely Fabulous||Cable TV Presenter||TV series (1 episode: "The End")|
|Gogs||TV series (2 episodes: 1995–1996)|
|Spot's Magical Christmas||Sally/Helen||Direct-to-video special|
|1996||Paul Merton in Galton and Simpson's...||Primrose/Sarah Tiptree||TV series (2 episodes: 1996–1997)|
|The Adventures of Dawdle the Donkey||Dawdle||TV series (20 episodes: 1996–1997)|
|1997||The Sin Eater||Kate||TV Short|
|Spot and His Grandparents Go to the Carnival||Sally/Helen||Direct-to-video special|
|1998||Starhill Ponies||Various Characters||TV series|
|Bill's New Frock||Bill's Mum||Short|
|Duck Patrol||Shemerlda||TV series (2 episodes)|
|Oi! Get Off Our Train||Mum/ Crane||Voice|
|1999||Dog and Duck||Duck||Voice|
|The Flint Street Nativity||Debbie Bennett/Mary||TV movie|
|Married 2 Malcolm||Natalie|
|A Many Splintered Thing||Camilla||TV series (6 episodes)|
|Fat Friends||Julia Fleshman||TV series (8 episodes: 2000–2002)|
|2003||Keen Eddie||Liese Kohl||TV series (1 episode: "Achtung, Baby")|
|Where the Heart Is||Rita Shepherd||TV series (1 episode: "A Time to Dance")|
|2004||Holby City||Avril Coulter||TV series (1 episode: "Out of Control")|
|2005||Down to Earth||Shirley Potts||TV series (1 episode: "Trouble 'n' Strife")|
|2006||Agatha Christie's Marple||Hannah Beresford||TV series (1 episode: "By the Pricking of My Thumbs")|
|Acorn Antiques the Musical: Triplet Trauma||Bonnie||Video Short|
|Acorn Antiques the Musical: Mrs Overall's Return||Bonnie||Video Short|
|Acorn Antiques: The Musical||Donna/Bonnie||Video|
|The Complete Guide to Parenting||Phoebe Huntley||TV series (5 episodes)|
|2007||The Last Detective||Gillian Langham||TV series (1 episode: "The Man from Montevideo")|
|Robin Hood||Matilda||TV series (1 episode: "Ducking and Diving")|
|The Old Curiosity Shop||Mrs. Jiniwin||TV movie|
|Skins||Liz Jenkins||TV series (3 episodes: 2007–2008)|
|2009||Minder||Delilah Daley||TV series (1 episode: "Till Debt Do Us Part")|
|Eastenders||Manda Best||TV series (49 episodes: 2009–2010)|
|2010||Round Ireland with a Fridge||Sandra|
|Casualty||Mrs. Janet Haines||TV series (1 episode: "Chaos Theory")|
|Handle with Care||Karen||Short|
|The Fridge Interviews||The Lady Fridge||Short|
|Doctors||Cathy Dayman/Katrina Kidd/Susie Vine||TV series (3 episodes: 2010–2014)|
|2013||Common Ground||Fiona||TV series (1 episode: "Rupert")|
|Wizards vs Aliens||Madeline Raven||TV series (2 episodes: "The Curse of Crowe", parts 1 & 2)|
|Jonathan Creek||Denise||TV Series (1 episode: "The Curse of the Bronze Lamp")|
|Looking for Vi||Evelyn Hawthorne/Vi Cardle||Short|
|2015||The Kennedys||Miss Parsons||TV series (1 episode: "Valentine")|
|2016||Humans||Barbara||TV series (2 episodes)|
|Stella||Val||TV series (1 episode: "Christmas Special")|
|2018||Finding Your Feet||Pamela||post-production|
|2019||Good Omens||Agnes Nutter||TV series|
|2020||Shakespeare & Hathaway: Private Investigators||Dr. Helen Middleton||TV series (1 episode: "The Fury Spent")|
|1988||Friday Night Live||Herself/Various||TV series|
|Whose Line Is It Anyway?||Herself||TV series (37 episodes: 1988–1997)|
|1989||Hysteria 2!||Herself||TV special|
|Agatha Christie's Poirot||Mrs Grant||TV series (1 episode: "The Third Floor Flat")|
|The South Bank Show||Rachel||TV series documentary (1 episode: "Ben Elton")|
|A Night of Comic Relief 2||Herself||TV special|
|1991||Aspel & Company||Herself||TV series (1 episode: "Episode #8.12")|
|Josie||Herself/Various||TV series (6 episodes)|
|Forty Minutes||Narrator||TV series documentary (1 episode: "Boob in Toyland")|
|1993||Gamesmaster||Herself||TV series (1 episode: "Episode #2.22")|
|Arena||T (voice)||TV series (1 episode: "Radio Night")|
|1994||Paul Merton's Palladium Story||Game Show Contestant Mrs. Simpson||TV mini-series documentary (1 episode: "Act Two: The Television Years")|
|An Audience with Ken Dodd||Herself||TV special|
|1996||Happy Birthday Shirley||Herself||TV movie (uncredited)|
|1999||Never Mind the Buzzcocks||Herself||TV series (1 episode: "Episode #5.8")|
|American versions of Whose Line Is It Anyway?||Herself||TV series (2 episodes)|
|2001||The Lesley Garrett Show||Herself||TV series (1 episode: "Notes from the Heart")|
|2002||A Week in the West End||Herself||TV series (1 episode: "Episode #1.5")|
|2003||Kelly||Herself||TV series (1 episode: "21 March 2003")|
|Today with Des and Mel||Herself||TV series (1 episode: "4 December 2003")|
|Loose Women||Herself||TV series (2 episodes: 2003–2004)|
|2004||QI||Herself||TV series (1 episode: "Bats")|
|2005||The Wright Stuff||Guest Panelist/Herself||TV series (2 episodes: 2005–2012|
|2008||The Big Questions||Herself||TV series (1 episode: "Episode #1.16")|
|2009||Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?||Herself||TV series (1 episode: "31 January 2009")|
|The Paul O'Grady Show||Herself||TV series (1 episode: "13 March 2009")|
|Around the World in 80 Days||Herself||TV mini-series (2 episodes)|
|2010||The Sweeney: The Life and Work of Jim Sweeney||Herself||documentary|
|The Story Behind the Fridge||Herself||video documentary short|
|2011||24 Hour Panel People||Herself||TV mini-series (1 episode: "Episode #1.5")|
|2012||Just a Minute||Herself||Radio series (1 episode: "Episode #1.5")|
|Would I Lie to You?||Herself||TV series (1 episode: "Episode #6.7")|
|BBC Proms||Herself||TV series (1 episode: "Prom 48: Weber, Mahler & Tchaikovsky")|
- "Josie Lawrence : Stages of Half Moon". www.stagesofhalfmoon.org.uk. Retrieved 23 April 2018.
- The Northern Echo 16 June 2005
- "Josie Lawrence".
- "Lawrence treads West End boards", BBC News, 11 May, 2001. Retrieved 11 February 2014
- Express & Star 5 January 2008
- The Times Online 23 June 2008.
- "What's on".
- "A Many Splintered Thing (2000)". BFI. Retrieved 25 June 2021.
- Mike Joyce. "Dog and Duck". Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 13 June 2013. (Press Release)
- Josie Lawrence joins EastEnders
- Green, Kris (16 November 2009). "Josie Lawrence to leave EastEnders". Digital Spy. United Kingdom. Retrieved 16 November 2009.
- "WWTBAM Celebrity Special Wk06". ITV Press Centre. 29 January 2009. Archived from the original on 30 September 2012. Retrieved 4 February 2009.
- BBC One – Casualty, Series 25, Chaos Theory, accessed 10 May 2012
- Josie Lawrence at IMDb
- "Doctors: Series 14 – A Suburban Affair" BBC website, accessed 10 May 2012
- Ling, Thomas (31 October 2016). "Viewers fell in love with the wrong character in Humans last night". Radio Times. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
- BBC Lawrence Sweeney Mix Page
- Jim Sweeney's official site
- Hemley, Matthew (5 September 2014). "BBC lines up adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens". The Stage. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
- Sunfield School Patrons Archived 1 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine
- Halesowen News, 28 April 2008 – 'Rep VIP night pulls in £3.5k'
- National Autistic Society
- Stourbridge News article on Josie Lawrence
- "BBC - Press Office - Network TV Programme Information BBC Week 46 Around the World in 80 Days feature".
- "Josie Lawrence and Jim Sweeney - Eve magazine interview - Comedy Store Players web site".
- Murphy, Siobhan (27 October 2009). "Josie Lawrence". United Kingdom: Metro. Retrieved 25 January 2010.
- Wills, Colin (30 July 2000). "I'm convinced dad is watching over me". Sunday Mirror. United Kingdom. Archived from the original on 28 March 2008. Retrieved 25 January 2010.
- BBC – Black Country Jokes
- Josie Lawrence honoured by Uni
- "Aston awards doctorate to award winning actress". Aston University. 13 July 2006. Archived from the original on 23 July 2012. Cite journal requires