Russell at the WhatsOnStage Awards 2015
|Born||Jenna Johan Russell
(1967-10-05) 5 October 1967
Jenna Johan Russell (born 5 October 1967) is an English actress and singer. She has appeared on the stage in London in both musicals and dramas, as well as appearing with the Royal Shakespeare Company. She performed the role of Dot in Sunday in the Park with George in the West End and on Broadway, receiving the Tony Award nomination and the 2006 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her role. She has also appeared in several television series, including Born and Bred and Eastenders.
Life and career
Russell began her career as an understudy for Eponine and Fantine and later took over Fantine in Les Misérables and performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) for the first portion of her career. Plays there included The Beggar’s Opera as Lucy Lockit in April 1992 and again in April 1993 at the Barbican Centre. She also appeared in the RSC production of Alan Ayckbourn‘s Wildest Dreams at the Barbican in December 1993.
From 1990 to 1992 she played one of the lead characters, Maggie Lomax, in primetime BBC TV comedy On the Up. She also sang the theme song to Red Dwarf, a recording that has been used for all twelve of the show’s seasons produced over the last 29 years.
She performed in three shows at The Bridewell Theatre: On a Clear Day You Can See Forever as Daisy (January 2000), Hello Again (March 2001) and a concert, The Cutting Edge in June 2000. Other stage work includes Samantha Lord in High Society at Sheffield Crucible, Young Sally in Follies at the Shaftesbury Theatre in 1987, Bertrande in Martin Guerre at the West End’s Prince Edward theatre (1998), Felicity in Landslide at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds, and Three Sisters at the Royal Court.
In 2005 she appeared as the Floor Manager in the Doctor Who episodes “Bad Wolf” and “The Parting of the Ways“. Also in 2005, she played the lead role of Sarah Brown in the West End production of Guys and Dolls opposite (at various times) Ewan McGregor, Nigel Harman, Sarah Lancashire, Jane Krakowski and Nigel Lindsay. She received a nomination for the 2006 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical for this role. In 2006, she took over from Anna-Jane Casey as Dot/Marie in the London revival of Sunday in the Park with George, by Stephen Sondheim for which she won the 2007 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical.
She subsequently played Amy alongside Felicity Kendal in the West End revival of the play Amy’s View in 2006. In 2008, Russell reprised her role as Dot in the Broadway transfer of Sunday in the Park with George. The production opened on 21 February 2008 and ran until 29 June 2008 at Studio 54. Russell won the Theatre World Award and received Drama Desk Award and Tony Award nominations for Best Actress in a Musical, losing to Patti LuPone.
Russell has appeared in Into the Woods twice. For the Donmar Warehouse production in 1998, she played Cinderella. For the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre in 2010, she played the role of the Baker’s Wife.
In August 2012, Russell took to the London stage again at the Soho Theatre in Soho Cinders. She then played the role of Mary in Stephen Sondheim‘s Merrily We Roll Along at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London’s West End, following a run at the Menier Chocolate Factory.
From February 2014 she appeared as Penelope Pennywise in the London production of Urinetown: The Musical at the St. James Theatre. She reprises the role for the West End production at the Apollo Theatre from September 2014.
In December 2016 she took over from previous actress Susan Tully in the role of Michelle Fowler in BBC One soap-opera EastEnders. In 2018 Russell decided to leave EastEnders to pursue other work. Her last appearance aired on Tuesday 17th April 2018.
Russell is the partner of actor Raymond Coulthard, and they are the parents of a girl. Russell relates that she was in the early stages of her pregnancy when she appeared in Sunday on Broadway.