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Josie Lawrence

Comedian and Actress

Josie was born Wendy Lawrence on 6 June 1959 at Old Hill, and knew she wanted to be an actress when she was just

5 years old. By the age of 16 she had joined the Barlow Players in Oldbury.

She is 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.

Josie studied at Dartington College of Arts from 1978 to 1981, receiving a Bachelor of Arts honours degree.

Her first professional acting role was as a young boy in a production of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists at the 

Half Moon Theatre. During the 1980s, she was also involved in a play called Passionaria at the Newcastle Playhouse,

starring alongside Denise Black and Kate McKenzie. 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.

She said, “I stayed behind and watched one night and then asked if I could I try it because it looked brilliant and it was

one of those things I found I could do.”

Between 1994 and 1996 she 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 WoodJulie Walters and Celia Imrie in the cult West End production of Wood's Acorn Antiques: The Musical.

In 2008, Josie 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.

In 2010 she appeared as Madame Ranevskaya in a new version of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre.

TELEVISION & FILM

Josie came to public attention in 1988 as a regular guest on the Channel 4 improvisational comedy series Whose Line Is It Anyway?  Her 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 2001 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.

Josie appeared 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 Josie appeared in series 25, episode 3 of Casualty named "The Chaos Theory". In 2010 she also 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 playing Cathy Dayman. In 2012, she appeared on one episode of the US improvisational series, Trust Us With Your Life, similar to Whose Line is it Anyway?,

In 2015 Josie provided the voice of "The Brain" in the BBC Two quiz show Beat The Brain and also was a marriage councillor in series 2 of the Channel 4 TV series Humans.

In 2018, she played the lover of a married man portrayed by former "Whose Line" castmate John Sessions in the feature film Finding Your Feet.

In 2020 she appeared in the BBC TV series Shakespeare & Hathaway: Private Investigators episode 3.5 "Thy Fury Spent" as Dr Helen Middleton.

RADIO

Lawrence starred in three series of the improvised comedy series The Masterson Inheritance from 1993 to 1995 on BBC Radio 4 alongside Paul MertonPhelim McDermottCaroline QuentinLee 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".

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.

She played the role of 'Amanda' in the comedy series Reluctant Persuaders on BBC Radio 4.

Josie 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.

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