British Actresses You Should Know: Suranne Jones

Surranne Jones in "Doctor Foster". Photo: BBC
Surranne Jones in "Doctor Foster".  (Photo: BBC)

We haven’t done one of these for quite a while so I thought it would be appropriate to bring back this series by highlighting one of the newest BAFTA Television award winners. The annual ceremony took place just last weekend and Suranne Jones brought home the Best Leading Actress trophy for her role in the popular BBC drama Doctor Foster.

Jones played Dr. Gemma Foster, a woman who thought her life was pretty great. She had a successful career as a GP and a blissful home life. However when her wifely intuition is shifted into high gear by the discovery of a long blonde hair on her husband’s scarf, she morphs into a suspicious wife determined not to be messed about. Maybe some of you caught this fine example of scheming and revenge when Doctor Foster aired on the Lifetime Channel in April 2016.


Suranne teetered on a fine line between bewildered victim and manic woman scorned. And no doubt her early experience as a soap opera actress served her well in the melodrama department. Ms. Jones’ first steady acting job was on Britain’s longest running soap, the venerable Coronation Street. She played the role of Karen Phillips-McDonald for almost five years from 2000-2004. Her portrayal of a ruthless upwardly mobile villainess earned Suranne two British Soap Awards and a National Television Award for Most Popular Actress.


Another breakout moment for Ms. Jones was her turn in the ITV mini-series Unforgiven. She played Ruth Slater, a woman recently released from prison for the murder of two police officers when she was a teenager. Having been incarcerated for half her life, Ruth’s first task is to learn to cope in the outside world. However her mission is to try to reunite with her younger sister who was taken into care and adopted after Ruth went to jail.


Suranne reached a whole new dimension of audience recognition when she made a guest appearance on Doctor Who. In the 2011 episode The Doctor’s Wife she brilliantly brought the TARDIS to life as Idris, the living consciousness of a very famous blue box locked in a human body. Dan Martin, a reviewer for The Guardian, noted that "Suranne Jones arguably sets the standard by which all guest stars must now be judged here.” And indeed some of the 11th Doctor’s most moving moments involve bonding and bickering with the companion he’d been traveling silently with for centuries.


Shortly after her triumphant performance opposite the Time Lord, Jones took on her well-known persona as DC Rachel Bailey in the ITV female cop series Scott & Bailey. Rachel is a dedicated detective with a complicated personal life and a tendency to let her emotions get in the way. Good thing she has such a good friend and mentor, her more mature, level-headed partner Janet Scott (Lesley Sharp), to keep her on the straight and narrow.


This popular series debuted in 2011 and just aired its finale in the UK at the end of last month with an abbreviated three episode series. By all accounts viewers were devastated to say goodbye to their favorite lady coppers. Hulu is currently streaming the first four series and I would assume the final installment will be added in due course.

Don’t let all these dramatic roles give you the idea Jones can’t be funny. In 2012, she portrayed a very different type of police officer in the Sky1 crime show parody, A Touch of Cloth. DC Anne Oldman (Jones) is assigned to troubled and morose senior officer DI Jack Cloth (John Hannah). What follows is a Naked Gun-esque treatment of British police procedurals full of visual gags and innuendo. And a pretty ridiculous parkour chase scene to boot.


Other places you may have seen this talented actress include PBS’ The Crimson Field as a WWI nurse charged with fraternizing with the enemy and as a mother haunted by her lost son in the ghostly mystery The Secret of Crickley Hall which aired on BBC America in 2012 and is now available on Hulu. With a second series of Doctor Foster currently in the works, you can be sure Suranne has plans to vex, move and entertain us for years to come. Do you have a favorite role or performance of Ms. Jones? Please share your thoughts about this actress you should know in the comments below.