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‘When you look into Judy’s eyes, you feel everything you’re meant to – scenes like that are why I became an actress.
I love how Valerie is a real East Ender coming full circle: she brings a lot of community into the show.’It’s almost a case of life parallelling art: Valerie has grown up adoring the midwives who brought her into the world (‘for a long time, she believed babies came out of their medical bags’), while Jennifer watched the show ‘from the very first episode’, loved it and dreamed of one day being a part of it.
I was frantically sending in audition tapes in the hope of landing the role. ” I was trying to ring everyone.’The daughter of a teacher mother and a businessman father, Jennifer had a happy upbringing (with her younger sister Eleanor) in the countryside near Great Malvern in Worcestershire.
I was in New York touring with the RSC when I heard they were casting a new recruit.It was only when studying for her music GCSE – ‘realising I was rubbish at it’ – that the thought of switching to drama occurred to her.‘From that first [acting] lesson, I felt a rush; my shyness vanished.It was when I was standing next to Joanna Lumley at the awards ceremony that it occurred to me that this acting thing might really happen for me.’Since then, she has barely stopped; but until ‘At first it was a big transition to television,’ she recalls.‘Most people would say stage is scarier, but for me screen was, until I got used to it – it requires such different skills; there are so many people on set and behind the camera, and you have to draw viewers in.