Josie Lawrence (born Wendy Lawrence; 6 June 1959) is an English actress and comedian. 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 Lawrence
Wendy Lawrence

(1959-06-06) 6 June 1959 (age 65)
  • Actress
  • comedian
  • screenwriter
  • activist
Years active1979–present

Early life


Lawrence was born Wendy Lawrence on 6 June 1959 in Old Hill, Staffordshire. Her parents were Bert Lawrence and Kathleen Lawrence, née Griffin, who were married in 1948. She has twin siblings, John and Janet, who are ten years her senior (1949). They were brought up in nearby Cradley Heath, where their father worked for British Leyland and their mother as a dinner lady. Lawrence wanted to be an actress at the early age of 5 and at 16 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).[1] 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.[2]

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.[2]

She starred as the title character in the 1993 Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith production of the musical Moll Flanders.[3][4]

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.[5] 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.[6] 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 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.[7] In the same year, she co-directed The Time Step, a comedy about fantasies and talent contests, with Linda Marlowe at the Edinburgh Festival.[8]

Lawrence appeared as Madame Ranevskaya in a new version of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, translated by Tom Stoppard, at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in autumn 2010.[9]

Film and television


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 the show was her ability to improvise songs on the spot. She was the first female performer to appear on the show, featuring in both the original pilot episode and the first broadcast episode. Lawrence was featured on Whose Line until its 9th series in 1997-1998, which was the last of the UK series to actually be filmed in the UK. 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-television film The Flint Street Nativity as both Debbie Bennett and Debbie's mother.[10] In 2000, she played Camilla in A Many Splintered Thing.[11] Between 1999 and 2001, she was the voice of "Duck" in the children's television show Dog and Duck.[12]

In 2006, she starred alongside Peter Davison in The Complete Guide to Parenting as Phoebe Huntley. She has also appeared in the BBC One 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 Manda Best, an old flame of Minty Peterson.[13][14] She was featured with Meera Syal in a celebrity special of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? that aired on 31 January 2009.[15] 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,[16] 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.[17]

In 2012, she appeared in Doctors alongside Louise Jameson who has also appeared in EastEnders. Lawrence played Cathy Dayman, and Jameson played Shirley Carter.[18] 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.[citation needed]

In 2016, she played Barbara, a synthetic marriage counsellor in series 2 of the Channel 4 television series Humans.[19]

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 2019, she played Agnes Nutter in the Amazon Prime series Good Omens.

In 2020, she appeared in the BBC television 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".[20] Series 2 began airing on 29 January 2008.[21]

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.[22] In 2019, she reprised the role for the Amazon/BBC television production of the book.

Audio books


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.

Video games


She appeared on the 1992-1993 series of GamesMaster, playing Mad Dog McCree winning her challenge.



In 2003, Lawrence spent eight months walking across China, Cuba, Peru and Tanzania for Breakthrough Breast Cancer and helped to raise over £550,000.[5] She had to wear a knee brace throughout the trek because of damage to her anterior cruciate ligament.[23]

In 2005, she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro for Sunfield, a school for children with autism and complex learning needs, of which she is a patron.[24] 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.[25] In 2009, Lawrence raised £25,000 for Sunfield by appearing on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? with Meera Syal.[26]

Lawrence and 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.[27]

Honours and personal life


Lawrence is single. In an interview with Jim Sweeney, she said of being asked why she is unmarried, "It's always the same: 'You're 41 and not married and no kids.' God, I'm so bored with it."[28] She resides in Hackney, London.[29][30] 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.[31] As a guest on QI she named David Attenborough her “God".

In 1994, Lawrence was awarded an honorary doctorate by Dartington College of Arts,[5] and she has since been awarded two more, an honorary doctorate of letters from the University of Wolverhampton in 2004[32] and in 2006 a doctorate by Aston University for "services to the entertainment industry."[33]

Sandwell Council named one of their road gritting trucks "Frozie Lawrence" in her honour.[34]


Year Film Role Notes
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 Star Hill 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
2000 Gogwana Voice TV Short
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 Janet Haines TV series (1 episode: "Chaos Theory")
Handle with Care Karen Short
The Fridge Interviews The Lady Fridge Short
Mam Reenie Short
Doctors Cathy Dayman/Katrina Kidd/Susie Vine TV series (3 episodes: 2010–2014)
2013 Common Ground Fiona TV series (1 episode: "Rupert")
No Prisoners Louise Short
Wizards vs Aliens Madeline Raven TV series (2 episodes: "The Curse of Crowe", parts 1 & 2)
2014 Bonobo Anita
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: "Thy Fury Spent")
2023 Midsomer Murders Prof. Lorna McIntosh TV series (1 episode: "Claws Out")
2024 Father Brown Christine Kipley TV series (1 episode: "The Dead of Night")


Year Film Role Notes
1988 Friday Night Live Herself/Various TV series
Whose Line Is It Anyway? Herself TV series (53 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")


  1. ^ "Josie Lawrence : Stages of Half Moon". Retrieved 23 April 2018.
  2. ^ a b The Northern Echo 16 June 2005
  3. ^ "Moll Flanders – Musical by Styles and Leigh". The Guide to Musical Theatre. Retrieved 15 March 2022.
  4. ^ Taylor, Paul (30 April 1993). "Josie Lawrence at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith". The Independent. "It's possible, too, that the excellent Josie Lawrence, who has no problem convincing you of Moll's allure when young, should be helped to show more signs of age when our heroine has supposedly lost her beauty and turned to thieving. In these episodes, the social comment would stick harder coming from someone who looked superannuated rather than like an anachronistic advertisement for HRT."
  5. ^ a b c "Josie Lawrence".
  6. ^ "Lawrence treads West End boards", BBC News, 11 May, 2001. Retrieved 11 February 2014
  7. ^ Express & Star 5 January 2008
  8. ^ The Times Online 23 June 2008.
  9. ^ "What's on".
  10. ^ "Who wants to be the angel?". Crewe Chronicle. 15 December 1999. p. 39. Retrieved 13 June 2024 – via
  11. ^ "A Many Splintered Thing (2000)". BFI. Archived from the original on 25 June 2021. Retrieved 25 June 2021.
  12. ^ Mike Joyce. "Dog and Duck". Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 13 June 2013. (Press Release)
  13. ^ Josie Lawrence joins EastEnders
  14. ^ Green, Kris (16 November 2009). "Josie Lawrence to leave EastEnders". Digital Spy. United Kingdom. Retrieved 16 November 2009.
  15. ^ "WWTBAM Celebrity Special Wk06". ITV Press Centre. 29 January 2009. Archived from the original on 30 September 2012. Retrieved 4 February 2009.
  16. ^ BBC One – Casualty, Series 25, Chaos Theory, accessed 10 May 2012
  17. ^ Josie Lawrence at IMDb  
  18. ^ "Doctors: Series 14 – A Suburban Affair" BBC website, accessed 10 May 2012
  19. ^ Ling, Thomas (31 October 2016). "Viewers fell in love with the wrong character in Humans last night". Radio Times. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  20. ^ BBC Lawrence Sweeney Mix Page
  21. ^ Jim Sweeney's official site
  22. ^ Hemley, Matthew (5 September 2014). "BBC lines up adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens". The Stage. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  23. ^
  24. ^ Sunfield School Patrons Archived 1 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ Halesowen News, 28 April 2008 – 'Rep VIP night pulls in £3.5k'
  26. ^ Stourbridge News article on Josie Lawrence
  27. ^ "BBC - Press Office - Network TV Programme Information BBC Week 46 Around the World in 80 Days feature".
  28. ^ "Josie Lawrence and Jim Sweeney - Eve magazine interview - Comedy Store Players web site".
  29. ^ Murphy, Siobhan (27 October 2009). "Josie Lawrence". United Kingdom: Metro. Retrieved 25 January 2010.
  30. ^ 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.
  31. ^ BBC – Black Country Jokes
  32. ^ Josie Lawrence honoured by Uni
  33. ^ "Aston awards doctorate to award winning actress". Aston University. 13 July 2006. Archived from the original on 23 July 2012. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  34. ^ We named a gritting truck after local actress Josie Lawrence