Sarah Anne Akers (née Jones; born 27 August 1978), known professionally as Suranne Jones, is an English actress. She rose to prominence as Karen McDonald in Coronation Street between 2000 to 2004. Upon leaving, she furthered her television career in drama series including Vincent (2005–2006), Strictly Confidential (2006), and Harley Street (2008). Her portrayal of convicted murderer Ruth Slater in the mini-series Unforgiven (2009) received acclaim.
Sarah Anne Jones
27 August 1978
Middleton, Greater Manchester, England
Between 2011 and 2016, Jones starred as Detective Rachel Bailey in the police procedural Scott & Bailey, her second collaboration with screenwriter Sally Wainwright after Unforgiven. She garnered further attention for her roles in Single Father, Five Days (both 2010) and The Crimson Field (2014), as well as stage work including productions of A Few Good Men (2005), Blithe Spirit (2009), Top Girls (2011), Beautiful Thing (2013), and Orlando (2014).
For her portrayal of Gemma Foster, a successful GP who suffers personal betrayal, in Doctor Foster (2015–2017), Jones won several awards including a Broadcasting Press Guild award and the BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress in 2016. Following the conclusion of Doctor Foster, Jones returned to theatre, starring in a production of Frozen for which she received favourable notices. On television, Jones has starred in Save Me (2018) and Gentleman Jack (2019–present), the latter her third collaboration with Wainwright.
Jones was born Sarah Anne Jones in Middleton, Greater Manchester, on 27 August 1978. She has an older brother named Gary. Jones was brought up as a Catholic; her priest suggested to her father she be christened Sarah Anne, instead of Suranne, her great-grandmother's name, as Suranne was not "a proper name". She grew up in a house on Foxdenton Lane, surrounded by two farms and their fields and commented that one of her earliest memories is of "cows looking in the window as we ate our tea". As a child she was talkative, and later recounted that her priest would tell her, "I'm praying you can concentrate just a bit more". Jones suffers from carpophobia, a fear of wrists, which she believes possibly developed from viewing imagery of Christ's crucifixion and stigmata as a child.
Jones was educated at Cardinal Langley Roman Catholic High School in Middleton. Talking of her childhood, she commented, "I think I always wanted to be different and felt very stifled at school". She also said, "I was bullied at school and I let that get hold of me and withdrew into myself — I regret letting that happen." She became a member of the Oldham Theatre Workshop and completed a BTEC National Diploma in Performing Arts at the Manchester School of Acting, which she felt "[wasn't] quite the same as drama school".
Jones began acting professionally aged 16. Andrew Billen of The Times, acknowledging her professional career beginnings at 16, wrote that "she took to the stage at 8". Jones later said that her first role was at the age of 8, in Wait Until Dark as Gloria. Upon joining the trade union Equity, Jones took on the stage name 'Suranne', as her birth name was already taken, and union rules dictate that each union member must have a different name. Having obtained an agent at 15, she began to act in the theatre. Jones's television career began in 1997, with a small role in Coronation Street in April 1997 as Mandy Phillips, a girlfriend of Chris Collins (Matthew Marsden). She was then cast in a television advert for Maltesers, guest starred in episodes of series such as City Central and had a small role in My Wonderful Life. She auditioned for the role of Charity Dingle on the soap opera Emmerdale, becoming one of the final four actresses considered for the part, though the role was eventually given to Emma Atkins. She also auditioned for the part of Geena Gregory on Coronation Street, though she felt she knew Jennifer James would win the role—which she did—upon seeing her at the auditions.
In 2000, some weeks after her unsuccessful audition for Geena Gregory, Jones was contacted by Coronation Street bosses, who offered her a part of a new character. Jones took on the role of Karen Phillips (no relation to Mandy), making her first appearance on 21 June. The character, after marrying Steve McDonald (Simon Gregson), took on his surname, and became Karen McDonald. Described as "a bulldog in hoop earrings" and a "Victoria Beckham wannabe", the role garnered Jones public attention, with episodes involving feuds between her and rival Tracy Barlow (Kate Ford) receiving high viewing ratings. Jones also began modelling for men's magazines such as FHM and Loaded, saying: "I was 21, and within three weeks of me joining Corrie I was in Barbados doing a bikini shoot [...] I was quite impressionable and I'd just say yes to everything because I wanted to keep my job. The press officer is saying: 'Do this and you'll be the new young funky sexy girl.' We were all doing it at that time, but I realised quite quickly that I needed to concentrate on what I was doing".
In May 2004, it was announced that Jones was to leave Coronation Street after four years of playing Karen. She described working on a soap opera as "exhausting", remarking, "I was living and breathing Karen McDonald". She made her last appearance as Karen on Boxing Day 2004. Of her tenure as Karen McDonald on Coronation Street, Jones later remarked: "I just thought, while she's brilliant and I'm enjoying her, I've got to get out".
Jones stated that upon her departure from Coronation Street, that she received numerous offers to appear in reality TV programmes, which she declined, quipping: "lots of money to go off and eat a crocodile's knob, or whatever". Ignoring reality TV offers, in autumn 2005, Jones starred in an ITV's detective drama series Vincent, with Ray Winstone in the title role; this was Jones's first television role since leaving Coronation Street the previous year. In the same year, she starred on the West End stage in A Few Good Men opposite Rob Lowe and John Barrowman, which earned her the Theatregoers' Choice Award for Best Supporting Actress. She also appeared in the musical special Celebrate Oliver! which was screened on BBC1. In 2006, she starred as Snow White in the pantomime Snow White and the Seven Dwarves at the Manchester Opera House alongside Justin Moorhouse and fellow Coronation Street actor John Savident. She also appeared in Kay Mellor's Strictly Confidential in which she played a bisexual sex therapist.
On New Year's Day 2007, Jones starred in a Yorkshire and London based black comedy, Dead Clever with Helen Baxendale and Dean Lennox Kelly on ITV1. In autumn 2007, Jones undertook a national tour in the stage run of the film Terms of Endearment, where she played Emma, opposite Linda Gray and John Bowe. In 2008 she played Martha, one of the female leads, in the ITV medical series Harley Street. Her performance drew mixed reviews, with one critic commenting on her character's "ludicrous" received pronunciation accent; the programme's tepid critical reception, combined with poor viewer ratings, signalled its end after just one series.
In January 2009, Jones appeared in Unforgiven, a three-part drama on ITV1, where she plays Ruth Slater, a woman released from prison after serving a 15-year prison sentence for the murder of two policemen. Naturally brown-haired, Jones dyed her hair "tobacco yellow" with "big roots"; Jones joked that whilst not filming she "really should have worn a wig". Additionally, the character of Ruth wore no make-up throughout, with Jones stating she was left feeling "quite exposed", but nonetheless saying "Ruth wouldn't have worn any make-up, I don't think". Jones received favourable reviews for her portrayal, with Brian Viner of The Independent writing: "a stunning performance, the stuff of Bafta nominations if ever I saw it. Heck, on the back of it she might even get propelled into the movies, and bring a bit of North Country sense to the Golden Globes". Viner summarised his review of Unforgiven by stating, "Five stars all round, and six for Jones". Jones later stated, "I loved that role. They don't come along that often. It was seen by the broadsheets as well as the tabloids. It gave me a little bit of credibility, I suppose".
Later in the year, in November, she played the role of the Mona Lisa in the two-part episode "Mona Lisa's Revenge" in The Sarah Jane Adventures. In December, Jones starred in the Manchester Royal Exchange's production of Blithe Spirit, by Noël Coward, which ran until late January 2010. Jones was nominated for the Times Breakthrough Award at the 2010 South Bank Show Awards, the last ever ceremony, but lost to David Blandy. When discussing her nomination she said, "You do question 'What am I breaking through?' Am I breaking through the perception of people who just thought I was a screaming banshee in Coronation Street? Is it that I've worked hard and I've got better? Is it that now it's alright to say that I'm alright? I don't know what I was breaking through, but I knew that it was nice to feel included and patted on the back for a lot of hard work". Jones was described by Andrew Billen of The Times as being in a category of "those brave, talented few who earn their wings on a soap and then fly gloriously beyond it". In March 2010 Jones starred in Five Days, a non-connected sequel to the 2007 series of the same name, as the female lead DC Laurie Franklin. Later in the year, she starred as Sarah in Single Father on BBC1, a character who falls in love with a widower, Dave (David Tennant), who was married to her best friend before her death.
In May 2011, Jones played the central character of Idris in the Doctor Who episode "The Doctor's Wife". Jones was cast due to writer Neil Gaiman wanting an actress, in the words of Jones, who is "odd; beautiful but strange-looking, and quite funny" to play the role of Idris. Dan Martin, reviewer for The Guardian, noted that "Suranne Jones arguably sets the standard by which all guest stars must now be judged here [...] Jones was electrifying throughout". Also in May, Jones played DC Rachel Bailey in ITV's detective series, Scott & Bailey, opposite Lesley Sharp, who plays DC Janet Scott. The series is based upon an original idea by Jones and Sally Lindsay, her former Coronation Street co-star. After strong viewing figures and moderate critical success Scott & Bailey returned for a further four series between 2012 and 2016, with Jones serving as an executive producer on series five.
In July 2011, Jones starred as Marlene, a career-woman living in Thatcher's Britain, in the Minerva Theatre's production of Top Girls by Caryl Churchill in Chichester. Michael Billington, reviewer for The Guardian, remarked that "Suranne Jones captures excellently the hidden regrets of the go-getting Marlene". The production was later transferred to the West End's Trafalgar Studios. In August 2011, it was announced that Jones would star alongside John Hannah in a spoof detective drama written by Charlie Brooker and Daniel Maier called A Touch of Cloth. The programme aired in August 2012 on Sky1. Jones plays DC Anne Oldman, the "plucky, no-nonsense sidekick" of DCI Jack Cloth (Hannah). In March 2012, Jones began filming The Secret of Crickley Hall, a BBC1 dramatisation of the 2006 best selling novel by James Herbert. She plays the lead role of Eve Caleigh, a woman who moves to Crickley Hall in an attempt to move on from the loss of her son, only to be haunted by supernatural occurrences. Jones described the series as a "classic haunted house spine-chiller with an emotional family story at its heart."Jones returned to the London stage in 2013 in a 20th anniversary revival of Jonathan Harvey's play, Beautiful Thing. The play ran between 13 April and 25 May at the Arts Theatre, London, before a short national tour. In 2013 Jones starred as herself in Playhouse Presents: "Stage Door Johnnies", a comedy mockumentary about obsessive theatre fans airing on Sky Arts. Later that year, Jones played a young judge "battling to keep her head above water in the murky depths of the justice system" in Lawless, a television pilot, broadcast on Sky1 as part of its Drama Matters strand.
In August 2013, it was announced that Jones was cast opposite Hermione Norris and Oona Chaplin in The Crimson Field, a BBC drama set in a field hospital in France during the First World War. The drama, which was broadcast in April 2014, marked Jones's first acting appearance in a period drama. In February 2014, Jones starred in Sarah Ruhl's stage adaptation of Virginia Woolf's Orlando at the Royal Exchange in Manchester. The play received generally positive reviews from critics, with Jones's performance being described as "superb" by Matt Trueman in The Guardian.
In September 2015, Jones starred as the title character in the BBC One thriller Doctor Foster, as a GP whose life begins to unravel when she suspects her husband of infidelity. The programme earned widespread critical acclaim, with Radio Times noting that "a career-best Suranne Jones was unstoppably brilliant"; the magazine placed Doctor Foster second in a roundup of the Top 40 best television shows of 2015. For her performance, Jones received the National Television Award for Best Drama Performance, the Broadcasting Press Guild Award for Best Actress, the Royal Television Society Award for Best Actor (female) and the British Academy Television Award for Best Actress at the respective 2016 ceremonies.
In September 2017, the second series of Doctor Foster premiered, garnering positive critical reception. Jones, originally hesitant to film another series, was persuaded after hearing writer Mike Bartlett's plans for the script. She also served as associate producer for the programme's second series, which was filmed in autumn 2016.
From February to May 2018, Jones returned to the West End in a revival of Bryony Lavery's stage play Frozen at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. Jones portrayed Nancy, the grieving mother of an abducted child opposite Jason Watkins. While the production received mixed reviews, Jones's performance was well received, described as "unflinchingly truthful and spontaneous" by The Independent. Jones missed the last four performances of the show's three month run due to illness, citing the play's "deeply affecting" subject matter as a contributing factor.
In February, Jones appeared in the Sky Atlantic drama Save Me, playing the mother of a missing teen. Jones's performance received positive reviews, with Rebecca Nicholson of The Guardian writing: "you get the impression that Jones could act grief in her sleep, but she is impressively subtle here". In September, Jones appeared as Miss Pinkerton in an ensemble cast production of Vanity Fair, based on the 1848 novel of the same name.
Later in May, Jones began filming BBC and HBO co-production Gentleman Jack, written, produced and directed by Sally Wainwright. Jones had signed on in July 2017 to play the lead role of Anne Lister, a lesbian Yorkshire industrialist in the 1830s. Described by The Independent as "a core member of Wainwright’s unofficial repertory company", the series marks Jones's fourth collaboration with Wainwright. Premiering in April 2019 in the US, and a month later in the UK, James Poniewozik of The New York Times wrote: "Jones's performance is a marvel, exuding vitality, charisma and sexual confidence. But she also brings Anne an empathy, humanity and glimpses of vulnerability that make her more than simply a flawless Regency-era Mary Sue." Jones's performance was also praised by Matthew Gilbert of The Boston Globe, writing: "Jones is a gale force wind on the show, driving it forward with her confidence and cool. She gives us a dynamic woman living out gender fluidity and attractions to women at a time of ignorance and intolerance. Her Anne rejects social convention — and has the money to do it — as she fervently and undauntedly pursues her desires. But then Jones adds in a hidden vulnerability that can be heartbreaking. It's the best, most faceted performance of the year, though few seem to know that." On 31 July 2019 Jones received the script for the second series of Save Me, entitled Save Me Too.
On 1 November 2019, a collaborative cover of "Symphony" by Jones and the Half Moon Theatre was released as a part of the BBC Children In Need album Got It Covered. Jones also provided uncredited vocals on the album's cover track "It Must Be Love".
Jones lives in the London district of Muswell Hill, with her husband, freelance scriptwriter and former magazine editor Laurence Akers. They met in 2013 at the wedding of Jones' long-term friend, actress Sally Lindsay, to musician Steve White. They were married in 2014. In an interview with Vogue, Jones stated that her legal name had become Sarah Anne Akers. She gave birth to a son in March 2016.
Jones has been involved with various charitable organisations. When she was a teenager, her mother Jenny was diagnosed with breast cancer, with Jones saying, "At the time we did a breast cancer campaign together. I still do a lot of charity runs." Jones also has worked with Christian Aid, travelling to Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo to help with projects concerning HIV, women's rights, and child soldiers.
Film and televisionEdit
|1997||Coronation Street||Mandy Phillips||1 episode|
|1998||City Central||Emma||Episode: "A Quiet Evening In"|
|The Grand||Liz||1 episode|
|1999||My Wonderful Life||Linda||5 episodes|
|2000–2004||Coronation Street||Karen McDonald||Series regular, 494 episodes|
|2005||Celebrate "Oliver!"||Nancy||TV film|
|2005–2006||Vincent||Beth Goddard||8 episodes|
|2006||Strictly Confidential||Linda Nelson||6 episodes|
|2007||Dead Clever: The Life and Crimes of Julie Bottomley||Julie Bottomley||TV film|
|2008||Harley Street||Dr Martha Elliot||6 episodes|
|2009||Unforgiven||Ruth Slater||3 episodes|
|The Sarah Jane Adventures||Mona Lisa||2 episodes|
|2010||Five Days||DC Laurie Franklin||5 episodes|
|Single Father||Sarah||4 episodes|
|2011||Doctor Who||Idris||Episode: "The Doctor's Wife"|
|2011–2016||Scott & Bailey||Sergeant Rachel Bailey||Series 1-5|
(executive producer: 3 episodes)
|2012–2014||A Touch of Cloth||DC Anne Oldman||6 episodes|
|2012||The Secret of Crickley Hall||Eve Caleigh||3 episodes|
|2013||Playhouse Presents||Herself||Episode: "Stage Door Johnnies"|
|2014||The Crimson Field||Sister Joan Livesey||6 episodes|
|2015–2017||Doctor Foster||Dr Gemma Foster||10 episodes |
(associate producer: series 2)
|2015||A Christmas Star||Miss Darcy||Feature film|
|2016||Brian Pern: 45 Years of Prog and Roll||Astrid Maddox Pern||1 episode|
|2018–present||Save Me||Claire McGory||2 series|
|2018||Vanity Fair||Miss Pinkerton||2 episodes|
|2019–present||Gentleman Jack||Anne Lister||Main role|
|2020||The Final Round||Pre-production; also producer|
|Vigil||DCI Amy Silva||Pre-production|
|2005||A Few Good Men||Joanne Galloway||Theatre Royal Haymarket|
|2006||Snow White and the Seven Dwarves||Snow White||Manchester Opera House|
|2007||Terms of Endearment||Emma Greenway Horton||York Theatre Royal|
|2009||Blithe Spirit||Ruth Condomine||Manchester Royal Exchange|
|2011||Top Girls||Marlene||Minerva Theatre|
|2013||Beautiful Thing||Sandra||Arts Theatre|
|2014||Orlando||Orlando||Manchester Royal Exchange|
|2018||Frozen||Nancy||Theatre Royal Haymarket|
Awards and nominationsEdit
|2003||Coronation Street||National Television Award for Most Popular Actress||Nominated|
|2004||British Soap Award for Best Actress||Won|
|National Television Award for Most Popular Actress||Won|
|2005||British Soap Award for Best Actress||Won|
|A Few Good Men||Theatregoers' Choice Award for Best Supporting Actress||Won|
|2009||Unforgiven||Royal Television Society Award for Best Actor – Female||Nominated|
|South Bank Show Award for The Times Breakthrough Award||Nominated|
|2010||Five Days||National Television Award for Outstanding Drama Performance||Nominated|
|TV Choice Award for Best Actress||Nominated|
|2011||Scott & Bailey||Royal Television Society Regional Award for Best Performance in a single Drama or Drama series||Won|
|2012||National Television Award for Best Female Drama Performance||Nominated|
|2013||National Television Award for Best Female Drama Performance||Nominated|
|Beautiful Thing||WhatsOnStage Award for Best Actress||Nominated|
|2014||Scott & Bailey||National Television Award for Best TV Detective||Nominated|
|Orlando||UK Theatre Award for Best Performance in a Play||Nominated|
|2015||Manchester Theatre Awards||Nominated|
|2016||Doctor Foster||National Television Award for Best Drama Performance||Won|
|Broadcasting Press Guild Award for Best Actress||Won|
|Royal Television Society Award for Best Actor – Female||Won|
|British Academy Television Awards for Best Actress||Won|
|TV Choice Award for Best Actress||Nominated|
|2017||TVTimes Award for Best Actress||Won|
|2018||National Television Award for Best Drama Performance||Won|
|2019||Gentleman Jack||TVTimes Award for Best Actress||Won|
|2020||National Television Award for Best Drama Performance||Nominated|
|Broadcasting Press Guild Award for Best Actress||Nominated|
|Royal Television Society Award for Best Actor – Female||Nominated|
|British Academy Television Awards for Best Actress ||Nominated|
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