Jenna Coleman (known before summer 2013 as Jenna-Louise Coleman) is a British actress, born in Blackpool on April 27, 1986. She is best known for playing companion Clara Oswald on Doctor Who alongside Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor, and later alongside Peter Capaldi's Twelfth Doctor. She made her first appearance as Clara in the mid-series 7 Christmas Episode. She actually first appeared in the series 7 opener "Asylum of the Daleks" as a character named Oswin Oswald, in the most successfully guarded secret in series historynote . (How Oswin and Clara are connected form the major arc for the second half of Series 7.)
Some of her other roles include Jasmine Thomas in Emmerdale, Lindsay James in Waterloo Road, Connie (one of Steve and Bucky's dates at the fair) in Captain America: The First Avenger, and the voice of Melia in the English dub of Xenoblade.
Coleman played Annie Desmond in the 2012 miniseries Titanic, one of many productions dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. In 2013, she enjoyed her first full year as a Doctor Who companion and appeared in Dancing on the Edge, a series about a black jazz band in the 1930s. She also portrayed an older Lydia Wickham in the 2013 BBC adaptation of P. D. James' detective novel Death Comes to Pemberley.
After leaving Doctor Who in 2015, Coleman took the leading role of Queen Victoria in the ITV miniseries Victoria that began airing in the UK in the summer of 2016 and aired in the US as part of Masterpiece Theatre in early 2017. A ratings hit in the UK and reportedly one of PBS' highest-rated dramas in 20 years, a second series and 2017 Christmas special was swiftly commissioned, with a third confirmed for 2018. Rumours also continued to swirl around whether she may return to Doctor Who at some point, given the open-ended nature of Clara's exit and some comments made by her former co-star Peter Capaldi during convention appearances in mid-2016, and Capaldi's subsequent announcement that he was leaving Doctor Who at the end of 2017. In early 2018, Coleman took a hiatus from Victoria to film the lead role in a four-part BBC miniseries adapting Helen Fitzgerald's crime novel, The Cry. In 2020 she reprised her role as Melia in Xenoblade Chronicles: Future Connected, much to the pleasant surprise of the fans.
Tropes associated with this actress's works include:
- Dawson Casting: Some of her roles. Played completely straight with the role of Broken Bird high schooler Lindsay James from Waterloo Road, whom Jenna played when she was 23 (even describing the whole experience as a bit "surreal"). Subverted with Lydia Wickham (née Bennet) from Death Comes to Pemberley, who is in her early 20s in the story, and with modern day Clara from Doctor Who, who is meant to be about 2 years younger than Coleman. However, Victorian Clara is, in contrast, practically the same age as her actress. In Victoria, which started filming when she was 29, she was called upon to play 18-year-old Queen Victoria; somewhat justified in this case as the intent is for Coleman to play Victoria at least into the monarch's late 30s.
- Dye Hard: Her role in the 2018 miniseries The Cry marks the first time Jenna has adopted a noticeably different hair colour for a role - blonde, rather than her usual brown. However, in a 2013 interview alongside her Doctor Who co-star Matt Smith, Coleman revealed that she actually dyes her hair regularly; her natural hair colour is still brown, but she dyes it a darker shade. After filming The Cry Coleman began adding blonde highlights to her hair.
- Fake American: Discounting audition recordings that have emerged, the only exception to her otherwise purely British characters is her bit role as Connie in Captain America: The First Avenger, where her character is American, complete with the accent (though she only speaks a few words on screen), and an American character she voiced for a 2016 episode of the animated series Thunderbirds Are Go. She also plays an American in the short film Imaginary Forces, filmed before she joined Doctor Who but other than a trailer (which includes one line of American-accented dialogue by Coleman) it has yet to be released. Several clips of her auditioning for various US roles (including Suits and 2 Broke Girls) are on YouTube and show her performing with an American accent. She has also affected exaggerated American accents for comedic effect on occasions in interviews and red carpet events where, for whatever reason, she's asked to do one.
- Gossip Evolution: As a darling of the UK tabloid press (the Daily Mail loves her), has often found herself the victim of this. Two notable examples:
- In the summer of 2015, she attended a polo match fundraiser also attended by Prince Harry. The two were photographed chatting at one of the parties. At this time it was believed that Coleman had broken up with her longtime boyfriend, Richard Madden, too. The tabloids ran with it, and within a week at least one UK tabloid and several gossip websites were openly stating that Harry and Jenna were even engaged. Despite heated denials by all involved (Coleman has said Harry was always just a friend and the actress soon after began dating her Victoria co-star Tom Hughes), the rumour continues to circulate in 2017, with UK media listing her as an ex-girlfriend upon reporting Harry's engagement to US actress Meghan Marklenote . This rumour that won't die also led to at least one tense moment during a 2016 TV interview promoting Victoria.
- At an event in the summer of 2017, Coleman wore a piece of costume jewellery on her wedding ring finger. Despite the piece in question actually having been discussed in an article a year earlier (and the actress often sporting different rings on that finger), UK tabloids claimed that it was an engagement ring given to her by her boyfriend Tom Hughes, leading to media presumption that the two were soon to marry (this also dovetailed with unsubstantiated rumours at the time that the two had moved in together) and this led to some tabloids expressing dismay when she attended later events without the ring. Was the wedding off?
- Ms. Fanservice: Generally averted, particularly in Doctor Who where in other than a couple of episodes in which she wears short skirts, Clara dresses conservatively, and Victoria where there is even a scene in which she takes a bath, fully clothed. Outside of her TV work, Coleman also tends to dress conservatively in fashion and magazine photoshoots and on the red carpet and as of 2017 is not even known to have been photographed in any sort of swimwear. The sole exceptions are the 2011-2012 miniseries Room at the Top and Dancing on the Edge in which Coleman was filmed briefly topless (for the former) and briefly in revealing lingerie (for the latter); she also posed for the occasional revealing glamour photo, most recently for Rollacoaster magazine in 2018. In a 2017 interview promoting Victoria, Jenna explained simply that she generally wasn't offered parts that required nudity.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Generally speaking, Coleman has no problem masking her natural accent, even in interviews where she speaks with less of a pronounced accent in 2016 than she did when she launched her career. In Doctor Who, however, her accent evolved over time, starting out with one more noticeably RP than the Blackpool-tinged accent she began using in Series 8 (around the time, in fact, that Clara confirms on screen that she hails from Blackpool).
- Playing Against Type: Subverted. While Clara Oswald, her most popular role so far, is a sweet, kind-hearted young lady with an adventurous spirit, at least half of Jenna's other roles to date could be described as antiheroines at best, some of them deeply flawed. The lead role of Victoria, however, albeit based upon a real person this time, slides closer to Coleman's "type", even though there is some debated over how much of this is Truth in Television.
- Prior to 2018, Clara was also one of only two modern-day characters Jenna had portrayed since leaving Waterloo Road in the early 2010s; other than Clara and a supporting role in 2016's Me Before You (plus an appearance in a 2011 short film called Imaginary Forces that was never released), all of Jenna's roles had been in historical pieces. Finally, in 2018, it was announced that she'd be starring in the modern-day thriller miniseries The Cry, allowing her to put the corsets and vintage dresses aside temporarily (the miniseries was shot between Series 2 and 3 of Victoria).
- In interviews promoting The Cry, Coleman was candid about how the role of a depressed mother was so far out of her comfort zone and they type of character she was used to, that for a time she believed she had been miscast.
- Precision F-Strike: Very rarely swears in interviews, and until 2018's The Cry, none of her roles had required her to use any strong swear words. Hence, on the rare occasion where a swear from her actually sneaks into print or video, it has a bit of impact. Possibly exploited in The Cry where the moment her character uses the F-word for the first time, it carries emotional weight. (Later episodes also have her swearing, but it doesn't have the same impact.)
- Public Service Announcement: Like many actors, her resume includes a few of these, including a heartbreaking one from 2010 on the topic of child abuse in which she appeared uncredited.
- Scully Box: At 1.57m (according to her Instagram page, though an episode of Doctor Who claimed she's only 1.54m), she had to wear wearing some pretty impressive heels to stay in frame with her Doctor Who costar, Peter Capaldi who's 1.82m; this was lampshaded in the 2014 episode "Time Heist" where a couple of jokes are made about her extreme footwear. She often wears such heels at public events too. The apple/Scully box was broken out as well for some scenes, as well as variations of the old "taller actor standing in a trench" trick.
- Averted with Victoria due to Coleman actually being a few inches taller than the real-life monarch (who stood at 5 feet even (1.52 m)), so little effort is made to hide any height differential since this is often addressed on screen, or by falling back on the other old trick of having Jenna and whoever she's sharing a scene with sit down.
- Averted again with The Cry in which no attempt is made at hiding her height, and the fact her on-screen boyfriend towers over her is used to emphasize her vulnerable position.
- Statuesque Stunner: The "statuesque" part of the trope is playfully inverted in some of her roles, primarily Clara in Doctor Who (where her height has been the subject of the occasional joke) and Victoria (in which it's actually a Truth in Television-related plot point). Coleman, herself, also playfully averts the height aspect by openly discussing the use of the Scully Box while filming, for example.
- Two First Names: A frequent pattern for some of the characters she's portrayed: Jasmine Thomas, Lindsay James, Annie Desmond, Clara Oswald. Her own real name is an example (theoretically three, if you count "Louise" as separate), Coleman eventually dropped the "-Louise" from her acting name in mid-2013, stating everyone just called her Jenna anyway.
- There's a roughly fifty-to-fifty ratio between positive and morally ambiguous characters she's portrayed, at least on television. While there is a tendency to cast her in the role of cuties, even those particular characters tend to be anything but stereotypical goodie-two-shoes ladies. Potentially a near-miss, though, as her first two major TV characters on Emmerdale and Waterloo Road both ended up being murderers.
- A potential example of this trope was offered in the Victoria miniseries in which her version of Queen Victoria's relationship with the decades-older Lord Melbourne quickly evolves from an Intergenerational Friendship to an implied MayDecember Romance (leading to much debate over how much of this was Truth in Television). Many have commented on the similarities between the Victoria-Melbourne relationship and the similar one Coleman spent two years acting out between Clara Oswald and the Twelfth Doctor in Doctor Who.
- Except for Clara Oswald, a supporting role in Me Before You, and an unreleased horror film called Imaginary Forces, all of Jenna's live-action film and TV work between 2010 and 2018 involved playing period characters (19th century, 1912, 1950s, etc), and even as Clara she did several episodes in period dress. Perhaps no better illustration of this can be found than a Series 1 episode of Victoria in which Jenna is shown riding a horse while wearing the exact same costume in 2016 that she wore as Lydia in the miniseries Death Comes To Pemberley, broadcast in 2013. (Jenna finally broke away from the trope by signing to appear in The Cry, a 2018 miniseries set in the modern day.)
- Jenna hinted at a possible form of typecasting in a summer 2017 interview promoting Victoria in which she noted that she doesn't tend to get offered roles that require nudity. (As of 2018 she has only appeared fully topless on screen once, for a production made early in her career, and, despite it being a Hotter and Sexier take on the life of the queen and broadcast post-watershed in the UK, Victoria is actually a family-friendly production; in one episode, Victoria even takes a bath fully clothed. The Cry likewise did not feature any nudity from her.)
- What Beautiful Eyes!: Coleman's large, expressive eyes are not only a notable feature in real life, but in Doctor Who her character's eyes are often referenced in dialogue, with a Running Gag established in Series 8 about how they disturb the Doctor and in Series 9 the Doctor refers to them as the trait that impacts him the most. Jenna and her stylists are not oblivious to her eyes' appeal as she often wears make-up that emphasizes them.
- What Could Have Been:
- Before getting the part of Clara, she had previously auditioned to play Mels, a previous incarnation of River Song that appeared in "Let's Kill Hitler".
- Her first Doctor Who appearance as Oswin Oswald in "Asylum of the Daleks" was initially to have been a one-off guest spot, never to be seen again, until showrunner Steven Moffat hit on the idea of her also playing the new companion.
- During an auditions slump circa 2010-11, when she could barely get any work, she briefly tried her luck in the US (including filming an independent film that as of 2017 has yet to be released), before eventually getting back to the UK and regaining her auditions' momentum on domestic TV projects. In this article, she mentions that she auditioned for the role of an Australian woman in some US sitcom, and openly jokes that in some parallel universe, she plays sitcom characters with bad Australian accent impersonations. If she had ended up in that sitcom, we probably wouldn't get to see her playing the Doctor's companion Clara.
- One of the auditions, available on YouTube, saw her trying out for a role in the US series Suits which would have also likely precluded her Doctor Who - and Victoria - work. (Coincidentally, the role she tried for was later filled by Meghan Markle, who was later engaged to marry to Prince Harry; Coleman, herself, was also linked to Harry briefly in 2015 by the tabloid press, although this was debunked). Another role Coleman tried out for - which, again, would have prevented her from doing Doctor Who or Victoria - was that of Max on 2 Broke Girls (the role filled by Kat Dennings).
- Due to her original contract running out in 2014, there was a lot of speculation by the tabloid press about Coleman leaving Doctor Who after Series 8. Months later, Jenna confirmed she was originally thinking about potentially moving on, but her experiences on the show, the good chemistry she found with Capaldi's Doctor and Capaldi himself (reportedly, Capaldi all but went on bended knee to beg her to stay on), and her desire to see Clara's story get a proper conclusion, convinced her to stay for Series 9 as well, though the decision wasn't made until mere days before she was to start filming what was to have been her final episode, "Last Christmas"; according to Moffat in a January 2018 interview with Radio Times, she didn't make her final decision to stay until after the readthrough for the episode, resulting in him having to quickly write a new ending for the episode.
- According to Steven Moffat, for a period in late 2012-early 2013, Jenna was the only regular actually under contract to appear in Doctor Who's 50th anniversary special, with no guarantee of even the show's then-lead, Matt Smith, or any past Doctor actors, being available. As such, Moffat came up with a "Plan B" storyline for the special that would have focused on Clara Oswald alone, searching for the Doctor.
- In early 2017 it was reported that, had Victoria not been renewed for a second series, Jenna had been all but signed to star in a Scottish-filmed series about an all-female private investigator service.
- Word of God (Doctor Who writer/showrunner Steven Moffat) is that Jenna's cameo in the final Peter Capaldi Doctor Who episode would have been more substantial had she not been committed to filming a second series of Victoria that also included a Christmas special, which prevented her from being available during main production.