Recently I had a viewer request to find out more about one of my favorite actresses; Cheryl Campbell. We've been seeing her for years in a variety of British series, starting out back in the late '70s when she starred opposite Bob Hoskins in Dennis Potter's Pennies from Heaven. Right after that she played Vera Brittain in Testament of Youth and since that time we've probably seen her in practically every single Mystery series that's been aired.
Born on May 22, 1949 in St. Albans, Campbell trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA); the same school that gave us the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Jim Broadbent, Patricia Hodge, Maureen Lipman, Anna Maxwell Martin, David Suchet, Martin Shaw, Harriet Walter, and the list goes on. Unlike most actors though, Campbell had to be persuaded to attend the school, believing instead that she needed to work her way up in the acting business the hard way, which for her meant starting out in stage management. Or as Campbell jokes "in my case stage damagement"! So on leaving high school Campbell took a job as acting assistant stage manager at the Palace Theatre in Watford.
Campbell's "laser-like concentration" and "single-mindedness in her commitment to detail" is still remembered well by the theatre's then director Gile Havergal. It not only set her apart, but is what Havergal feels eventually carried over into her television work. "The nuance of feeling is so carefully worked out", says Havergal, "you get yards of dialogue just from a look." Eventually though, Campbell did seek out the actor training that would give her the skills she has put to such good use over the years.
Following LAMDA, she went straight into repertory theatre and has since that time acted on stage, television and in films. Campbell was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company a couple of times, having appeared with them in the early '80s and again a decade later. The film I most remember Campbell in was the Academy Award winner Chariots of Fire, where she played Jennie Liddell, the sister of the Olympian who refused to run on a Sunday.
Midsomer Murders fans probably recall that Campbell has appeared in the series twice - as two different roles. The first time was as a victim in the episode called "Beyond the Grave", with John Nettles as Barnaby. The second occasion Campbell played a timid, quiet character called Vivian, in the episode "The Sicilian Defense". It was a completely different role than the loud American the actress had just finished playing in a touring production of Steel Magnolias. Campbell had just two days to make the switch the softly spoken Vivian. In real-life, Campbell herself is also softly spoken, sometimes to the extent that people have a hard time understanding what she's saying. Until of course she gets on stage, then her voice is magnificently loud.
When not working (which must be a rarity), Campbell enjoys the simple pleasures; gardening, reading and making things to give as presents to people. We last saw the flame haired actress in Call the Midwife, where she appeared as Chummy's mother. A memorable episode. I wonder where we'll spot her next?!
If you've got a favorite actor you'd like to know more about let me know, drop me a line.
To contact Heather:
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117