Jean Fennell is a British
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...
Jean Fennell was a British actress and much loved Sanford Meisner acting teacher.
After leaving Drama Centre, London, Jean made a successful start to her career as a stage actress. In 1984 she was chosen to act in the then new BBC series called EastEnders. She had rehearsed and started shooting when Julia Smith (the creator-producer) took her into her office one lunchtime and suddenly dismissed her. Jean, shocked and completely devastated, was driven away to her home. Matthew Robinson (the director) pleaded with Julia to reconsider but her mind was made up. Julia later explained that Anita Dobson had just become available to play the role and she fitted Julia's image of the part she was creating. The 'dismissal affair' was taken up by the media and Jean, to her dismay, found herself catapulted into the public's awareness for all the wrong reasons. She resisted media attempts to make a sour story, and upheld her dignity. She went on to work in film including the 1988 Channel 4 production “Further Particular” directed by Steven Dwoskin.
In 1994 Jean discovered the Meisner Acting technique. Her teacher Tom Radcliffe, Meisner's protégé in the UK, asked her to take over his class when he left in 1997. Coaching Meisner actors became Jean's passion and her students say that she inspired and nurtured them both in their talent and as human beings.
For the last ten years of her life Jean battled with chronic pain and finally cancer. Against tremendous odds she would carry on teaching, even up to a few weeks before her death. A courageous soul, she died peacefully and with dignity at her home, surrounded by the love of her dear ones. She was 59.
Jean created a memorable funeral service at St Paul’s (the Actors Church, Covent Garden) where her message “heal thyself- heal the world” was passed on through her favourite songs and tribute for friends.
Jean Fennell died in May 2011 after battling illness for 10 years. Her funeral was at St Paul's "The Actors' Church" Covent Garden and was attended by family and friends.
Born in east London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...
, in 1952 she was due to play Angie Watts
Angela "Angie" Watts is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, played by Anita Dobson from the first episode of the show until 1988 when the actress decided to quit and the character was written out....
EastEnders is a British television soap opera, first broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC One on 19 February 1985 and continuing to today. EastEnders storylines examine the domestic and professional lives of the people who live and work in the fictional London Borough of Walford in the East End...
but in December 1984, with only one short scene in the can and four days before main shooting began, the show's creators, Julia Smith
Julia Smith was an English television director and producer.- Early career :London-born Smith became involved in television production when she directed the series Suspense in 1962...
and Tony Holland
Anthony John "Tony" Holland was an English television screenwriter best known as a writer and co-creator of the BBC soap opera EastEnders.-Early career:...
, declared she did not have sufficient impact to be Angie. She was replaced by Anita Dobson
Anita Dobson is an English television actress and singer. She gained her highest profile while playing Angie Watts in the BBC soap opera, EastEnders...
, the actress Julia had originally coveted for the key part. Anita had not been available during official casting (August to November 1984) but, with time running out, her agent informed Julia Smith that, now, she was in fact available.
Smith terminated Fennell in a fraught 10-minute session in her office on a Friday lunchtime when few were around to hear.
The casting of Dobson was a success and EastEnders almost instant success depended to a large degree on the electric screen chemistry between Angie and her husband Den (Leslie Grantham
Leslie Michael Grantham is an English actor best known for his role as "Dirty" Den Watts in the soap opera EastEnders. He is also a convicted murderer, having served 10 years for the killing of a German taxi driver, and he generated significant press coverage as the result of an online sex scandal...
Fennell went on to play a role in the 1988 film Further and Particular. She became a much loved and highly respected Sanford Meisner Coach.