|Intro||English actress, singer and director, in film, television and stage|
|A.K.A.||Samantha Zoe Womack, Samantha Zoe Janus|
Film, TV, Stage & Radio
|Birth||2 November 1972, Brighton, United Kingdom|
Samantha Zoe Womack (née Janus; born 2 November 1972) is a British actress, singer, model and director who has worked in film, television and stage.
Womack made her name in the mid-1990s with her role as Mandy Wilkins in Game On leading onto roles in the BBC One drama Pie in the Sky (1995–96) and the sitcom Babes in the Wood (1998).
In recent years she has been best known for playing the role of Ronnie Mitchell in EastEnders (2007–2011, 2013–2017). Her portrayal as Ronnie has gained her more prominence and acting roles after being out of the limelight for numerous years. She also played Tanya Porter in Sky One comedy-drama Mount Pleasant from 2013 until the final episode in 2017. Womack has also toured across the United Kingdom playing Morticia in the stage musical The Addams Family.
Womack initially planned a career in singing and she represented the United Kingdom in the 1991 Eurovision Song Contest. Her song for the contest, “A Message to Your Heart”, was released as her first (and only) single in April 1991 and reached No. 30 in the UK Singles Chart.
Womack was born in Brighton. Her singer-songwriter father, Noel Janus (born Janes), left the family when she was six, and soon after, her model-actress mother, Diana O’Hanlon, married a doctor and the family moved to Edinburgh.
Janus lived on the QE2 with her choreographer grandmother, Sheila Holt (a former actress and choreographer to magician David Nixon for a short time). Womack has a younger half-sister, Zoe. During an appearance on Big Star’s Little Star in 2014, it was revealed that she attended the same school as members of All Saints before going to the Sylvia Young Theatre School in London. At the age of 15, she left home as a self-confessed ‘wild child’ for a life in squats, drinking, smoking and taking drugs.
Womack is the niece of Angie Best, her father’s sister and former wife of footballer George Best. Angie’s son, Calum Best, is Womack’s cousin.
As revealed on an episode of Who Do You Think You Are? in 2012, Womack’s great-great-grandmother Jessie Ryder was an actress in New York City in the early 20th century.
Eurovision and early career
The actress first came to prominence in March 1991 aged 18, when she won the annual A Song for Europe competition to represent the United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest. She finished joint tenth and the song, “A Message to Your Heart”, peaked at number 30 on the UK Singles Chart. Despite her achievements, her entry into the Eurovision is frequently remarked upon. She has said regarding the experience that her failure in the contest devastated her at the time and thought it would spell the end of her career. She has also called her appearance ‘ridiculous’, in that she was dressed in a pink mini-dress while singing about starving children and says the lyrics of the song are burned into her memory forever.
Womack developed her first love of acting, appearing in episodes of The Bill and Press Gang; in 1993 she appeared in Demob with Griff Rhys Jones and Martin Clunes; and took to the West End stage, replacing Debbie Gibson as Sandy in Grease.
From 1994 to 1998 Womack played Mandy in the BBC Two sitcom Game On opposite Ben Chaplin (later replaced by Neil Stuke). She remained on the show until its end in 1998. In between series of Game On, she had a part in the BBC One drama Pie in the Sky from 1995 to 1996 as Nicola Dooley, a waitress.
Womack then appeared in the pilot for The Grimleys with Jack Dee, and the film Up ‘n’ Under with Neil Morrissey. In 1998 she starred in the ITV1 series Liverpool 1 with her future husband Mark Womack. She then returned to comedy in the sitcom Babes in the Wood co-starring another Sylvia Young Theatre School student, Denise van Outen, it was critically panned despite respectable ratings, and Womack left after the first series.
In 1999 Womack starred as Cinderella in the ITV Christmas pantomime alongside Harry Hill, Alexander Armstrong, Frank Skinner, Paul Merton, Ronnie Corbett and many more.
A popular choice for photo shoots in men’s magazines such as FHM, she came 21st in the FHM 100 Sexiest Women in the World poll in 1998 and 41st in 1999.
In 2002 she returned to TV in BBC One drama Strange and she appeared in films The Baby Juice Express, Lighthouse Hill and Dead Man’s Cards.
In 2005 she directed an anti-bullying music video for Liverpool band Just 3, entitled Stand Tall. The video starred her and Liverpool F.C. footballer Jamie Carragher. The video was heavily backed by Childline ambassador Esther Rantzen.
In 2006 she starred in the BBC One comedy Home Again as Ingrid, and as Miss Adelaide in the West End production of the musical Guys and Dolls at London’s Piccadilly Theatre, initially with Patrick Swayze and then Miami Vice star Don Johnson. She reprised the role at the Sunderland Empire opposite Alex Ferns in 2007.
On 11 May 2007 it was announced that she would be joining EastEnders as Ronnie Mitchell, a cousin of the well known Mitchell brothers. She had previously appeared in the soap in a minor role as a girlfriend of Simon Wicks.
During her first stint, Womack’s character Ronnie was central to many storylines including the controversial baby-swap story which was aired during 2011. It was reported that this is the reason why Womack quit the soap, although this has never been confirmed. Womack made her final appearance as Ronnie on 7 July 2011 when the character was sent to prison.
Since appearing on EastEnders she has made regular television appearances on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, The Paul O’Grady Show, Richard & Judy and Loose Women. In November 2007, she sang with EastEnders co-stars in the 2007 Children in Need charity appeal.
In May 2013, it was confirmed that Womack would return to EastEnders as Ronnie Mitchell. Womack’s character Ronnie Mitchell was later killed off on the episode broadcast 1 January 2017 when she was trying to save Roxy Mitchell from drowning and drowned herself. Her last appearance was on the episode broadcast 19 January 2017 when Ronnie was shown as a corpse lying in her coffin.
Theatre and continued success
In 2011 Womack played the lead role, Ensign Nellie Forbush, a US Navy nurse from Little Rock, Arkansas, in the Lincoln Center production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical South Pacific at the Barbican Theatre in London. In March 2013, Womack starred opposite her husband on stage in the world premiere of Hope at the Royal Court Theatre in Liverpool.
From September 2013, Womack played the regular role of Tanya in series three of Sky Living’s Mount Pleasant. She continued in this role until the final episode in 2017. Altogether, Womack appeared in 25 episodes as Tanya Dawson (later Porter when the character married).
In 2014, she appeared in the film Kingsman: The Secret Service as lead actor Taron Egerton’s character’s mother. This was Womack’s first main role in such a high-profile film. Womack appeared as Michelle once again for Kingsman: The Golden Circle in 2017 but in a more cameo role as opposed to the larger role she had in Kingsman: The Secret Service.
In 2017, Womack toured as Mortician Adams in the musical comedy The Addams Family as Morticia around the UK and Ireland. She reprised the role in 2020 for a tour around Ireland.
In September 2018, it was announced that she would be playing Fairy Bow Bells in the pantomime Dick Whittington.
Womack appeared in Silent Witness in early 2019. On an episode of Loose Women in February 2019, Womack confirmed that offers had been made to her about a project with co-star and best friend Rita Simons. In response to this, they both said that they would wait for the right one to come along.
In January 2011 she appeared as one of the celebrity contestants on the BBC show The Magicians, working with magician Chris Korn. For her “celebrity’s choice” trick, she chose being sawn in half by Korn in an illusion called Clearly Impossible. In March 2011 she appeared with Lenny Henry, Angela Rippon and Reggie Yates in the BBC fundraising documentary for Comic Relief called Famous, Rich and in the Slums, where the four celebrities were sent to Kibera in Kenya, Africa’s largest slum.
In November 2011, it was reported that Womack was in the running, alongside Dannii Minogue to become a judge on the 2012 series of Britain’s Got Talent. However, it was later confirmed that the judging panel for series six would be Simon Cowell, Alesha Dixon, Amanda Holden and David Walliams. Womack has since confirmed that she was offered a place on the judging panel and that she had a meeting with Cowell in Los Angeles. She has said that although she was grateful, she rejected the offer as “it’s just not me”.
In 2012 Womack appeared in series nine of the BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? The episode revealed her descent on her father’s side from two musicians, her great grandfather Alexander Cunningham Ryan, his partner’s father Pierre François Odilon Garraud, & Pierre’s partner, an actress, Jessie Ryder.
In February 2013, she took part in All Star Family Fortunes, donating money to Comic Relief and Action Aid.
Womack was interviewed on John Bishop: In Conversation With… in November 2017. This episode titled John Bishop: In Conversation With…Samantha Womack included an in depth conversation about her life and career. In February 2020, it was announced that Womack would be taking part in the On Thin Ice challenge for Sports Relief.
Janus married Italian Junfan Mantovani in 1997 after a long relationship. The relationship broke down and the couple divorced in 1998.
In 2007 Womack won “substantial” damages from the Sunday Sport newspaper over a story headlined “Sam’s sex and drugs shame”. She sued the Sport over an article published on 22 July, which claimed she had “coke fuelled threesomes” and took part in a “three-hour drug fuelled lesbian orgy”
Womack began a relationship with Liverpool 1 costar Mark Womack whilst still married to Mantovani. They married in 2009 after ten years together. The couple have two children: son Benjamin Thomas Womack (born 2001) and daughter Lili-Rose Womack (born 2005). Mark Womack also has a son, Michael Womack, from a previous marriage.
In 2009, Womack took her husband’s surname and began to use it professionally.
Womack and her husband are best friends with Scott Maslen and his wife Estelle Rubio. They have known each other since they were teenagers. Maslen is godfather to Womack’s two children and she is godmother to Maslen’s son, Zak. They often go on holiday together with their children, which Womack revealed during an appearance on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross in January 2008. In late 2007 Maslen joined the cast of EastEnders as Jack Branning, who has a relationship with Womack’s character, Ronnie. This was something that both Maslen and Womack were initially uncomfortable with when they read the scripts, with Maslen commenting in various interviews that having to kiss Womack was like having to kiss his sister. Womack is also best friends with her former EastEnders co-star Rita Simons, who played her sister Roxy Mitchell.
In April 2008, several future scenes featuring Ronnie had to be scrapped after Womack broke her shoulder when she tripped and fell down the stairs at her home while rushing to get ready for work.
In September 2015, it was reported that she was “living in fear” and had alerted the police that she was being stalked. The stalker was given a suspended-sentence in December, the same year.
In May 2017, Womack endorsed Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in the 2017 UK general election. She tweeted: “The legislation set out by @jeremycorbyn is everything we need to believe in. It’s time to pull together and vote. Stop the madness .”
Awards and nominations
|Year||Result||Award||Category||Film or series||Character|
|2008||Won||Soaper Star Awards||Best Newcomer||EastEnders||Ronnie Mitchell|
|Nominated||All About Soap Bubble Awards||Fatal Attraction (with Scott Maslen)|
|Nominated||British Soap Awards||Best On-Screen Partnership (with Rita Simons)|
|Nominated||British Soap Awards||Sexiest Female|
|Won||Digital Spy Soap Awards||Best On-Screen Partnership (with Rita Simons)|
|2009||Nominated||British Soap Awards||Best Actress|
|Shortlisted*||TV Quick and Choice Awards||Best Soap Actress|
|2010||Nominated||All About Soap Bubble Awards||I’m A Survivor|
|Nominated||British Soap Awards||Sexiest Female|
|Shortlisted*||Inside Soap Awards||Sexiest Female|
|2011||Won||All About Soap Bubble Awards||Best Baby Drama (with Jessie Wallace)|
|Nominated*||British Soap Awards||Sexiest Female|
|2012||Nominated||Shorty Awards||Best Actress||N/A||N/A|
|Nominated||Shorty Awards||Best Fansite||N/A||N/A|
(*) There were two main rounds of nominations for asterisked categories. The “Result” indicates Womack’s progress: if shown as “Nominated”, she only achieved the first round of the nominations; if “Shortlisted”, she advanced to the second and final round of nominations, the outcome to be decided by either a public vote or by a judging panel.
- May 1991 “A Message to Your Heart” / “Heaven is a Place for Heroes” (Hollywood Records), UK Singles Chart No. 30
Eurovision Score Sheet
- Samantha Janus finished in tenth position out of twenty two artists
- Samantha Janus performed twentieth in the contest running order.