BBC One Gentleman Jack: Real life of Suranne Jones – showbiz husband and Covid tragedy during filming of new season


Gentleman Jack returns this Sunday evening for its long-awaited second season. Suranne Jones once again takes the lead as Anne Lister for the BBC One hit period drama.

She’s a favorite actress of many TV fans and has won high praise for her roles over the years – including as Gemma Foster in Doctor Foster and Rachel Bailey in the detective series Scott and Bailey. The award-winning star, from Oldham, first shot to fame after appearing as Karen McDonald in Coronation Street from 2000.

While Suranne has been on our screens for more than two decades, you may not know much about her life away from the cameras. The 43-year-old is from Chadderton and was educated at Cardinal Langley High School and as a teen she became a member of the Oldham Theater Workshop.

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She was named after her great-grandmother, however she was christened Sarah Anne, as a priest reportedly said Suranne was not a ‘proper’ name. Raised as Catholic, Suranne says she developed a phobia of wrists – carpophobia – after seeing images of Jesus on the cross.

In 1997 she took a small role in Coronation Street as Mandy Phillips, a girlfriend of Chris Collins – played by Matthew Marsden – before returning to the soap full time as machinist Karen Phillips in 2000. Her character married Steve McDonald, played by Simon Gregson, twice – the first time for a £10 bet and the second time after she and Steve realized they really did love each other.

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Steve (Simon Gregson) and Karen (Suranne Jones) on their Wedding day in Corrie

She won National Television Award for Most Popular Actress and British Soap Award for Best Actress for her role as Karen. In her real life, Suranne is married to BBC producer and scriptwriter Laurence Akers, who used to be a magazine editor.

The couple tied the knot in a private ceremony at Islington Town Hall in August 2015. They reportedly got engaged just six weeks after meeting following a whirlwind romance.

In March 2016, Suranne gave birth to a son. The couple, who live in London, have never shown images of their son online, but Lawrence sometimes appears on Suranne’s Instagram for cute snaps together.

Just a few weeks ago, she shared a photo of the two of them snuggling up with their dogs, and said their six-year-old son had taken the pic. “Happy birthday my love – everything I need right here. Deliriously tired from pre school birthday celebrations [camera emoji] by excited 6yr old 5th family member,” she wrote.

Suranne doesn’t do many interviews with press, but she recently opened up about the difficulties of filming for the second series of Gentlemen Jack. The star lost her father, Chris Jones, after a battle with coronavirus last year.

Speaking with The Sunday Times Magazine, the actress revealed that he had spent three months in hospital trying to recover from the virus, YorkshireLive reports. While she and her brother de ella, Gary, weren’t able to visit their dad while he was in intensive care due to coronavirus restrictions, they were given the opportunity to say their goodbyes shortly before he passed away in January 2021.

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Suranne Jones (right) as Anne Lister and Sophie Rundle as Ann Walker, during filming of the historical drama Gentleman Jack

Suranne had to return to filming shortly after the loss of her father but admitted she hadn’t come to terms with the sudden and tragic loss. She found the lockdown restrictions on set to be a constant reminder of the virus that had taken her father from her.

She said: “You’re filming in a pandemic, everyone is wearing masks. Every two days you’ve got someone coming in to test you. To have a parent pass the thing that you are reminded of all the time… Your brain filters out stuff, so I couldn’t remember my lines.

“Most of the time I was going, ‘What is it? What am I saying?’ That will probably haunt all the crew. My brain was obviously going, ‘This is not important.'”

Suranne also said she won’t be able to watch the new season when it airs, because of the memories it will trigger. “I’m not ready to watch it because it’s so full of memories mixed up with stuff,” she added.

Gentleman Jack will return for its second series on Sunday, April 10 at 9pm on BBC One and iPlayer.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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