Joanna M Scanlan (born 27 October 1961) is a British actress and screenwriter. On television, she is known for her roles in British series such as The Thick of It (2005–2012), Getting On (2009–2012), Puppy Love (2014), and No Offence (2015–2018). She was nominated for three BAFTA TV Awardsfor Getting On, including two for Best Writing.
Scanlan’s film appearances include Girl With a Pearl Earring (2003), Notes on a Scandal (2006), The Invisible Woman (2013), and Bridget Jones’s Baby(2016). She won a British Academy Film Award and a British Independent Film Award for her performance in the film After Love (2020).
Scanlan was born on 27 October 1961 in West Kirby, Cheshire, the daughter of hoteliers Michael and Patricia Scanlan. She moved to North Wales with her parents at the age of three, and her parents later bought the Castle Hotel in Ruthin. She attended Brigidine Convent and Howell’s School, Denbigh, as well as New Hall School in Chelmsford, Essex. She studied history at Queens’ College, Cambridge and joined the Cambridge Footlights, where she became friends with Tilda Swinton.
After graduation, Scanlan joined the academic staff of Leicester Polytechnic lecturing in drama for five years, before she undertook a similar role at the Arts Council of Great Britain for three years. After the Arts Council of Great Britain was split in 1994, at age 34 Scanlan decided to try becoming a professional actor, quickly gaining the role as a nurse in ITV1‘s Peak Practice. This formed some what of a theme in her early career, then playing a midwife in The Other Boleyn Girl with Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson, before playing a nurse again alongside Ade Edmondson‘s doctor in ill-fated Doctors and Nurses, and latterly Dr Diana Dibbs in Doc Martin with Martin Clunes.
Scanlan is known for her portrayal of Terri Coverley, the notoriously useless senior press officer for the Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship in the British comedy television series The Thick of It from 2005 to 2012.
Among her successes is Scanlan’s critically acclaimed dark satirical NHS drama Getting On, which she starred and co-wrote with Jo Brand and Vicki Pepperdine. The series earned her a BAFTA nomination for Best Female Performance in a Comedy and a BAFTA Television Craft nomination for screenwriting in both 2011 and 2013. They were also nominated for Best Comedy Screenwriting at the Royal Television Awards in 2010 and Best Comedy at the South Bank Sky Arts Awards in 2011. The comedy series was adapted for an American audience with HBO, with Scanlan on board as an executive producer to closely work on script development. Scanlan was a guest star in the American version, reprising her role as Denise Flixter. The Emmy-nominated show ran for three seasons between 2013 and 2015.
Scanlan and Vicki Pepperdine teamed up again to write and star in their BBC Four comedy series Puppy Love, which follows two women at their dog training classes on the Wirral. Under their production company George and George Co., they are currently adapting Puppy Love with HBO for America and a new sitcom This Land is Ours is in development for US Network IFC.
Scanlan plays lead character DI Inspector ‘Viv Deering’ in Paul Abbott’s BAFTA nominated and RTS award-winning primetime drama, No Offence.
Scanlan appeared as Cathy in Bridget Jones’s Baby.
Other film credits include Charles Dickens‘ wife in The Invisible Woman and roles in Get Santa, Testament of Youth, In the Loop, The Bad Education Movie, The Other Boleyn Girl, Stardust, Notes on a Scandal, Girl With A Pearl Earring, Pin Cushion, After Love and Kinky Boots.
On stage, Scanlan has worked with Thea Sharrock in her production of Cloud 9 at the Almeida Theatre and Top Girls, with Rufus Norris in Vernon God Little at the Young Vic, and featured in Polly Teale’s Madame Bovery.
Scanlon appeared in the first two episodes of McDonald & Dodds in 2020. In 2021, Scanlon played Ma opposite Bradley Walsh’s Pop in The Larkins. In March 2022, she received the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for the film After Love (2020)