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Jameson, Louise (1951- )


Main image of Jameson, Louise (1951- )

Louise Jameson was one of a handful of actresses who both benefited from and contributed to the opening out of roles for women on British television during the 1970s and 80s, when she became associated with a series of tough, resourceful and independent characters in genres where women had conventionally been either victims or vamps.

As the lithe, knife-wielding 'savage', Leela, companion to Tom Baker's Doctor Who (BBC, 1963-1989) from 1977 to 1978, she introduced a degree of self-reliance and edge where her female predecessors had mostly been reduced to screaming in the face of alien adversity. The downside was dialogue too often characterised by a 'me Jane' demotic, and an exoticised, revealing animal skin outfit that said much about the failure of 1970s feminism to permeate the BBC's production or costume departments (though it certainly helped build the show's following among dads). A year later she returned to sci-fi in the more adult The Omega Factor (BBC, 1979) as one of a team of paranormal investigators in what has come to be seen as an ancestor of The X-Files (US, 1993-2002).

She was back in rags for what was perhaps the defining role of her career, in Tenko (BBC, 1981-84). Jameson's tetchy and defiant Blanche, alongside her ally, Stephanie Beacham's similarly gutsy Rose, was at the emotional centre of this gruelling drama of women prisoners of war in Japanese-occupied Singapore during World War II. Proud, wilful and sexually confident, the working-class Blanche was the most provocative character in a series which made a feature of challenging female stereotypes.

She had a more glamorous, if perhaps less demanding - and certainly less iconic - role as the girlfriend of the popular Jersey-based detective Bergerac (BBC, 1981-91), joining the series in 1985. After that, however, strong, high-profile parts were thin on the ground. In 1985, she had been instrumental in securing Leslie Grantham his role in EastEnders (BBC, 1985-), and in 1998, Jameson - herself an East Ender, born in Wanstead in 1951 - found herself in the cast. But as Rosa, matriarch of the much-derided Di Marco clan, she was unable to escape from a narrow Italian stereotype and had little chance to win over sceptical fans. She left the series in 2000, since which time she has been more active in theatre, though she has made a few guest appearances in popular dramas (The Bill, ITV, 1985-; Doctors, BBC, 2000-).

Mark Duguid

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Agatha Christie's The Pale Horse (1997)Agatha Christie's The Pale Horse (1997)

Unusual Christie adaptation set in 1960s England

Thumbnail image of Bergerac (1981-91)Bergerac (1981-91)

Long-running detective series set on the island tax haven of Jersey

Thumbnail image of Tenko (1981-84)Tenko (1981-84)

Gruelling story of women PoWs in a Japanese camp in Singapore

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Recently regenerated time-travelling adventures

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