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Samantha Zoe Womack[1] (née Janus; born 2 November 1972) is an English actress, singer and director, both on television and stage. In recent years she has been best known for playing the role of Ronnie Branning in EastEnders, but made her name in the early 1990s as Mandy Wilkins in Game On, and also represented the United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest 1991. She is currently the star of the award winning show South Pacific (musical), touring the UK with the cast and gaining the most impressive reviews of her career so far. Samantha is patron to Expressions Performing Arts in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire.

Early life[]

Janus was born in Brighton. Her father Noel left the family when she was three, and soon after her mother Diane married a doctor and the family moved to Edinburgh. She has a younger sister, Zoe. Janus lived on the QE2 with her grandmother for a short time. On 23 August 2009, her 60-year-old estranged father was found hanged in the bathroom of his council flat in Brighton,[2] where he lived alone.[3] It is believed he committed suicide.[4]

Aged fifteen she left home as a self-confessed wild child for a life in squats, drinking, smoking and taking drugs. She eventually turned her life around and attended the Sylvia Young Theatre School in London.[5]

Womack is the niece of Angie Best, a former wife of George Best.[6] Her cousin is Calum Best, son of Angie and George.


The actress first came to prominence in March 1991, when still only 18, when she won the annual A Song for Europe competition to represent the United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest.[7] She finished joint tenth[8] and the song, "A Message to Your Heart", peaked at number 30 on the UK Singles Chart.[9]

Womack developed her first love of acting, appearing in episodes of The Bill and Press Gang; in 1993 she appeared in Demob alongside 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 popular BBC Two sitcom Game On alongside Ben Chaplin (later replaced by Neil Stuke). She remained on the show until it was decommissioned in 1998. In between series of Game On, she had a part in the BBC One drama Pie in the Sky from 1995 until 1996.

Womack then starred in the pilot for The Grimleys with Jack Dee, and the movie Up 'n' Under with Neil Morrissey. In 1998 she starred in the ITV1 series Liverpool 1 alongside her future husband Mark Womack. She then returned to comedy in the ITV 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 she starred as Cinderella in the ITV Christmas pantomime, with Harry Hill, Alexander Armstrong, Frank Skinner, Paul Merton, Ronnie Corbett and many more. In 2002 she returned to TV screens in the BBC One drama Strange and after that series ended in 2003, she has had roles in the films The Baby Juice Express 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 Liverpool FC footballer Jamie Carragher and herself. The video was heavily backed by Childline ambassador Esther Rantzen. 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 1998 poll and 41st in the same listing in 1999.

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 alongside Patrick Swayze and then Miami Vice star Don Johnson. She reprised the role at the Sunderland Empire alongside Alex Ferns in 2007.

On 11 May 2007, it was announced that she would be joining EastEnders as Ronnie Mitchell, a cousin of the Mitchell brothers.[10] She had previously appeared in the soap in a minor role as a girlfriend of Simon Wicks.[11] In January 2011, The Sun reported that Womack had resigned from EastEnders.[12]

Since appearing on EastEnders, she has made regular television appearances, including Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, The Paul O'Grady Show, Richard & Judy and Loose Women. In November 2007, she sang along EastEnders co-stars in the 2007 Children in Need charity appeal.


Chris Korn and Sam Womack's Smash and Stab Trick - The Magicians - BBC One

In January 2011, she made a guest appearance on the BBC TV magic show The Magicians as the celebrity partner to magician Chris Korn. She performed a dangerous trick called Smash and Stab, in which a spike is hidden under paper cups that the magician then crushes with their hand. For her "celebrity's choice" live trick, she chose being sawn in half by Korn in a version of the 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.[13]

In 2011 Womack played the leading role Ensign Nellie Forbush, a U.S. 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.[14]

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.


Her portrayal of Ronnie Mitchell won her Best Newcomer at the Digital Spy Soap Awards along with Best Onscreen Partnership for her character partnership with Roxy Mitchell played by Rita Simons. She was nominated for Best Actress for the 2009 Soap Awards and she was nominated for 'Sexiest Female' for the 2010 Soap Awards and is currently in the nominations for Best Soap Actress for 'Inside Soap' Magazine Awards.

Personal life[]

Janus married Italian Junfan Mantovani in 1997 after a long relationship. The relationship broke down and the couple divorced in 1998.[15]

She then starred in Liverpool 1, and started a relationship with Mark Womack while she was still married to Junfan. They married on 16 May 2009[16] and have two children (both born in Westminster, London):[17] son Benjamin Thomas Womack (born February 2001) (after having him Janus took two years off to enjoy motherhood) and their daughter Lily-Rose Womack (born April 2005), while Mark has another son from a previous marriage, Michael Womack.[18][19] Womack has stated that she would like more children but her husband is not so keen.[20]

In 2009, Janus took her husband's surname of Womack and began to use it professionally in her role on EastEnders.[21]

Womack and her husband are best friends of 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) and they often go on holiday together with their children, which Womack revealed during an appearance on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross in January 2008.Template:Citation needed Womack is also best friends with co-star Rita Simons, who plays her sister Roxy Mitchell.[22]

In the autumn of 2007, Maslen joined the cast of EastEnders as the character Jack Branning, the brother of Max Branning, who quickly takes a shine to Ronnie. This was something that both Maslen and Womack were initially uncomfortable with when they read it in the scripts, Maslen commenting in various interviews that having to kiss Womack was like having to kiss his sister.[18][23] The characters have since married, and had a baby (James Branning) who died of cot death on New Year's Eve 2010, sparking a controversial storyline.

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.


Year Title Role
2007 EastEnders Ronnie Mitchell (2007–2011)
Wild at Heart Tessa
2006 Dead Man's Cards Kris
Where the Heart Is Marla
Home Again Ingrid
2005 The Afternoon Play Emma Priestley
2004 The Baby Juice Express Trixie
Short Tall Woman
2003 Strange Jude Atkins
Undercover Sex Jake
2002 Judge John Deed Mel Powell
Strange Jude Atkins
2000 Cinderella Cinderella Pantomime
1998 Babes in the Wood Ruth Froud
Liverpool 1 DC Isobel de Pauli
Imogen's Face Imogen
Breeders Louise
Up 'n' Under Hazel Scott
Pie in the Sky Nicola
1997 The Grimleys Geraldine Titley
1995–1998 Game On Mandy Wilkins
1994 Minder Marian
1993 Health and Efficiency Charmaine
Demob Hedda
1992 The Bill Annie Carlisle
1991 Press Gang Waitress
El C.I.D. Waitress
A Murder of Quality Alice Lawry
1990 Spatz Toni
Jekyll & Hyde Young Maid (Margaret)


  • May 1991 "A Message to Your Heart" / "Heaven is a Place for Heroes" (Hollywood Records), UK Singles Chart #30[24]


  1. "Soaps — Soap Scoop — Jack's proposal, Jason and Tina's romp, E'dale secret". Digital Spy. 2009-06-14. http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/soaps/a159803/jacks-proposal-jason-and-tinas-romp-edale-secret.html. Retrieved 2009-10-22. 
  2. Heartbroken Samantha Janus' tears for estranged father
  3. Father of EastEnders star found hanged
  4. Smart, Gordon (2009-08-24). "Father of EastEnders star Samantha Janus found hanged". London: The Sun. http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/showbiz/tv/2602608/Father-of-EastEnders-star-Samantha-Janus-found-hanged.html. Retrieved 2009-08-24. 
  5. http://www.thestage.co.uk/connect/howto/sylvia.php
  6. "UKTV G2 Stars — Profile: Samantha Janus". Uktv.co.uk. 2007-03-29. http://uktv.co.uk/index.cfm/uktv/G2.item/aid/529421. Retrieved 2009-10-22. 
  7. "''www.metro.co.uk'' - The unlikely stars of Eurovision — retrieved 01-04-2009". Metro.co.uk. 2007-01-09. http://www.metro.co.uk/fame/article.html?in_article_id=32265&in_page_id=7&in_a_source=. Retrieved 2009-10-22. 
  8. Spanton, Tim (2008-02-25). "''www.thesun.co.uk'' - Seen the bird on Eurovision? - retrieved 01-04-2009". London: Thesun.co.uk. http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/showbiz/music/article840140.ece. Retrieved 2009-10-22. 
  9. "Samantha Janus Chart discography". Chartstats.com. Archived from the original on 2012-07-21. http://archive.is/RKik. Retrieved 2009-10-22. 
  10. "''www.digitalspy.co.uk — Samantha Janus lands EastEnders role — retrieved 01-04-2009". Digitalspy.co.uk. 2007-05-11. http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/soaps/a46438/samantha-janus-lands-eastenders-role.html. Retrieved 2009-10-22. 
  11. http://www.bbc.co.uk/eastenders/characters_cast/cast/cast_samantha_j.shtml www.bbc.co.uk/eastenders - EastEnders - Samantha Janus — retrieved 01-04-2009
  12. Smart, Gordon (6 January 2011). "Samantha Womack quits EastEnders over cot death". The Sun (London). http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/showbiz/tv/soaps/3333423/Samantha-Womack-quits-EastEnders-over-cot-death.html. Retrieved 6 January 2011. 
  13. Mangan, L. (2011-03-04). "The Guardian, TV Review". London. http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/2011/mar/03/love-they-neighbour-review. Retrieved March 4, 2011. 
  14. Barbican programme for South Pacific, 2011
  15. =[1]
  16. "Sam and Bianca are Bolt babes". London: Thesun.co.uk. 2009-02-02. http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/showbiz/film/article2197016.ece. Retrieved 2009-10-22. 
  17. Births England and Wales 1837-2006
  18. 18.0 18.1 "EastEnders' wife-swap? | Metro.co.uk". Metro.co.uk. 2007-11-27. http://www.metro.co.uk/fame/article.html?in_article_id=77240&in_page_id=7&in_a_source=. Retrieved 2009-10-22. 
  19. Samantha Janus
  20. "Samantha Womack's baby ban". STV. STV (TV network). 16 August 2009. http://entertainment.stv.tv/tv/116409-samantha-womacks-baby-ban/. Retrieved 3 December 2010. 
  21. "EastEnders — Characters & Cast — Samantha Womack". BBC. 2007-07-24. http://www.bbc.co.uk/eastenders/characters_cast/cast/cast_samantha_j.shtml. Retrieved 2009-10-22. 
  22. "Rita Simons and Samantha Janus — Digital Spy Soap Awards 2008 - Digital Spy". Digital Spy<!. http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/soaps/i126523/rita-simons-and-samantha-janus.html. Retrieved 2009-10-22. 
  23. "Soaps — News — Walford actress struggled with kissing scene — Digital Spy". Digital Spy<!. 2008-01-19. http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/soaps/a86246/walford-actress-struggled-with-kissing-scene.html. Retrieved 2009-10-22. 
  24. Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 279. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 

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