Blogtor Who takes a look at Suzanne Packer, one of the guest stars in this week’s episode of Doctor Who, The Tsuranga Conundrum.
Welsh actor Suzanne Packer is a familiar face on television in both home-grown productions and throughout the UK. Born in Cardiff in 1958, Packer found acting at an early age, attending the National Youth Theatre of Wales before graduating in theatre and drama from the University of Warwick, and further honing her skills at London’s Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art.
Although Packer has also spent time teaching drama at secondary level – she gained a teaching degree from Goldsmith’s College in 1996 – acting remains her first love, with a diverse and substantial list of both regular and guest roles to her name. Read on for just some of Packer’s career highlights…
Best Known For…
Packer’s most high-profile role was in the BBC medical drama series Casualty. Following a one-episode guest appearance as drugs mule Candice Francis in 1996, Packer joined the show on a regular basis in 2003 as Emergency Nurse Practitioner – later Clinical Nurse Manager – Tess Bateman.
Although she was a stickler for the rules, Tess’ business-like exterior belied her caring nature and wicked, dry sense of humor. Tess endured her fair share of drama over her 400-plus episodes of Casualty, including an affair with nurse Fletch (Alex Walkinshaw), her son’s bi-polar and being impaled on a spike for an entire episode. Tess made her exit in 2015 to spend time with son Sam (Luke Bailey) and his newborn son, but returned for the show’s 30th anniversary in 2016.
But Casualty wasn’t Packer’s only long-running character. From 1990-93, and then again in 2000, she appeared in Brookside as Josie Johnson, wife of Mick – whose portrayer Louis Emerick would later go on to play Packer’s on-screen husband again in Casualty. The Liverpool-based soap was noted throughout its run for its realistic and hard-hitting storylines, but declining ratings eventually led to its cancellation in 2003 after 21 years on air.
Made In Wales
Earlier this year, Packer was seen in the hit thriller series, Keeping Faith. The drama starred Eve Myles (Torchwood’s Gwen Cooper) as Faith Howells, a lawyer, wife and mother drawn into a mystery when her husband and business partner Ewan disappears. Filmed concurrently in Welsh and English, Packer featured in the latter version as Delyth Lloyd, secretary at Howells. Keeping Faith – which is returning for a second series next year – enjoyed a hugely positive audience response on its airings on S4C (as Un Bore Mercher), BBC Wales, and later BBC One.
Packer also appeared in last year’s Bang, a bilingual crime drama series set in Port Talbot. Packer played Chief Inspector Layla Davies in the show, the boss of police officer Gina, played by Catrin Stewart (Doctor Who’s Jenny Flint).
Bang was not the first show to feature both Packer and Stewart. In 2016 Packer appeared as Carole throughout the fifth series of the Sky1 comedy-drama Stella, which was co-created by and starred Ruth Jones (Gavin and Stacey) in the title role, with Stewart as her daughter, Emma.
Earlier this year Packer found herself on familiar ground with her role as a coronary care nurse in BBC Wales’ The NHS: To Provide All People. The one-off film poem was penned by renowned poet Owen Sheers to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the NHS, and is based on real-life interviews and testimonies. Packer starred alongside a stellar cast including Michael Sheen, Eve Myles, Martin Freeman, Meera Syal and Jonathan Pryce.
More recently Packer has appeared in the Welsh comedy, Tourist Trap. The sitcom – which finished airing on BBC One Wales earlier this month but is still available on BBC iPlayer nationwide, follows the tourist team of Wow Wales, tasked with selling Wales to the world. Packer appeared as Mair in the third episodeof the show, which stars comic actors Sally Phillips and Elis James.
Other TV Work
As well as her substantial body of work on Welsh TV, Packer has appeared in a number of guest roles in UK-wide shows, including Grange Hill, Vera, Hold The Sunset, Death in Paradise, and the award-winning 3000th episode of Midlands-based soap Doctors.
Packer also appeared throughout the 2016 ITV series The Level. The crime drama featured Packer as Theresa Devlin, the mother of DS Nancy Devlin (Karla Crome), who finds herself investigating a case she has personal involvement in – and which leaves her not knowing who to trust.
This summer Packer appeared in On The Edge: A Mother’s Love as the headteacher of 11-year-old Ishmael (Keajohon Jennings Dillon), who witnesses a gangland killing on his estate and is subsequently asked to testify against the killer. On The Edge was an anthology of three one-off dramas from Channel 4 showcasing diverse new writers and directors.
Packer On Stage
Whilst primarily known for her work on the small screen, Packer has also enjoyed success in theatre, particularly throughout the 90s and early 00s. Productions include Shakespeare classics Measure for Measure, Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, the musicals Once On This Island and Carmen Jones, and the Gershwin opera Porgy and Bess.
In 2016 Packer appeared in an all-female production of Henry VI, directed by Yvonne Murphy and co-produced by Wales Millennium Centre and Omidaze Productions. Packer played Queen Margaret amongst other roles in the play, described by the British Theatre Guide as ‘a remarkable, darkly beautiful, seductively immersive experience’.
Packer’s most recent stage role, also at Wales Millennium Centre, was in Tiger Bay: The Musical, a new show which premiered in November 2017. Packer played landlady Marisha in the production, which tells the story of Tiger Bay’s diverse and multicultural history in the 1900s.
Packer is also a founding member of the production company BiBi Crew. Composed solely of black women, the troupe blends music, dance, comedy and drama to produce new writing from an African Caribbean perspective and bring it to a wider audience.
The BiBi Crew formed in the 1990s, and toured their first two shows around the UK, as well as being invited to perform in New York. Disbanding to focus on their own projects and families, the crew reformed in 2005. The current line up – featuring Packer alongside Judith Jacob, Suzette Llewellyn, Josephine Melville, and Beverley Michaels – have most recently played a series of London dates across 2017/18 with their latest show, Get Raunchy.
As well as a second series of Keeping Faith, Packer has been announced as part of the cast for the upcoming BBC Agatha Christie adaptation, The ABC Murders. Adapted by Sarah Phelps – who also wrote the screenplay for Christie’s Ordeal By Innocence, which aired earlier this year – the three-part drama will star John Malkovich as Belgian detective Hercule Poirot alongside Harry Potter‘s Rupert Grint as Inspector Crome.
Returning next year, meanwhile, is Go Dad Run, a charity project co-founded in 2013 by Packer along with her younger brother, the former Olympic hurdler Colin Jackson. Go Dad Run aims to raise awareness of and funds for key men’s health charities through a series of 5K and 10K runs across the country for men and boys. The charity’s projects were rested this year but are set to make a comeback in 2019; for more information on Go Dad Run and how to get involved visit the charity’s site.
The Tsuranga Conundrum
Packer will guest star in Sunday’s episode of Doctor Who as Eve Cicero, a character who is clearly linked in some way to fellow guest star Ben Bailey Smith’s character, Durkas Cicero.
The Tsuranga Conundrum will see team TARDIS, stranded and injured in the wilds of a far-flung galaxy, band together with a group of strangers to survive against one of the universe’s deadliest and most unusual creatures. But who exactly is Eve Cicero, and how is she involved?
Doctor Who continues this Sunday at 7pm GMT on BBC One and at 8pm EST on BBC America with The Tsuranga Conundrum by Chris Chibnall. Series 11 stars Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brien), and Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair). The Tsuranga Conundrum guest stars Brett Goldstein, Lois Chimimba, Suzanne Packer, and Ben Bailey-Smith, and is directed by Jennifer Perrott.