Ashley Jensen: Scottish Actor

A month ago I had no idea about Ashley Jensen. Never heard of her or watched any of her work. Many hours of viewing later, I am admirer of her work.

Courtesy of Acorn TV, I have viewed two of her television series. Jensen could be the British equivalent of Jean Smart, Catherine Bell or Katherine Heigl.

Jensen has appeared in Ricky Gervais’ Extras series and Ugly Betty, so she is known to American audiences – well, most everyone except me. She worked again with Gervais in his After Life series.

Adept at both drama and light comedy, she can walk the high wire of doing them both convincingly in the same role. As an actor over age 40 (actually, currently age 52), she can play romantic and comedic leads. She brings an exasperated vulnerability and a resilient dependability, whether a lead detective or a struggling mother/partner/career woman. Realism and compassion standout in the roles I’ve seen. She can certainly carry a program, but works effectively as part of an ensemble where she can interact with a variety of characters and situations.

Here are the two roles where I got to know Ashley Jensen.

Love, Lies & Records (2017).

Jensen is senior registrar Kate Dickenson who has just been promoted to superintendent over the registrar’s office, until her nemesis blackmails her with a sex video, so Kate steps down from the promotion. The video is of Kate with a colleague, not her longtime partner. Kate is really good at her job and has proven she has leadership skills, but is also balancing a very demanding home life with three kids and her police detective partner.

The six episode series blends the problems of work, home and her conflicted feelings for her partner, who wants to marry her, and those of her younger colleague, who wants to be with her.

The registrar’s office is the official recorder of births, deaths, marriages and new citizens. The setting provides many opportunities for quirky characters and interesting personal stories.

Agatha Raisin (2014-).

A series owhich I found watchable and full of believable drama. Although I think comedy is Jensen’s greatest strength, she is quite good as the torn and struggling lead character in this series.

Based on a series of mystery books by M.C. Beaton, Jensen plays Agatha Raisin, the crime fighting private detective, in the idyllic English countryside. Raisin is a London PR executive who leaves that harried life for what might have been a quieter existence, but becomes involved in a murder. From there she stays and eventually gets her license to be a private investigator.

Jensen’s Raisin is apparently a much younger and less frumpy version of Beaton’s character. Think Emma Peel instead of Jane Marple. Not having read the book series, I have no issues with her casting.

The fictional village of Carsely is probably most Americans’ view of the English countryside. Lush with colorful flowers everywhere, estates and quaint cottages.

M.C. Beaton and Ashley Jensen

Agatha Raisin is an ensemble series, each episode based on a Beaton book. I immediately thought of Hallmark mysteries when I viewed the first episode. Breezy, attractive, lighthearted fare, with quirky, inviting characters.

The fourth season is airing, which brings the total episodes to 25. I started on season two and then watched season three.

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