Born in Holyhead, Wales on 11 October 1957, Dawn Roma French is a British actress, writer and comedian. She was educated at the independent St Dunstan’s Abbey School, then attended Caistor Grammar School in Caistor. She won a debating scholarship that brought her to study at the Spence School in New York. She studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama in 1977, where she met her future comedy partner, Jennifer Saunders. At first, as far as Saunders was concerned, French was a “cocky little upstart”. French considered Saunders snooty and aloof. They shared a flat whilst at college and were influenced to do comedy by their flatmates as part of their projects for college. After talking in depth for the first time, they came to be friends.
After they graduated, they formed a double-act called the Menopause Sisters. They came to public attention as members of the Comic Strip, part of the alternative comedy scene in the early 1980’s, producing the series The Comic Strip presents. Besides this they also wrote and starred in their own comedy series, ‘French & Saunders’, which debuted in 1987, and ‘Absolutely Fabulous’, which debuted in 1992.
In 1986, Dawn French appeared in Kate’s music video for Experiment IV. She also appeared in music videos by Alison Moyet and together with Bananarama, Jennifer Saunders and Kathy Burke as Lananeeneenoonoo.
French’s biggest solo television role to date has been as the title figure in the long running and popular BBC comedy The Vicar of Dibley, which Richard Curtis created for her. She starred as Geraldine Granger, a vicar of a small village called Dibley.
She married Lenny Henry in 1984, a marriage that ended in separation 25 years later. Along with Jennifer Saunders, Dawn declined an OBE in 2001.