Former ‘EastEnders’ Actress Josephine Melville Dies Backstage at Play

Josephine Melville
Will Conran/Getty Images
Josephine Melville in 2003

British actor and director Josephine Melville died on Thursday, October 20, after collapsing backstage at the play in which she was performing.

According to BBC News, Melville was treated by paramedics and a medically-qualified audience member at the Nottingham Playhouse in Nottingham, England, but died at the scene. A cause of death has not been released.

“We are deeply saddened to announce that last night the actor Josephine Melville passed away backstage at Nottingham Playhouse following the performance of the play Nine Night, in which she was performing,” the theater said in a statement. “Josephine’s family have been informed, and our thoughts and deep condolences are with them.”

The Nottingham Playhouse also canceled the remaining performances of the play.

“We send our love and condolences to Jo’s family and friends,” said Stephanie Sirr, the playhouse’s chief executive. “On a deeply tragic and extremely difficult evening, we want to pay tribute to the company of Nine Night and to the whole Nottingham Playhouse team who managed the situation with empathy and professionalism.”

In a 1986 arc on the BBC soap EastEnders, Melville played Tessa Parker, a college friend of college friend of Kelvin Carpenter (Paul J. Medford) and Harry Reynolds (Gareth Potter), according to the Associated Press. She returned to the show in 2005 to play the character Ellie Wright.

Melville also appeared in the British TV series The Bill, Casualty, and Prime Suspect. Last year, she released Assistance, a short film she directed and produced, and participated in Know Your Roots, a project celebrating Black women’s hair. Melville’s most recent screen credit was a role in this year’s music video for Ella Henderson’s song “Brave,” though she also has a part in the completed sci-fi thriller Slammer.

In Nine Night, a coproduction with Leeds Playhouse, Melville played the role of Auntie Maggie.

“The entire company and staff at both theaters are in a state of shock,” Nottingham Playhouse’s statement added. “Josephine was a truly wonderful and well-loved person, a revered and deeply respected performer, director, producer, archivist, and writer, and a tremendous Auntie Maggie in Nine Night.”