The Coronation Street actress from Herefordshire alongside the heartbeat of Games of Thrones
She has performed alongside some of the most recognizable names in television and stage. But now Ledbury actress and disability activist Melissa Johns is stepping onto the stage with Games of Thrones star Kit Harington.
And she is completely unfazed. Speaking fresh from West End rehearsals for Henry V, Melissa, 32, says Kit is “just wonderful, a lovely, kind person”.
Shakespeare’s play opened this week at the Donmar Warehouse in Covent Garden, London, and stars Jon Snow himself. As well as Melissa, who you might recognize as Imogen Pascoe on Coronation Street between 2017 and 2019.
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She has come a long way from Ledbury’s Market Theatre, where she first dipped her toes into the acting world, with LADS (Ledbury Amateur Dramatic Society).
Since graduating from East 15 Acting School in 2012, Melissa has rarely left our screen, stage or radio.
She appeared alongside Alison Steadman in Life, Robson Green in Granchester, toured Coronation Street extensively and appeared on stage in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre.
“It’s not a business for the faint-hearted,” says Melissa.
“It can be tough. You have to go through all the pushbacks and no thanks and then you get the breakthrough roles. But as soon as the job comes back to you, it can be taken over. As an actor, you can never be complacent. “
Raised in Ledbury, Melissa was born without her right forearm and hand.
“I’m first and foremost an actress,” she says. “But I overwhelmingly accept being an actress with a disability.
“For too long the word disability has been used pejoratively and it has led people to believe it’s a dirty word. It’s not.”
She has become an informal influencer through her work with Triple C, where she advocates for greater access to the arts and media for people with disabilities.
She wears another campaign hat for accessibility to Shakespeare’s work.
He is widely regarded as the greatest English writer of all time. Yet many of us leave school unable to do the head or tail of its work. Johns wants to change that through her role in Henry V as Mistress Quickly.
She is proud of her working-class background and it helps her demystify the bard.
“I had the most wonderful upbringing. My father is of gypsy origin and cannot read or write. We had no books at home and I was afraid of having to read English aloud So it’s very important for me to understand every word of the show and for the audience to understand every word too.
“That’s why I love playing Shakespeare today. He wrote about real people.”
Henry V runs until April 9 – click here for more information and to buy tickets.
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