Tracy-Ann Oberman: Wikis


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Tracy-Ann Oberman
Born Tracy-Anne Oberman[1]
15 August 1969 (1969-08-15) (age 40)
London, England
Occupation Actress, playwright, writer
Years active 1993-present
Spouse(s) Rob Cowan
(m. 2004-present)

Tracy-Ann Oberman (born 15 August 1969(1969-08-15) in London) is an English television, theatre and radio actress, widely known for her role as Chrissie Watts in the BBC soap opera Eastenders.[2][3] She is also an accomplished writer, contributing to a number of radio sketch shows and in 2008 co-authored with Diane Samuels the critically acclaimed play Three Sisters on Hope Street. In 2007 she was a regular columnist for The Guardian newspaper.

Oberman trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London, and spent four years in the Royal Shakespeare Company, before going on to play at the National Theatre. Her extensive theatrical background includes turns opposite Kenneth Branagh in Edmond (2003) and a run in the West End revival of Boeing-Boeing (2007-2008). Most recently she appeared in the world premier of On the Rocks (2008) as Frieda Lawrence at Hampstead Theatre.

Oberman was widely praised for her portrayal of Chrissie Watts in EastEnders from 2004-2005. She played the lead antagonist in the two-part finale to the second season of Doctor Who (2006) opposite David Tennant, and in 2009 made guest staring roles in Mistresses, Robin Hood, and Doctors. Prior to EastEnders Oberman appeared in a variety of television programmes including Casualty (1997-1998), Kiss Me Kate (1998), and The Bill (2000), and carved out a comedic niche with leading roles in Bob Martin (2000-2001), Lenny Henry In Pieces (2000-2003) and Big Train (2002).

Oberman has performed in more than 600 radio plays since the mid-90s.[4]



Tracy Ann Oberman was born in Greater London, Middlesex, in 1969. She grew up in North London, attending Heathfield School for Girls, before going on to study Classics at Leeds; however, after a year she moved to Manchester University to pursue drama.[5] After graduating she was accepted into the Central School of Speech and Drama, where she trained as an actor.[6] In 1991, Oberman went to study at the Moscow Arts Theatre School as part of further training at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Oberman has spoken of how her drive for professionalism was a result of her parents' initial concern with her career choice.[5] Coming from a strong legal background, her family "weren’t wildly happy" about her desire to become an actor: "My parents were always making me watch Rumpole of the Bailey, going ‘You see? It’s just like acting, you make things up, you wear a wig and a funny outfit. Why not the law?’ But I just always, always wanted to act, as far back as I remember."[7] Joining the Royal Shakespeare Company though, finally won her parents over.[5] However, in a 2004 interview Oberman noted that her father's death seven years earlier prevented him seeing the development of her career and her national success as an actor: "I've come a long way in my career since he died and I wish he was here to see it. He was a big EastEnders fan so I know he'd be very, very proud of me."[8]


Early work on stage and radio

After leaving the Central School of Speech and Drama, Oberman was accepted into the Royal Shakespeare Company. In 1993 she took part in the RSC's award-winning production of Christopher Marlowe's Tamburlaine as "Olympia".[9][10] This was followed by roles in The Changeling, as "Diaphanta", A Jovial Crew in the part of "Joan Cope", and The Beggar's Opera where she played "Molly Brazen". In 1994 she completed her run at the RSC playing in Macbeth and A Christmas Carol. After performing in a number of West End productions, Oberman played at the Royal National Theatre in Waiting for Leftie during 1999. This was followed by a starring turn in School Play at the Soho Theatre. The play was lauded by Michael Billington as a "remarkable" production, with The Guardian critic praising Oberman for her successful portrayal of "Miss Fay" as "the teacher torn between her own career and her pupil's potential".[11]

In 2003, Oberman returned to the National Theatre in Edmond, playing opposite Kenneth Branagh in her debut at the National and his first forray into acting after six years of directing.[12] Her role as wife to Branagh's title character was well received by critics, Norman Miller in a BBC News review commending Oberman for making a particular "impression" despite being only one part out of thirty "whirling through scenes" in a play that runs barely over an hour.[13] That year also saw her star in Hello and Goodbye at the Southwark Playhouse in what would be her final stage performance for four years. The play was highly acclaimed. According to Fiona Mountford in The Evening Standard, the production was "given the outing of its life by" Oberman and her co-star, Zubin Varla.[14] The review in The British Theatre Guide was similarly positive, praising Oberman who "rages away" in the role of "Hester", and delivers "one of the best performances in town".[15]

In addition to the stage, Oberman began working in radio after she left the RSC and has appeared in over 600 radio plays.

She has acted extensively in radio drama and radio comedy, appearing regularly on BBC Radio 4 as a member of the station's unofficial "repertory" company, including; The Way It Is (1998–2001), the leading role in The Attractive Young Rabbi (1999–2002), The Sunday Format (1999–2004), and Getting Nowhere Fast.

She has appeared in many TV programmes including; The Way It Is (2000), Bob Martin (2000–2001) opposite Michael Barrymore, Lenny Henry in Pieces (2000-2001), Big Train (2002), SuperTex (2003) and in episodes of Doctors, The Last Detective, Where the Heart Is, The Bill, Casualty. She played the previously unseen character of Marion in a special half-hour episode of the monologue series Marion and Geoff in 2001.

She has also written comedy sketches and an award-winning sitcom for BBC Three, The Harringham Harker.

In 2004, Oberman was runner up on a celebrity edition of Mastermind (her specialist subject being the "Imperial Roman family"), and scored the highest IQ when she appeared on Test The Nation

Television and Eastenders

In 1997 Oberman scored her first major television role when she was cast as Zoe Gerrard, a security officer in the medical drama Casualty. In 1998, she joined the cast of Comedy Nation, a satirical sketch show that featured some of Britain's leading up-and-coming comedians, such as Sacha Baron-Cohen, Julian Barratt, and Robert Webb.[16] This was followed by an assortment of parts in various television productions, including a performance in a two-part story for the police serial The Bill in 2000. That year Oberman was cast as series regular "Beverly Jordan" opposite Michael Barrymore in Bob Martin,[17] and became a lead performer in the award-nominated Lenny Henry in Pieces, staring comedian Lenny Henry, which ran until 2003.[18] In 2002 Oberman joined the second and final series of the sketch show Big Train, performing beside comedians Simon Pegg and Catherine Tate.[19] The following year saw the Harringham Harker move from radio to television as part of BBC 2's Autumn line-up alongside The Office and Coupling, with Oberman continuing in her role as lead and writer.[20]

In 2004 Oberman moved away from comedy to join the BBC's long running soap drama EastEnders, after she was cast as Chrissie Watts, the second wife of "one of the best-loved villains in soap history", 'Dirty' Den Watts.[21] It was a role she played for almost two years, and which brought her "stratospheric fame".[12] At the time, though, television critics pointed to Oberman's extensive theatrical background and questioned "why would an actress with such pedigree agree to be in EastEnders?"[22] Oberman has continuously responded by placing the move in the context of her professional exposure, noting her position as a "jobbing actress" at the time and her desire to return to drama after her recent comedic roles.[23] Making her debut on the 29 April, Oberman was viewed as an "overnight success" in the role of Chrissie, with Amy Raphael of The Telegraph feeling that the actress "easily upstaged the rest of the cast with her three-dimensional portrayal of a classic soap bitch".[22] In 2005, "18 million people" watched her character kill Den in a fit of rage to mark the 20th anniversary of EastEnders, with Oberman "anchoring" the show's success that year and dominating drama as Chrissie,[24] who "packed into a year what most soap characters do in three."[25] Commenting on her role two years after she left the show, Oberman concluded:

I think the character, from the feedback I get, made a huge impact because people couldn’t decide whether she was a villain or a victim. In hindsight I loved it; I loved the character, I loved the acting challenge, I loved the discipline. You’re learning all the time because you literally do 25 scenes a day, go home, learn another 20 scenes, come in, film 20 scenes, go home… every day for a year and a half, and you do all your own stunts… being punched in the face by Peggy Mitchell and having to fall into a seven foot grave; it was fantastic. I was only in it for 18 months and it feels like I clocked up about three years worth of TV experience.[12]

Oberman described her time on EastEnders as "hectic", leading her to depart the show during December 2005.[26] However, the role of Chrissie has remained a defining point of her career. In a recent interview, Oberman remarked: "Chrissie was such a wonderful character and the show was watched by so many people, especially the murder of Den, that it opened up doors that I never thought it would. I had some fantastic offers when I left, there was film and theatre... it was wonderful for me; EastEnders is a very good calling card."[2] Oberman has also recently declared her willingness to return to the part of Chrissie and EastEnders, even if only to provide a resolution for the character.[27]

Later work

Before leaving EastEnders, Oberman provided the voice of "Miss Dickson" in the adult-themed cartoon Bromwell High for Channel Four. It was also announced that Oberman would guest star in the upcoming series of Doctor Who, playing the character of Yvonne Hartman, whom she described as "a sophisticated sort of badie", with a BBC source declaring Oberman "perfect to play evil Yvonne and will be brilliant at terrorising the next generation of viewers".[28] The two-part season finale entitled "Army of Ghosts" and "Doomsday", aired in July 2006, attracting audiences of 8.19 million[29] and 8.22 million[30] respectively. Oberman extols her apperance in Doctor Who as a career highlight, being a "self-confessed Whovian" or fan of the show: "Some people, their life’s ambition is to walk in and see the Queen Vic, mine was to see a Tardis and a sonic screwdriver… and a Dalek!"[12] That year also saw Oberman plan a return to the National Theatre in Mike Leigh's play, Two Thousand Years. Leigh had already asked Oberman to appear as part of the original cast, but she declined given her hectic schedule on EastEnders at the time. However, after she signed up for the 2006 production and began attending rehearsals she fell ill, a blood test revealing that she was pregnant, forcing her to pull out of the play.[22] Instead, Oberman signed on to the BBC One six-part comedy drama series Sorted as series regular "Amy", alongside Will Mellor.

The birth of her daughter meant that despite receiving "fantastic offers" in "film and theatre" after leaving EastEnders, Oberman "ended up taking a couple of years out".[2] Although she undertook a one-off performance of The Oak Tree at the Soho Theatre in 2007, it wasn't until the end of the year that she returned full-time to work in the West End revival of Boeing-Boeing, playing "Gretchen" opposite Jean Marsh and Jennifer Ellison. In 2008 she also made a brief return to TV in the CBBC production Summerhill, the first in a series of roles she would undertake for children’s television in the coming years, commenting "I think as long as the production values are high, it doesn't matter who it's aimed at. Often the writing for kids shows is excellent and you get some great actors in them".[2]

In July 2008 Oberman continued her theatre run by staring in the world premiere of On the Rocks as Frieda Lawrence, wife of novelist D. H. Lawrence. The play, by Amy Rosenthal, follows the marriage of the Lawrences during one idyllic summer in 1916,[31] and received generally favourable reviews,[32][33] with Arts critic Michael Billington describing Oberman's performance as "capturing Frieda's intense love-hate relationship with her impossible partner".[34] Similarly, the Mail praised "Miss Oberman" as "convincingly saucy and dim", but questioned whether her German accent needed to be "Kvite So Heffy?".[35] The censure was echoed by Nicholas de Jongh in the Evening Standard in his less than enthusiastic review of the play, criticising Oberman for her "often unintelligible German accent".[36] However, most reviews followed the line taken by Benedict Nightingale of The Times in declaring Oberman to have given a "fine performance... as a gloriously sensual, blowsily defiant Frieda".[37]

In 2009, Oberman made a number of guest starring roles in BBC television programmes, beginning with Mistresses in which she played the owner of a sex-toy company. This was followed by a part in the BBC One drama Robin Hood, as the wife of the Sherriff of York. In September, Oberman returned to the medical series Doctors five years after first appearing in the programme, undertaking the role of 'black widow' Cathy Harley.[3] However, Oberman was most excited about her part in the "web thriller" Girl Number 9,[38] which she playfully described as "the first Twitter-related drama that there's ever been!"[39] Penned by James Moran, the adult themed online horror series was headlined as a "big step forward" for British web drama,[40] with Oberman playing the lead detective "Lyndon" beside Gareth David-Lloyd.[41]

At the end of 2009, Oberman returned to radio to star in "Gregory Evans’ mind-boggling play" Shirleymander for Radio 4, with reviewer Moira Petty describing Oberman's turn as Dame Shirley Porter as "freakishly real".[42] In 2010 Oberman remained with the radio medium, performing opposite Catherine Tate.

Oberman kept up her string of TV guest appearances with a role in the drama Tracy Beaker Returns, playing "Terrie Fender", a travel agent and con artist. She also joined the junior spy series M.I. High, as the "Grand Mistress". Appearing on the chat show, The Wright Stuff, Oberman revealed that she undertook the part because M. I. High was her nephew's favourite programme, but also added that she was a fan herself, describing it as a "junior version of Spooks.[43]


From 2006-2007 Tracy-Ann Oberman was a regular columnist for The Guardian newspaper.[44]

Three Sisters on Hope Street

In 2007 Oberman co-wrote Three Sisters on Hope Street with playwright and neighbour Diane Samuels. The play is a reinterpretation of Chekhov's The Three Sisters, transferring events to Liverpool after World War 2 and re-casting the Pozorov sisters as three Jewish Englishwomen. In an interview on Radio 4, Oberman spoke of the original inspiration and long gestation of the play:

I had done The Three Sisters at drama school, where I played Mascha, and I was aware while I was doing the play of how funny I found it... [which] did not seem to be the general consensus. In my last year of drama school I went to the Moscow Arts Theatre School for a term, and whilst I was there I studied Chekhov... [and saw] a production of The Seaguls that I found hilarious, and I was sort of sitting there in the home of Chekhov's birth and I realised that I had hit on something that I really felt in my bones... I loved The Three Sisters and I went back to read it while I was in Moscow and I was just struck by how similar it was to the family I grew up in.[45]

Oberman described her work as "A kind of Three Sisters via Woody Allen", reflecting the humour she saw in Chekhov's story.[12] She expanded upon this personal connection in an article for The Guardian: "Chekhov wrote about a world I recognised from my childhood - where intense pain is covered by bravura and humour, and where intense longing is masked by self-deprecation and wit. There was the same obsession with death, the same fierce familial loyalty, the same tendency toward melodrama - as well as a great passion for food."[46] After returning from Moscow, Oberman continued to work on her reinterpretation for the next 15 years, but lacked the confidence to take her project further. However, after her success in EastEnders she was offered "a lot of work" and was "in a position where I could green-light stuff for myself", determining that "this was the moment when I was going to make this dream happen".[45]

A chance discussion with Diane Samuels in the back of a taxi one night led to collaboration between the two. Oberman had had difficulty deciding where to transpose Chekhov's narrative, with Samuels offering up the idea of Liverpool, her home town, and the two agreeing on the post-war time frame: "Liverpudlians have their own black sense of humour and comic timing, born out of having their city blown to smithereens during the war".[46] This informed the new Jewish sensibility of the play which was anchored to the tone of Chekhov's original, where the melodrama of the Pozorov family masked the pain and social upheaval all about them. Oberman felt this echoed the way the Jewish community in Britain acted in the wake of the Holocaust: "people that close to the Second World War just didn’t talk about it – a bit like the elephant in the room".[45] The intent of the play was "to take a family who have the Holocaust hanging over them, and still have them laugh and moan and bicker while wondering what's for breakfast".[46]

Three Sisters on Hope Street opened at the Everyman in Liverpool on the 25 January before beginning a second run at Hampstead Theatre in London. The play received "rave reviews",[47] being described as "an inventive reimagining"[48] and "a bold, fresh and fruitful reinterpretation", showcasing "lively and intelligent" writing.[49] Philip Key in the Liverpool Daily Post praised the adaptation as successfully capturing the sensibility of Liverpool, enabling the story to "be familiar to both theatre-goers and many Liverpudlians."[50] Peter Fisher of The British Theatre Guide was even more ecstatic, describing the production as a "superb project" and a "superb evening's entertainment".[51] However, other reviewers were more ambiguous, with Michael Coveney branding the play a "clever re-write" but poorly served by the actors involved.[52] Similarly, The Guardian Arts editor felt the piece to be "a surprisingly faithful transposition", which "ingeniously" solves some of the problems inherent in relocating the original, but objected to what he saw was a "dependence on authorial cleverness in finding post-war parallels to their source".[53]

The play became the source of some controversy following a behind-the-scenes rupture between Oberman and Samuels.[54] The latter initially denied the rumour of an outright schism, contending that "Without some argy bargy, no creative process could happen". In an interview with The Times, Oberman expanded: "This process has been really hard. I’m a natural collaborator, but I’ve never written anything so close to my heart. It’s been really, really difficult for me to let it go. This production might not be my ultimate vision of the play... But I’m determined now to trust, sit back and enjoy it with everybody else."[7]

Other work

She has appeared as a guest reviewer on an episode of Film 2007 with Jonathan Ross, as a contestant on a Doctor Who special of The Weakest Link and as a special guest performer in Tim Crouch's two-hander The Oak Tree at the Soho Theatre. In 2004 she came a close second place on Celebrity Mastermind, specialist subject being The Imperial Roman Family Augustus to Claudius Caesar.

In September 2005 she was a guest on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross In 2006 she was the guest on Nigel Slater's A Taste of My Life and in 2007 Oberman appeared on BBC One's Saturday Kitchen.

She is currently starring in the BBC Radio 4 show Rudy's Rare Records.

Tracey-Ann is also known for her narration of advertisements and documentaries such as Five's I'm A Celebrity: Who Really Won!.

She is featured in the video for The Yeah You's debut single "15 Minutes", hosting her own fictional chat show, interviewing the rock band.

She made it through to the quarter-finals of Celebrity Masterchef in 2009.

She is a keen Science Fiction buff.

Is a regular panelist on The Wright Stuff

Oberman hosted the "2009 International Hall of Fame Awards" at the International Women's Forum World Leadership Conference in Miami, October 7-9.[55]

Personal life

In 2004, Oberman became engaged to millionaire music producer Rob Cowan. The two were honeymooning in Thailand when the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami struck. In an interview with The People, Oberman described the experience as "one of those crystallized moments in my life. Its made me focus on the people I love. It also showed me the incredible generosity people are capable of. When you have seen something like that, you also stop taking the trivia so seriously".[25]

In 2005, Oberman was cast in Mike Leigh's play Two Thousand Years at the National Theatre but had to drop out when she became ill. In August 2006, Oberman gave birth to a girl, Anoushka India, at a Central London hospital with her husband Rob Cowan by her side.


Year Group Award Won Film/Television series
1998 BBC 3 Awards Comedy writing[5] Won Harringham Harker
2004 National Television Awards Most popular newcomer[56] Nominated EastEnders
British Soap Awards Best newcomer[56] Nominated
2005 British Soap Awards Villain of the year[57] Nominated EastEnders
British Soap Awards Best storyline (for Den's murder)[57] Won
Inside Soap Awards Best actress[57] Nominated
Inside Soap Awards Best bitch[57] Nominated
British Soap Awards Best dressed star[58] Won
2006 British Soap Awards Soap bitch of the year[57] Nominated EastEnders


Theatre and radio

Year Title Role Theatre
1993 Tamburlaine Olympia Royal Shakespeare Company
1993 The Changeling Diaphanta Royal Shakespeare Company
1993 A Jovial Crew Joan Cope Royal Shakespeare Company
1993 The Beggar's Opera Molly Brazen Royal Shakespeare Company
1993-94 Macbeth[59] Third Witch Royal Shakespeare Company
1994 A Christmas Carol Belle Royal Shakespeare Company
1995 Love for Love[60] Angelica New End Theatre, Hampstead
1998 Loot[61] Faye Vaudeville Theatre
1999 Waiting for Leftie Florence National Theatre
2001 School Play Miss Fry Soho Theatre
2003 Edmond[62] Wife Royal National Theatre
2003 Hello and Goodbye Hester Southwark Playhouse
2007 The Oak Tree[63] N/A Soho Theatre
2007-2008 Boeing! Boeing! Gretchen West End, London
2008 On the rocks Frieda Lawrence Hampstead Theatre, London
Year Title Role Format Radio Broadcast
1997 Man in the Elephant Mask[64] Play BBC Radio 4
1998-2001 The Way It Is Lolly Swain Serial BBC Radio 4
1999-2000 Sean Lock: 15 Storeys High Serial BBC Radio 4
1999-2002 The Attractive Young Rabbi Su Jacobs Serial BBC Radio 4
1999-2004 The Sunday Format[65] (Sketch show) Serial BBC Radio 4
2000 The Grass is Singing 3 episodes BBC Radio 4
2001-2003 Getting Nowhere Fast Chantal Serial BBC Radio 4
2002 Tango Sensations Play BBC Radio 4
2003 Rigor Mortis Play BBC Radio 4
2009 Shirleymander Dame Shirley Porter Play BBC Radio 4


Year Title Role Notes Production
1997 Loved By You Jenny Two episodes: "I'm just so happy for you", "Out of the past" Carlton
1997 The Grove Christine Carlton
1997-1998 Casualty Zoe Garrard Semi-regular BBC
1998 Comedy Nation Various Performer/writer BBC
1998 Kiss Me Kate Julia Episode 2: "Mike" BBC
2000 Strangerers Santina Episode 5: "Zap Type Z" Sky TV
2000 The Way It Is Lolly Swain One-off tv special BBC
2000 Rhona Kimbo Episode 4: "The Happy Jeans" BBC
2000 The Bill Helen Jensen "First Impressions" part 1 & 2 Thames Television
2000-2001 Bob Martin Beverely Jordan Series regular Granada
2000-2003 Lenny Henry In Pieces Female lead Sketch comedy BBC
2001 The Cow The Narrator Century Films/Channel 4
2001 Starhunter Zelda Episode 16 Starhunter Productions
2001 Happiness Julia Jacob Episode 2: "I'm doing it for me" BBC
2001 Marion and Geoff: A small summer party Marion One-off special BBC
2002 Big Train Various Female lead and writer Talkback Productions
2003 Harrington Harker Diedra Portland Female lead BBC
2003 Where the Heart Is Sylvia Enwright Episode 8: "Mister and Missus" ITV
2004 The Last Detective Mandy Episode 2 ITV
2004 Doctors Lynne Preston Episode 56: "Two's company" BBC
2004 Murder in Suburbia Chloe Walters Episode 6 ITV
2004-2005 EastEnders Chrissie Watts Series regular BBC
2005 Bromwell High Melanie Dickinson Animation, series regular Channel 4
2006 Sorted Amy Series regular BBC
2006 Doctor Who Yvonne Hartman Season finale two-parter: "Army of Ghosts", "Doomsday" BBC
2008 Summerhill Alice Ford Telemovie BBC
2009 Mistresses Henrietta Episode 5 BBC
2009 Robin Hood Gwyneth Episode: "The Enemy of my Enemy" BBC
2009 Doctors Cathy Harley Episode 113: "The Black Widow" BBC
2010 Tracy Beaker Returns Terrie Fender BBC
2010 M.I. High The Grand Mistress Episode 2 BBC


Year Title Role Director Production
2003 SuperTex Lea Van Gelder Jan Schutte Halebob Films
2003 The Early Days Ursula Chris Stevenson Channel 4 Films/Shine
2009 Girl Number 9 Lyndon James Moran & Dan Turner Baker Coogan Production
2010 The Infidel Julie Cohen Josh Appignanesi Solly Film


Year Title Format Notes Production
1995-1996 News Review Radio series Writer and performer BBC
1997 Comedy Nation Radio series Writer and performer BBC
1998-2000 Harringham Harker Radio series Writer and performer BBC
2008 Three sisters on Hope Street Theatrical play Writer The Everyman, Liverpool
Hampstead, London


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