Marianne Jean-Baptiste on Broadchurch and life after Without a Trace

The London-born actress is now best known for her work in America - but she's not left her roots behind

She had her doubts about LA initially. “Having to drive everywhere used to drive me nuts,” she shrieks. “So did the positivity!” Her epiphany came on a trip back to London where she had a cab driver who was “particularly unhelpful and grumpy, and I thought: even if it’s fake over there, I prefer it to being abused by someone I’m gonna give money to.” 

Advertisement

She’s glad that Without a Trace ended when it did, in 2009 (“I was becoming stifled, creatively and if it had carried on, I’d have been, ‘If you do this, you’ll be able to get your floors done, a new roof, an apartment in New York…’”). She had eight months off and did “kid things and wife stuff ”. An offer to do Shakespeare in the Park in the summer of 2010 in New York’s Central Park became the decider.

“I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to act any more. But it was fantastic – the actors wanted to be there, they knew their lines, they wanted to work, it was magical. You’ll be in the middle of a speech and a racoon will walk onstage!”

Jean-Baptiste in Without a Trace

Since her open-air comeback gigs, she’s appeared in TV’s Sons of Anarchy, and two big- budget sci-fi films, Edge of Tomorrow and RoboCop. “I still take my own lunches to work,” she says when I ask her if success has made her grand. “That way I can control what I’m eating, as opposed to another doughnut.”

As if to prove her own groundedness, she flew back to London last year to star in the National Theatre’s revival of James Baldwin’s 1965 play The Amen Corner, set in a Harlem church.

What does she miss about LA? “The sunshine. My garden. Walking my dog, a Rhodesian Ridgeback – a big old thing called Lotus.”

And what do you miss about London? “Caribbean culture. The sense of humour. And theatre.” 

Advertisement

Broadchurch continues on ITV tonight (Monday 19th January) at 9.00pm