Sure, Tamsin Greig had a first class degree in Drama from Birmingham University. But, sitting on a swivel chair shuffling papers as a temp in the office of the Family Planning Association, she’d have been forgiven for wondering if she’d ever get the fabled “big break”. Although her CV boasted a recurring part on The Archers since 1991 and a stint on a car insurance commercial (filmed three weeks after giving birth to her first baby), it wasn’t until 1996 that she got a meaty bit on Neverwhere, a sprawling fantasy series written by cult comic supremo Neil Gaiman. Which, as breakthrough roles go, sure beats playing Bleeding Patient # 1 on Casualty.
Things become unfeasibly interesting for Tamsin in the following years. Despite being a self-confessed corpser, she landed major parts in two of the best sitcoms of the Noughties: Black Books and Green Wing. She further burnished her cool credentials when she teamed up with Black Books' co-stars Dylan Moran and Simon Pegg to make a cameo appearance in Shaun of the Dead, and she's popped up as a nurse in an episode of Doctor Who.
Her serious thesp side has come out more in recent years, with Tamsin bagging a prestigious Olivier Award for a 2006 production of Much Ado About Nothing in which she played Beatrice. So excited and surprised by the acclaim, Tamsin admitted wetting her dress in her acceptance speech, before dedicating the award to her dead mum. And this wasn't the only prize she won for her stint as Beatrice - she also picked up the Critics' Circle Theatre Award for Best Shakespearean Performance. High praise indeed, especially given she's the first, and so far only, woman to ever receive the coveted award. And still the honours kept coming, with another Olivier in 2010 for her turn as Diane in The Little Dog Laughed to add to her already heaving mantel piece.
From the stage back to the small screen, Tamsin has also starred in new adaptations of Jane Austen’s Emma and The Diary of Anne Frank. And then there's Love Soup. The role of loveless department store perfume salesgirl Alice was specifically written for Tamsin by David Renwick, who she met, and obviously impressed, during an appearance on Jonathan Creek.
More recently she's been involved with Channel 4's comedy Friday Night Dinner and the Beebs transatlantic sitcom Episodes with Matt LeBlanc and still found time to star alongside Bond girl Gemma Arterton in countryside comedy Tamara Drewe.
This is all very, very worthy, but to us she’ll always be Fran from Black Books, drinking wine and smoking copious amounts of cigarettes as she attempts to cope with being stuck with friends such as cynical Bernard Black and the useless Manny. Or Dr Catherine Todd from Green Wing, constantly awkward and embarrassed and plagued by bad luck at every corner she turns.
These days Tamsin lives with her husband who she met on the set of Neverwhere, Richard Leaf – it dawned on her too late that's she'd be forever known as Mrs T Leaf - and they have three children (or leaflets, as Tamsin likes to call them) Nathanael Zephaniah, Jakob Zebedee and Roxie Joy. Nice, names.
Tamsin has established herself as the thinking comedy geek’s bit of crumpet, even if – according to her – she’s been mistaken for a man. Oh, and compared to Edwina Currie. Tamsin, introduce the scoundrel to us and we’ll give him a damn good hiding.