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She was bitten by the acting bug watching her mum direct school plays.

But now Jessica Gunning is rubbing shoulders with the stars of the film world and has just flown back from four euphoric days at the prestigious Toronto Film Festival.

She was there to help promote her first film, Pride, which is being tipped to be one of the smash-hit British films of the year.

Pride tells the story of a group of gay and lesbian activists who join the UK miners’ strike in 1984.

They throw their weight behind a group of striking South Wales miners, taking on the Thatcher Government.

Jessica, 28, plays the wonderful Sian James – a wife of one of the miners who sort of found her voice during the strike, speaking out for both the miners and the gay supporters. From this she was then voted Labour MP for Swansea East - the first woman to win the seat.

It’s based on a true story and has been described as a heartwarming, comedy drama.

The film went down a storm at the Toronto Festival and Jessica loved the attention - even if she was forced to wait 12 hours for a delayed flight home and is still recovering as we chat.

She has come a long way from those rehearsal rooms at Holmfirth High School, where her mother Val is still a drama teacher.

Val and Jessica’s dad Paul still live only a few minutes away from the school, while Jessica’s brother Josh is also still in Huddersfield.

Her sister Harriet has followed Jessica to London and all the family will be reunited this weekend when they go to a local cinema to watch the film.


It is Jessica’s first on the big screen but she is a well-known face on TV, starring as Angela in Law & Order alongside Bradley Walsh for the last five years.

She has also featured in series as varied as Doctor Who and Mutual Friends, as well as having appearances in Holby City, Doctors, Life of Riley and White Heat.

In Pride she stars alongside Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Dominic West and Paddy Considine.

“It has been brilliant. This was my first film and I’m so lucky to have had such a great experience.

“We filmed for several weeks in south Wales and then did the studio work in London.

“I like the fact it’s based on a true story and the real Sian James, who I play in the film, came to Toronto with us to the film festival. I didn’t know the story before I got the script but it is such a warm tale.

“This was the first film I have made but I didn’t find it too different from some of the TV work I have done, as some of the programmes do have big production ensembles and casts. I have been lucky to work with some really talented people.

“Most people will probably know me from Law & Order, as I have been in each of the series, but I don’t yet know what is going to happen with another series.

“I have a couple of other proiects at the moment,

“One is That Day We Sang, again with Imelda, that will be out in time for Christmas. The other is a drama called Fortitude, which is coming out on Sky Atlantic. I am just happy to be working”.

Jessica, who grew up in Holmfirth, went to Kirkroyds Infants School and Wooldale Junior School before moving to Holmfirth High.

She then studied drama, English, law and psychology at Greenhead College before going on to take up a place at the Rose Bruford College, graduating with a BA in drama in 2007.

“I learned so much in Huddersfield. My first memories of the theatre are sneaking in to watch the school play rehearsals run by my mum and being in awe of it all.

“I also got involved with the Cragrats theatre company in Holmfirth and was there most weekends with the drama school.

“I still try and get back to Holmfirth once a month to catch up on the news.

“It wil be great to see them this weekend. I’ve bought tickets for a local cinema so we can all watch the film..

“It has got good reviews including five stars from Time Out, so I’m hoping they enjoy it”.