Suranne Jones best roles ranked

Top 5 Suranne Jones roles ranked – including Vigil and Coronation Street

ED! TV Editor Helen Fear picks her favourites

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Suranne Jones is one of the UK’s most popular actresses on the TV right now, and with good reason – but what are her best roles ranked?

The Manchester-born actress, 45, has returned to our screens in the second series of Vigil this week, and it’s yet more proof that any drama with Suranne in it, is a drama worth watching.

She’s been on our screens ever since 1998, when she first appeared as Emma in one episode of the police drama City Central. And in her 25 year career, she’s more than proven herself as a bankable actress.

But what are Suranne Jones‘ best roles ranked? Here’s my verdict.

Suranne Jones looking moody as Karen McDonald on Coronation Street
Suranne Jones played feisty Karen McDonald in Coronation Street (Credit: ITV/Shutterstock)

5. Coronation Street – Karen McDonald

I’ll have no soap snobbery here, but Suranne’s role as Karen McDonald in Coronation Street wasn’t going to win any Academy Awards. But, she did win several Best Actress gongs at the British Soap Awards.

The character of Karen McDonald made her debut in June 2000 as a factory girl, and soon became a firm favourite with soap fans. Until her departure in 2004, sharp-tongued Karen was involved in some of Corrie‘s most explosive plots. She is perhaps best know for becoming one of Steve McDonald’s many wives, and for her tragic miscarriage.

Her feud with Tracy Barlow made for some thrilling episodes – not least their confrontation on the factory roof, that subsequently led to Karen leaving Weatherfield forever.

Like fellow Corrie alumni Michelle Keegan, Sarah Lancashire and Katherine Kelly, Suranne has the ITV soap to thank for catapulting her to fame. Which is exactly why her iconic role as Karen McDonald comes in the top 5 of Suranne’s best roles ranked.

Vigil episode 5 viewers were terrified of the final clfifhanger
Suranne’s Vigil character Amy Silva was trapped in a missile chute in series 1 (Credit: BBC)

Suranne Jones best roles ranked: 4. Vigil – DCI Amy Silva

In 2021, drama fans were thrilled to hear that Suranne Jones had teamed up with the makers of Line of Duty for a new role. Police drama Vigil saw Suranne’s character DCI Amy Silva of the Scottish Police Service being sent to HMS Vigil, a nuclear-powered submarine, to investigate a death on board.

If that wasn’t dramatic enough on its own, bisexual Amy Silva had a terrible fear of drowning. She had been in a car accident with her long-term boyfriend Iain and his daughter Poppy when the car fell into a lake and started sinking. Amy was faced with a choice whether to save Iain or Poppy. She managed to bring Poppy to shore and tried to go back to the wreck for Iain, but was unable to save him.

As well as her steely determination to solve the crime, despite her personal fears, viewers also saw her fall in love. Amy embarked on a relationship with Kirsten Longacre, a Detective Sergeant in the Scottish Police Service.

Unsurprisingly, BBC One recommissioned Vigil for a second series, which arrived on our screens this December. In part because of Suranne’s compelling performance as damaged DCI Amy Silva.

Suranne Jones crying as Becca in Maryland
Suranne Jones breaks down as grieving daughter Becca in Maryland (Credit: ITV)

3. Maryland – Becca

Suranne Jones was back on our screens in ITV’s Maryland in 2023 and, once again, put in a blistering performance. The actress portrayed grieving daughter Becca in the gripping drama, a perfect part to showcase her more vulnerable side.

In the mini-series, Suranne’s character Becca reunited with estranged sister Rosaline (played by Eve Best) after hearing the horrible news that their mum had died.

As well as grappling with the aftermath of the death, Becca and her sister Rosaline discovered that their mum Mary was living a secret double life… The sisters forged an uneasy alliance to investigate who their mother really was.

It was proof once again that Suranne Jones can do no wrong. Actress Suranne was her most exposed yet in the ITV three parter. The character was fragile, and always put her family first. She had a needy dependency on her mum and dad, and still desperately coveted her older sister’s approval.

Actress Suranne, who helped create the drama, explained that she “loved playing someone” who is “a very different kind of character for me compared to the ones I’ve recently played”.

I think Suranne Jones deserves ALL the awards for the part.

Suranne Jones smiling in Gentleman Jack
Suranne Jones played Anne Lister in Gentleman Jack (Credit: BBC)

Suranne Jones best roles ranked: 2. Gentleman Jack – Anne Lister

Of course, one of Suranne’s most famous roles is that of Anne Lister in Gentleman Jack. She played the groundbreaking character from 2019 to 2022.

Over two series, Suranne portrayed lesbian trailblazer, voracious learner, and cryptic diarist Anne Lister. And with Happy Valley writer Sally Wainwright behind the wheel, it was always going to be a hit.

The leading lady broke the fourth wall by directly addressing the audience, and broke lots of other rules while she was at it too. As Anne Lister, Suranne was intense, uncompromising, reckless, charismatic, controlling, bold and endlessly flirtatious.

Unsurprisingly, The Guardian called the series “one of the greatest period dramas of our time”. Suranne gave an unforgettable performance. Basically, she smashed it. As per.

Bertie Carvel in Dalgliesh: Why did he almost turn down Doctor Foster?
Suranne Jones as Gemma Foster, opposite Bertie Carvel who played her cheating husband (Credit: BBC)

1. Doctor Foster – Gemma Foster

I will not be swayed on this. Suranne Jones as Dr Gemma Foster in Doctor Foster is as good as characters get. Her portrayal of revenge-seeking missile Gemma had every woman cheering at the TV, and every man crossing their legs. Until, of course, she went too far, and viewers didn’t know how to feel.

Gemma took the rather sexist phrase ‘a woman scorned’ to a whole other level, when she exacted revenge on her cheating husband Simon (Bertie Carvel). And it was a joy to behold. Every episode had us on the edge of our seats, and wondering what the HELL Gemma was going to do next.

But, there was so much more to this than a revenge thriller. Gemma was a woman, standing in front of a man, saying ‘you hurt me’. Who wouldn’t dream of making her husband pay, after being ditched for a younger model (Jodie Comer no less). Gemma acted out our dreams.

The storyline was inspired by the ancient Greek myth of Medea, a wronged wife who killed her children and poisoned her husband’s new bride. ITV fans are still waiting and praying for a series 3 of Doctor Foster… And I’m with them.

I mean, I wouldn’t want to be friends with someone as volatile as Gemma, but she made damn good TV.

Suranne Jones and Lennie James in Save Me
Suranne Jones and Lennie James in Save Me (Credit: Sky Atlantic)

Suranne Jones best roles ranked: Special mention to…

Frankly, ranking Suranne Jones’ top TV roles to just 5 was a tough task. She’s been in some amazing TV shows – some of the best in recent years.

I can’t not mention her performance as Save Me. When her daughter Jody disappeared, Claire was convinced that unreliable dad Nelly (Lennie James) was to blame. But it was way darker than that.

Of course, one of Suranne’s best known roles was in Scott and Bailey. Between 2011 and 2016, she starred as Detective Rachel Bailey in the police procedural series. This was her second collaboration with screenwriter Sally Wainwright after Unforgiven – another brilliant drama.

Her portrayal of convicted murderer Ruth Slater in the 2009 mini-series Unforgiven received acclaim. And quite rightly.

Read more: Suranne Jones on cruel weight jibes: ‘Those schoolgirls did me a favour’

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Vigil series 2 continues on BBC One over December, and is available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

What do you think is Suranne Jones’ best role to date? Leave us a comment on our Facebook page @EntertainmentDailyFix.

Helen Fear
TV Editor