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Samantha Zoe Womack (née Janus; born 2 November 1972) is an English actress, singer and director, both on television and stage. In recent years she has been best known for playing the role of Ronnie Mitchell in EastEnders, but made her name in the mid-1990s as Mandy Wilkins in Game On, and also represented the United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest 1991.
Womack was born in Brighton, East Sussex. Her singer-songwriter father Noel left the family when she was six, and soon after her model-actress mother Diane married a doctor and the family moved to Edinburgh. Janus lived on the QE2 with her grandmother for a short time.
Aged fifteen she left home as a self-confessed wild child for a life in squats, drinking, smoking and taking drugs. She eventually turned her life around, and attended the Sylvia Young Theatre School in London.
The actress first came to prominence in March 1991, when still only 18, when she won the annual A Song for Europe competition to represent the United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest. She finished joint tenth and the song, "A Message to Your Heart", peaked at number 30 on the UK Singles Chart.
Womack developed her first love of acting, appearing in episodes of The Bill and Press Gang; in 1993 she appeared in Demob alongside Griff Rhys Jones and Martin Clunes; and took to the West End stage, replacing Debbie Gibson as Sandy in Grease.
From 1994 to 1998 Womack played Mandy in the popular BBC Two sitcom Game On alongside Ben Chaplin (later replaced by Neil Stuke). She remained on the show until it was decommissioned in 1998. In between series of Game On, she had a part in the BBC One drama Pie in the Sky from 1995 until 1996.
Womack then starred in the pilot for The Grimleys with Jack Dee, and the film Up 'n' Under with Neil Morrissey. In 1998 she starred in the ITV1 series Liverpool 1 alongside her future husband Mark Womack. She then returned to comedy in the ITV sitcom Babes in the Wood. Co-starring another Sylvia Young Theatre School student, Denise van Outen, it was critically panned despite respectable ratings, and Womack left after the first series.
In 1999 she starred as Cinderella in the ITV Christmas pantomime, with Harry Hill, Alexander Armstrong, Frank Skinner, Paul Merton, Ronnie Corbett and many more. In 2002 she returned to TV screens in the BBC One drama Strangeand after that series ended in 2003, she has had roles in the films The Baby Juice Express and Dead Man's Cards.
In 2005, she directed an anti-bullying music video for Liverpool band Just 3, entitled Stand Tall. The video starred Liverpool F.C. footballer Jamie Carragher and herself. The video was heavily backed by Childline ambassador Esther Rantzen. A popular choice for photo shoots in men's magazines such as FHM, she came 21st in the FHM 100 Sexiest Women in the World 1998 poll and 41st in the same listing in 1999.
In 2006, she starred in the BBC One comedy Home Again as Ingrid, and as Miss Adelaide in the West End production of the musical Guys and Dolls at London's Piccadilly Theatre, initially alongside Patrick Swayze and then Miami Vice star Don Johnson. She reprised the role at the Sunderland Empire alongside Alex Ferns in 2007.
On 11 May 2007, it was announced that she would be joining EastEnders as Ronnie Mitchell, a cousin of the Mitchell brothers. She had previously appeared in the soap in a minor role as a girlfriend of Simon Wicks. In April 2008, several future scenes featuring Ronnie had to be scrapped after Womack broke her shoulder when she tripped and fell down the stairs at her home while rushing to get ready for work. In January 2011, The Sun reported that Womack had resigned from EastEnders.
Since appearing on EastEnders, she has made regular television appearances, including Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, The Paul O'Grady Show, Richard & Judy and Loose Women. In November 2007, she sang along EastEnders co-stars in the 2007 Children in Need charity appeal.
In March 2011, she appeared with Lenny Henry, Angela Rippon and Reggie Yates in the BBC fundraising documentary for Comic Relief called Famous, Rich and in the Slums, where the four celebrities were sent to Kibera in Kenya,Africa's largest slum.
In 2011 Womack played the leading role Ensign Nellie Forbush, a U.S. Navy nurse from Little Rock, Arkansas, in the Lincoln Center production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical South Pacific at the Barbican Theatre in London.
In November 2011, it was reported that Womack was in the running, alongside Dannii Minogue, to become a judge on the 2012 series of Britain's Got Talent. However, it was later confirmed that the judging panel for series six would beSimon Cowell, Alesha Dixon, Amanda Holden and David Walliams.
She was a subject in series nine of the BBC's Who Do You Think You Are? documentary series in 2012.
In May 2013, it was confirmed that Womack would return to EastEnders on a six month contract.
Janus married Italian Junfan Mantovani in 1997 after a long relationship. The relationship broke down and the couple divorced in 1998.
She then starred in Liverpool 1, and started a relationship with Mark Womack while she was still married to Mantovani. She and Womack married on 16 May 2009 and have two children (both born in Westminster, London): son Benjamin Thomas Womack (born February 2001) (after having him Janus took two years off to enjoy motherhood) and their daughter Lily-Rose Womack (born 17 March 2005), while Mark has another son from a previous marriage, Michael Womack. Womack has stated that she would like more children but her husband is not so keen.
In 2009, Janus took her husband's surname of Womack and began to use it professionally in her role on EastEnders.
Womack and her husband are best friends with Scott Maslen and his wife Estelle Rubio. They have known each other since they were teenagers. Maslen is godfather to Womack's two children (and she is godmother to Maslen's son, Zak) and they often go on holiday together with their children, which Womack revealed during an appearance on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross in January 2008. Womack is also best friends with co-star Rita Simons, who plays her sister Roxy Mitchell.
In the autumn of 2007, Maslen joined the cast of EastEnders as the character Jack Branning, the brother of Max Branning, who quickly takes a shine to Ronnie. This was something that both Maslen and Womack were initially uncomfortable with when they read it in the scripts, Maslen commenting in various interviews that having to kiss Womack was like having to kiss his sister. The characters have since married, and had a baby (James Branning) who died of cot death on New Year's Eve 2010, sparking a controversial storyline and eventually led to her departure.
As of 2013, Womack lives in Bedfordshire,England with her family.