Josephine Melville, respected actor and director, dead at 61

Josephine Melville, a respected British actor and director, collapsed and died backstage after appearing in a production of “Nine Night” in Nottingham. She was 61.

Melville died Thursday night at the Nottingham Playhouse after appearing as Aunt Maggie, the venue said in a statement. She received immediate assistance from first aid staff and a member of the audience before paramedics arrived, but she died at the scene. No cause was immediately released.

The play is a co-production between Nottingham Playhouse and Leeds Playhouse.

“The entire company, and staff at both theatres are in a state of shock. Josephine was a truly wonderful and well-loved person, a revered and deeply respected performer, director, producer, archivist and writer, and a tremendous Auntie Maggie in `Nine Night,’” the statement said.

All performances of the play were canceled after Melville’s death.

On the long-running British soap “EastEnders,” Melville played Tessa Parker, a college friend of Kelvin Carpenter and Harry Reynolds, in 1986. She appeared for eight episodes. She reappeared in the BBC soap in 2005 as the character Ellie Wright.

Born in Essex, her other acting credits include roles in “The Bill,” “Prime Suspect” and “Casualty.” Last year, Melville was part of “Know Your Roots,” a project that held workshops and recorded interviews across Essex in celebration of and to preserve the history of Black women’s hair. She produced and directed last year’s short thriller “Assistance.”

“We send our love and condolences to Jo’s family and friends. On a deeply tragic and extremely difficult evening we want to pay tribute to the company of ‘Nine Night’ and to the whole Nottingham Playhouse team who managed the situation with empathy and professionalism,” said Stephanie Sirr, chief executive of Nottingham Playhouse.

The “Bridgerton” actor Adjoa Andoh paid tribute on Twitter after news of Melville’s death, writing:

“Ach … I’m so shocked. A wonderful actress. Amazing comic timing. Part of a community of artists who understood the power of black stories. All blessings & condolences to the family. Full of light, rest in your power Jo.”

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.