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Friday People with actress Jo Donnelly

We ask personalities about the special relationships in their lives

By Kerry McKittrick

The 38 year-old actress lives in Belfast with her partner, actor Marty Maguire, and will be appearing at the Lyric Theatre this Christmas as the Evil Queen in the panto Sleeping Beauty.

My partner, Marty

When I moved back home from London in 2009 to do the play Chronicles of Long Kesh I met Marty in rehearsals, and it just went on from there.

It absolutely helps that we're both actors - you can have quiet times work-wise that last two or three months, which start to get worrying, but he's a massive support.

Laughter is the thing that keeps the two of us together. I laugh at least once a day in the house because of him.

We don't have any kids but I do have two Yorkshire terriers - Murphy and Mabel - who are my babies. I've had Murphy for four years and Mabel was a birthday present from Marty this year.

My best friends

There is a group of girls who I've become really close to. There's Kerri Quinn, Lisa May, Julie McCannwell, Caroline Curran and Elaine Barnes.

They're all in the trade - Caroline, Julie and Kerri are actresses, while Lisa is a director of Bruiser Theatre Company and Elaine works backstage - so I've just gotten to know them over the years.

Again it's great having friends who understand the highs and the lows of auditioning - you get 12 'nos' and then one 'yes' that you know will change your life for 12 months.

My parents, Beryl and Liam

I lost my dad when I was 18 but my mum is still around. I have two older brothers and a sister - Joseph, Dominic and Mary-Theresa - from my dad's first marriage, and a brother and sister - Ciaran and Kellyann - from my mum's first marriage.

My mum worked for building supplier JP Corry and my father was a businessman. My dad was also an opera singer when he was younger so I think that's where I got my dramatic side. My parents were hugely supportive of what I decided to do.

My mum even sold her house to pay my fees for RADA.

My mentor

That has to be May McCartney. She 'discovered' me when I was three and she had actually retired as a speech and verse teacher.

She heard me do a reading at school and approached my mum about taking me on as a pupil and went on to teach me for another 15 years. She was delighted when I got into RADA, she handed me a cheque and said, "I don't want to hear anything about it, I just want you to put that away and make sure you eat." She also gave me a massive bag of clothes from the 1970s which were fabulous. I had some fantastic outfits for about two years.

My celebrity crush, Louis Spence

I love his wee lisp. He's so adorable and I just want to cuddle him.

Fantasy dinner party

I would have to ask Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. I've always been fascinated by the pair of them and their back story and how they collided.

Next, I'd ask Les Dawson because he makes me laugh like no one else.

Finally, I'd ask the television detective Columbo. I would want to tidy him up and ask him to say, "Just one more thing, sir".

Who I go to for advice

It's my sister Kellyann. I was the baby sister for 12 years and she took care of me but she became my right hand after I lost my dad. She lives in Devon now but I visit her all the time.

  • Sleeping Beauty is at the Lyric Theatre from December 5 to January 4. For details, visit www.lyrictheatre.co.uk

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