Freema Agyeman (born Frema Agyeman on 20 March 1979) is a British actress of Ghanaian and Iranian descent who is best known for playing Martha Jones, former companion of the Tenth Doctor in the BBC science fiction television series Doctor Who, and its spin-off series Torchwood.
She currently holds a lead regular role as court prosecutor Alesha Phillips in ITV's Law & Order: UK. Background and personal life Freema Agyeman grew up on the Woodberry Down council estate in the London Borough of Hackney.
Her mother, Azar, is Iranian and her father, Osei, is Ghanaian. They divorced when she was a child. She has an older sister, Leila and a younger brother, Dominic. She attended Our Lady's Convent RC High School, a Catholic school in Stamford Hill and the Anna Scher Theatre School in Islington. She studied performing arts and drama at Middlesex University, graduating in 2000.
She has martial arts skills which prompted speculation that she would bring a more physical approach to the role of the Doctor's companion. The tattoo she has on her upper forearm is symbolic of her ancestry, containing an Iranian word 'raha', meaning 'free', under an image of a butterfly. She endorses Divine Chocolate, an ethical corporation that helps Ghanaian cocoa farmers make a fair living. She lives in north London with her boyfriend.
When Agyeman began her professional acting career, she chose to use a different spelling of her birth name, Frema, as her professional name, to avoid pronunciation problems. Before securing the part of Martha Jones, Agyeman's most famous television role was playing the character of Lola Wise in the revived series of ITV soap opera Crossroads.
She also had small guest roles in other TV series such as Casualty, Mile High and The Bill, in which she appeared in on two occasions as two separate characters. In 2005, she played Mary Ogden, a scene of crime officer, in an episode of Silent Witness. She starred as the character Nana in the independent film Rulers and Dealers, written and directed by Stephen Lloyd Jackson.
Doctor Who Agyeman auditioned for three roles in the 2006 series of Doctor Who. On 24 June 2005, she auditioned for the part of Sally Jacobs in "The Christmas Invasion", but was ultimately unsuccessful, losing out to Anita Briem, who better fit the production team's concept of the character as an "ice cool blonde".
She later auditioned for the roles of Esme and Adeola Oshodi, in the "Rise of the Cybermen"/"The Age of Steel" and "Army of Ghosts", respectively. Esme was ultimately cut from the final script, but Freema was successful in her audition for Adeola. She filmed her role in the series in December 2005 and appeared on screen as Adeola on 1 July 2006.
The production team were impressed by the versatility shown by Agyeman across her three auditions and called her back as a serious candidate for the new companion. She attended another audition (ostensibly for an episode of Torchwood) and the production team remained impressed.
The next step was to take a screen-test with the Tenth Doctor actor, David Tennant. Tennant left a reassuring note under the door of Agyeman's hotel room, and this helped calm any nerves the actress had. She was ultimately successful and received notice of her success in February 2006. Following months of speculation on who would replace Billie Piper, Freema was confirmed to the press as new companion Martha Jones on 5 July 2006.
Agyeman began filming for the third series in August 2006 and finished in March 2007. She made her screen debut as Martha Jones on 31 March 2007 in the episode "Smith and Jones". Martha's physical similarity to Adeola Oshodi was explained as Martha being Adeola's cousin. Agyeman continued to portray the character Martha Jones throughout every episode of the 2007 series. Despite her character's departure from the TARDIS in the 2007 season finale "Last of the Time Lords", Agyeman returned as Martha in series 4 for five episodes, which consisted of "The Sontaran Stratagem", "The Poison Sky", "The Doctor's Daughter", "The Stolen Earth" and "Journey's End". She guest-presented Blue Peter on 24 June 2008 to promote the Doctor Who finale. Following Martha's departure with Captain Jack Harkness at the end of the Series 4 finale it was unsure what her future in the Doctor Who universe would hold. However, Freema has said in various interviews that she would like to continue playing Martha Jones.
Agyeman returned to the series along with several other former cast members to mark David Tennant's final appearance and wrap up Martha's story. Freema Agyeman has read abridged audio book adaptations of five of the Doctor Who New Series Adventures novels featuring Martha Jones, namely The Last Dodo, Wetworld, The Pirate Loop , Martha in the Mirror and The Story of Martha In between series three and series four of Doctor Who, Agyeman appeared in three episodes of series 2 of Doctor Who spin off Torchwood, namely "Reset", "Dead Man Walking" and "A Day in the Death".
She also had a starring role in the Torchwood radio play, Lost Souls, broadcast on BBC Radio Four on the 10th of September 2008 to promote the turning on of the Large Hadron Collider at the CERN research facility. It was later revealed by Torchwood: Children of Earth director Euros Lyn that the production team had intended for Agyeman to appear in that production, but she was already committed to Law and Order: UK.
However, in a video interview conducted at the Law and Order: UK press launch, Agyeman does not rule out a return to Torchwood, stating that "it's always a possibility."
Torchwood creator and head writer Russell T Davies, also responsible for Doctor Who, subsequently affirmed that he would be open to casting Agyeman in Series Four of Torchwood, should a fourth series happen. Recent work Agyeman often appears on The Bedtime Hour on CBeebies reading a story shortly before 7pm. She narrated the first series of BBC Three's hospital documentary series Bizarre ER which ran from 14 February 2008 to 3 April 2008 and also provided the narration for a second series which began airing on Tuesday 21 April 2009.
She hosted a Doctor Who-themed portion of the BBC Proms on 27 July. A one hour cut-down version of the prom made its TV début on BBC1, New Year's Day 2009. On 25 April 2008, Agyeman appeared on The Paul O'Grady Show. She made another another appearance on the show on the 26th March 2009. She played foundling girl Tattycoram in the Emmy award winning 2008 BBC adaptation of Charles Dickens' Little Dorrit, which began transmitting on the 26th October 2008, starring alongside her fellow Torchwood stars Eve Myles and Ruth Jones.
Some of Agyeman's scenes for the first episode were shot in the grounds of Deal Castle, Kent, which doubled for Marseille, France. Agyeman was delighted to have appeared in Little Dorrit, as it had always been a dream of hers to appear in a period drama. Agyeman also appeared in Survivors, a BBC 1 remake of the cult 1970s TV series as Jenny Walsh, (surname originally reported to be Collins) although her character was killed off in the first episode in a shock twist despite featuring prominently in promotional materials for the series.
In 2009 she starred as court prosecutor Alesha Phillips in Law & Order: UK, a spin-off from the popular US Law and Order franchise. Agyeman is a self-professed "massive fan" of original Law & Order, especially seasons three & four. In preparation for the role, Agyeman sat in on live trials, toured the Old Bailey, and conferred with her law-degree holding sister, Leila: "She’s great and really patient at explaining things to laymen, because I was coming at it completely blind. She’s been a good source."
Awards and recognition In June 2007, Freema Agyeman was named "Best Newcomer" at the 2007 "Glamour Women of the Year Awards". The same year she won the 2007 People's Choice category for "Female TV Star" in the 5th annual Screen Nation Film and TV Awards, held on 15 October 2007 at the Hilton Metropole in London. The Observer had an interview with Agyeman in December 2007 and named her as a "face of 2007".
Nominations In 2003, Agyeman was nominated in two categories in The British Soap Awards for her role as Lola Wise in Crossroads, as "Best Newcomer" and "Sexiest Female". In 2007, she was one of the top four nominations for best actress in the National Television Awards, for playing Martha Jones in the 2007 series of Doctor Who.. She has since been longlisted for the 2010 National Television awards for best dramatic performance for her role as crown prosecutor Alesha Phillips. In 2009 she was also put forward as a nomination for best actress at the Birmingham Black International Film Festival's Music, Video and Screen Awards (MVSAs).