Childhood & Early Life
Janet was born on August 5, 1961, in Wallsend, Newcastle upon Tyne, England, to Jean and Alan McTeer. At the age of 6, her family moved to York. Janet was educated at the 'Queen Anne Grammar School for Girls,' which is now defunct. She had initially worked at the 'Olde Starre Inn' at ‘York Minster.’
Janet developed an interest in acting after watching the play 'She Stoops to Conquer' at the ' York Theatre Royal.' She worked at the theater as a waitress. Janet once happened to serve coffee to English actor and filmmaker Gary Oldman, who suggested she enroll at the 'Royal Academy of Dramatic Art' (RADA).
Janet then joined ‘RADA,’ where she later won the prize for the best stage fight and also earned a 'Bancroft Gold Medal' for the best actress. Earlier, she had performed with the 'Rowntree Players' at the 'Joseph Rowntree Theatre.' After graduation in the early 1980s, she joined the 'Royal Exchange Theatre,' from where her journey as a stage actor began.
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Janet made her professional acting debut in 1985, as ‘Esther Pearson’ in the police-procedural drama series 'Juliet Bravo.' The following year, she had a brief recurring role in the 'ITV' soap opera ‘Gems.’ Her next recurring role was in the 1988 comedy series 'Les Girls.'
Janet was cast in the lead, opposite Clive Owen, in the 1989 six-part 'BBC' drama series 'Precious Bane,' based on Mary Webb’s novel of the same name. In 1990, Janet essayed the role of real-life personality Vita Sackville-West, an English poet, novelist, and garden designer, in four episodes of the British miniseries 'Portrait of a Marriage.'
In 1991 and 1993, Janet appeared in a few TV movies and had significant parts in most of them. She played ‘Riah Millican’ In 'ITV’s' 'The Black Velvet Gown' (1991). Based on Catherine Cookson’s novel, the movie earned an 'International Emmy' for the ‘Best Drama.’ She starred as ‘Loretta Lawson’ in the TV adaptation of Joan Smith’s novel 'A Masculine Ending.' She portrayed English painter and interior designer Vanessa Bell in ‘Carrington,’ the 1995 biopic of English painter Dora Carrington.
Janet’s first long recurring role (12 episodes, from 1995 to 1996) was as prisoner governor ‘Helen Hewitt’ in the 'ITV' drama 'The Governor.' She made her debut as a voice artist (narrator) in the 1998 musical drama film 'Velvet Goldmine.' Janet simultaneously earned accolades from the theater fraternity for her brilliant performance as ‘Nora’ in the revival of Henrik Ibsen's 'A Doll's House.' She even won a 'Tony Award,' an ‘Olivier Award,’ and a ’Drama Desk Award’ for the role.
In 1999, Janet was seen in her career-defining role of protagonist ‘Mary Jo Walker’ in the comedy–drama film 'Tumbleweeds.' Her excellent portrayal of the strong-willed single mother in the movie earned her a 'Golden Globe Award,' the ‘Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival Jury Award’ for the ‘Best Actress,’ a 'National Board of Review Award,' and a 'Satellite Award.' Additionally, she bagged eight prestigious nominations, including that of an 'Academy Award.'
Janet was nominated for the 'Golden Nymph Award' for playing ‘Catherine Walker,’ a Conservative frontbencher-tuned-Deputy Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the drama series 'The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard.' She earned a nomination for the 'Royal Television Society Award' for the ‘Best Actor - Female’ for her portrayal of ‘DS Amy Foster,’ a woman employee petrified of her upcoming retired life, in the 'BBC-HBO' collaborative production 'Five Days.'
Janet played Clementine Churchill, Winston Churchill’s wife, in the biopic 'Into the Storm' (alternative title: 'Churchill at War'), released in 2009. In the theater circuit, she earned her next 'Tony Award' nomination for portraying the titular character in Friedrich Schiller's play 'Mary Stuart.’
Janet shared screen space with Glenn Close (who played the titular role) in the 2011 drama film 'Albert Nobbs.' Her character, ‘Hubert Page’ was portrayed as ‘Albert’s colleague at a hotel, and they were shown living as men to escape their own troubled marriages. Her remarkable performance in the film earned Janet the 'Southeastern Film Critics Association Award' for the ‘Best Supporting Actress’ and nine other nominations, including one each for the 'Academy Award' and the 'Golden Globe' for the ‘Best Supporting Actress.’
Adding to her real-life-inspired roles, Janet portrayed American novelist, critic, and political activist Mary McCarthy in the biopic of Hannah Arendt, which released in 2012. She then earned a 'Golden Globe' nomination for essaying the role of Jacquetta of Luxembourg, Countess Rivers in the series 'The White Queen.'
In 2014, Janet played ‘Dame Julia Walsh,’ the head of the 'Secret Intelligence Service' (‘SIS,’ commonly known as 'MI6') in the British political spy-thriller miniseries 'The Honourable Woman.' She had a recurring role as ‘Commander Kim Guziewicz’ in the 'CBS' comedy–drama 'Battle Creek.'
Janet was signed to play ‘Edith Prior,’ a character from the second book of the 'Divergent' trilogy, 'Insurgent,' by Veronica Roth, in its series adaptation. Her character was again seen in the third installment of the series, 'Allegiant,' but through archival footage.
Janet then essayed the real-life character of Princess Hermine Reuss of Greiz in the 2016 romantic war drama 'The Exception,' based on the novel 'The Kaiser's Last Kiss' by Alan Judd.
In 2018, Janet was seen as the 'Marvel' character ‘Alisa Jones,’ the foster mother of ‘Jessica Jones,’ in the 'Netflix' series ‘Jessica Jones.’.
In 2008, Janet was made an 'Officer of the Order of the British Empire' for her contribution to the British entertainment industry.
She produced the 2016 drama ‘Paint It Black’ and wrote the script for the 2002 thriller ‘The Intended.’