Jill Halfpenny in The Drowning on Channel 5
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The Drowning on C5: Jill Halfpenny channels real-life grief from death of partner into role

Jill has first-hand experience of losing someone close to her

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Jill Halfpenny stars as a grief-stricken mum in new Channel 5 drama The Drowning, and she knows first hand how it feels to lose someone close after the sudden death of her long-term partner.

The actress portrays devastated mum Jodie, whose son Daniel is missing – believed to have drowned.

And she admits she channelled her own real-life grief into the role.

Here’s everything you need to know.

Rupert Penry-Jones and Jill Halfpenny in The Drowning on C5
She stars in The Drowning opposite Rupert Penry-Jones. But what happened to Jill Halfpenny’s partner? (Credit: Channel 5)

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Jill Halfpenny partner: How he died

Jill Halfpenny’s partner tragically died in 2017 after suffering a heart attack.

Her long-term boyfriend Matt Janes tragically fell ill at the gym.

He died at the age of 43.

Jill Halfpenny partner: What has she said?

Talking about her role in The Drowning, the actress has opened up about channelling her feelings of loss into her role.

She told Love Sunday Magazine: “I haven’t experienced the same loss, but loss is loss and I believe people can grieve just as heavily over the loss of a relationship as of a person.

“And as I bring up feelings for the role, I think inevitably some of my own are going to come up as well.”

She added: “But some aren’t useful for the character and I have to figure out which are mine and which are Jodie’s.”

Jill didn’t open up about her grief for two years after her partner Matt’s tragic death.

She said: “It seems quite obvious to me that everything is interlinked. So when my partner died, I just made a decision to be with it, to invite it in, to let it crush me.

“Because pain doesn’t kill you. But I think denying pain can possibly lead you to darker places than if you just face the pain.”

Jill has described how her partner’s death felt like a “double loss” as it mirrored the circumstances of her father’s death in 1979 when she was just four years old.

The Drowning on C5
The cast of The Drowning on C5 includes Jill Halfpenny, Rupert Penry-Jones and Jonas Armstrong (Credit: Channel 5)

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Does she have kids?

Jill Halfpenny has one child from her marriage to Craig Conway.

She married fellow actor Craig in 2007, but they divorced in 2010.

In 2005, they appeared in the play The Bodies together.

They share a son called Harvey Reece, who was born in 2008.

Harvey is now 12.

After her divorce, Jill Halfpenny’s partner Matt became like a second dad to Harvey.

What else has Jill Halfpenny starred in?

Jill began her acting career at the age of 14, when she played Nicola Dobson in the BBC One children’s drama Byker Grove.

She went on to star in Peak Practice, Dalziel and Pascoe, Heartbeat and Coronation Street.

Jill is probably most famous for her role of Kate Mitchell in EastEnders.

She took part in Strictly Come Dancing in 2004 and won the competition with professional Darren Bennett.

Jill has starred as drama teacher Izzie Redpath in Waterloo Road, Emma in Mount Pleasant and Davina in Babylon.

In 2019, she portrayed mum Sam in Dark Money, who is horrified to discover her son has been sexually molested.

She also portrays Jennifer Robertson in Liar.

Jill has portrayed many roles on stage, too, including Roxie Hart in the West End musical Chicago.

Jill Halfpenny Dark Money
Jill starred in gritty drama Dark Money about child abuse (Credit: BBC One)

Why did Jill leave EastEnders?

Jill portrayed Kate Mitchell in EastEnders from 2002 to 2005.

The character was introduced as a police officer sent to spy on Phil Mitchell.

After her cover was blown, she quit the police force, married Phil and opened a nail salon.

Her final scenes were broadcast in January 2005 after her character was axed.

A BBC spokeswoman said: “Jill’s contract has come to an end but that is no reflection on her as an actress, producers just felt there was nowhere left for the character to go.

“She won’t be killed off and the door will be left open for her to return.”

How old is Jill Halfpenny?

Jill was born on July 15 1975.

She is currently 45 years old.

The actress was born in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear.

Jill Halfpenny strictly
Jill Halfpenny partner: She danced with Darren Bennett on Strictly (Credit: BBC One)

Is she related to Chelsea Halfpenny?

Jill’s niece is fellow actress Chelsea Halfpenny.

Casualty star Chelsea is the daughter of Newcastle DJ Paula Halfpenny, who is Jill’s sister!

Who does Jill Halfpenny play in The Drowning?

Jill portrays Jodie in identity thriller The Drowning.

Jodie has been rebuilding her life since losing her son nine years ago.

But when she catches sight of schoolboy Daniel, it threatens to up-end the life that she has carefully pieced back together.

She becomes convinced he is her missing son.

Jill says: “Jodie does become somewhat erratic, but her intention becomes clearer.

“She is so sure of what she is doing and why she is doing it and that Daniel is her son.

“I imagine losing a child has to be the most awful loss one could suffer, that seems very obvious to me. I think losing a child under circumstances where you do not fully know what happened is another layer of torture.”

Chelsea Halfpenny
Chelsea Halfpenny is Jill’s niece! (Credit: Splash)

What is The Drowning about?

The Drowning has an all-star cast – perfect to cheer up a dreary lockdown February.

The plot follows mum Jodie, whose son has been missing for eight years.

When she sees teenager Daniel, she becomes convinced he is her missing child.

But is he really who she thinks he is?

Jodie embarks on a dangerous journey that takes her to the edge of reason.

How far will she go to find a missing child?

The Drowning airs Monday February 1 2021 to Thursday February 4 2021 at 9pm on Channel 5.

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