Munroe is one of Britain's leading black actresses. Born in Guyana
(then British Guiana), she came to Britain in 1951, and gained early
acting experience with the West Indian Students' Drama Group. Munroe
made her professional stage debut in 1962, and later played major
roles in London's West End theater including Jean Genet's The
Blacks (1970). When she played Orinthia, the King's mistress,
in George Bernard Shaw's The Apple Cart (1970), she said it was
the first time she had been cast in a leading role not written for
a black actress. Since the 1970s Munroe has played an important
part in the development of black theater in Britain, scoring a personal
triumph in 1987 as the over zealous pastor of a Harlem "store-front"
church, in James Baldwin's The Amen Corner. In 1993 she won
a Best Actress award from Time Out magazine for Alice Childress's
Trouble in Mind.
In 1965 Munroe made an early television appearance in Fable.
In this controversial BBC drama writer John Hopkins reversed apartheid
and located it in Britain so that black people ran the country and
whites were subjected to enforced population movement and pass laws.
However, this innovative and highly charged play did not have the
reception anticipated from audiences. Generally viewers were put-off,
while critics thought that the play was heavy-handed and moralistic.
1967 Munroe was featured in an episode of Rainbow City, one of the
first British television series to include a black actor in a leading
role. Since that time she has demonstrated her acting range in numerous
other appearances. These have included roles in a mixture of populist
dramas and situation comedies, as well as impressive single dramas.
They include Doctor Who (1967), In the Beautiful Caribbean
(1972), Ted (1972), Shakespeare Country (1973), General
Hospital (1974), The Fosters (1976 77), Black Christmas
(1977) with Norman Beaton, Mixed Blessings (1978), A
Hole in Babylon (1979), Rumpole of the Bailey (1983)
and The Hope and the Glory (1984).
1989 Munroe was first seen in Desmond's, one of Channel 4's
most successful situation comedy programmes. Co-starring Norman
Beaton as the proprietor of a barber's shop in South London, Desmond's
has been one of the few British television series to feature an
almost entirely black cast. For five years this appealing series
won critical acclaim and awards for its humorous exploration of
the conflict between young British-born blacks, and the values of
the older generation who grew up in the Caribbean.
between her appearances in Desmond's, Munroe has taken part in Ebony
People (1989), sharing her experiences of the acting world with
a studio audience, and Black and White in Colour (1992),
a documentary tracing the history of black people in British television.
In 1992 Munroe gave an outstanding performance as Essie Robeson
in a BBC play called A Song at Twilight. This emotional drama,
shown in the anthology series Encounters, explored an imaginary
meeting in 1958 between British Socialist radical Aneurin Bevan,
and the black American singer and militant activist Paul Robeson.
Carmen Munroe with dancers
Photo courtesy of Channel 4
MUNROE . Born in British Guiana; immigrated to Britain, 1951.
Trained with West Indian Student's Dram Group. Worked in television
since 1959; stage debut, Period of Adjustment, 1962; appeared
or starred in numerous tgelevision series. Recipient: Time Out
1959 Dr. Kabil
1966 Emergency Ward
1967 Rainbow City
1967 Doctor Who
1967 Love Story
1968 City '68
1968 Have Bird, Will Travel
1972 In the Beautiful Caribbean
1973 Shakespeare's Country
1974 General Hospital
1974 Play School
1976 The Fosters
1977 A Black Christmas
1978 Mixed Blessings
1979 A Hole in Babylon
1983 Rumpole of the Bailey
1984 The Hope and the Glory
1984 The Record
1992 A Song At Twilight
of Adjustment, There'll Be Some Changes Made, The Blacks, The Apple
Cart, Trouble in Mind, El Dorado, A Raisin in the Sun, The Amen
Corner, Alas, Poor Fred (director), Remembrance (director)
Stephen. Black in the British Frame - Black People in British
Film and Television 1896-1996. London: Cassell, 1996.
Jim, editor. Black and White in Colour - Black People in British
Television Since 1936. London: British Film Institute, 1992.
and White in Colour; Desmond's