Irish Oscars star is unrecognizable on reality TV show 14 years before Academy nod


SHE is now an Oscar-nominated actress – but Jessie Buckley first landed the spotlight on an Andrew Lloyd Webber reality show when she was just 18.

The 32-year-old Kerry star, now nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in The Lost Daughter, battled on TV show I’d Do Anything to play the part of Nancy in the West End revival of the musical Olivier! back in 2008.


Killarney actress Jessie received an Oscar nomination for her role in The Lost DaughterCredit: Alamy
Jessie was in the running to play Nancy in the West End on the popular talent show


Jessie was in the running to play Nancy in the West End on the popular talent showCredit: BBC
The talented singer Jessie in action on I'd Do Anything


The talented singer Jessie in action on I’d Do Anything1 credit

Talented singer Jessie made the bottom three of the BBC hit, but was propelled to the post by Jodie Prenger who won the public vote – prompting theater legend Lloyd Webber to storm off.

The show also launched the career of fellow finalist Samantha Barks, who went on to star in the 2012 film Les Miserables.

During the series, Jessie kept her trademark red hair in curls and often donned green.

And I’d do anything, Judge Denise Van Outen previously told us how she knew the 18-year-old redhead would one day have the last laugh.

She said: “Jessie was just amazing, she was very special and definitely had star quality.

“Andrew was gutted, she didn’t win. He said one of his performances was “the best he had ever heard from someone his age”.

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“I’m not surprised at all that she went on to do great things.”

When Jessie took part in I’d Do Anything, she had just been refused a place at the Guildford School of Acting.

Unlike many of her competitors, she was incredibly raw but she immediately caught Lloyd Webber’s attention.

Denise explained: “From day one, everyone saw her potential and thought she was a star.

“We just felt at that point that she was a little young, naive, not quite ready.”


Jessie sailed through the rounds, with Lloyd Webber gushing that she was an “extraordinary performer” who possessed the “sacred flame of star quality”.

But then British audiences unleashed one of the biggest shocks in TV show history when she was beaten to the role of Nancy by former cruise ship singer Jodie.

Lloyd Webber went crazy and stormed out. Denise believes theater producer Cameron Mackintosh’s comments that Jodie was ‘too big’ to play Nancy was a major factor in the outcome, leading to a surge of sympathy for her.

She said: “Andrew was gutted, terribly gutted. But people followed Jodie because she had the shape of an average woman.

Talking about how she went from reality TV runner-up to starring alongside British royalty Julie Walters, who played her on-screen mother, in her award-winning film Wild Rose, Jessie said: “I don’t can’t believe 11 years have I feel like a cat that’s had nine different lives.


After her stint in the pageant, Jessie made her West End debut in A Little Night Music.

Jessie turned down Nancy’s understudy role and other potentially lucrative jobs.

She remained in London, working as a jazz singer at the Mayfair Annabel’s club and as a cereal vendor to pay the bills.

Jessie wanted to learn her craft before re-auditioning and was eventually accepted into Rada Drama School.

Jessie built her resume taking on various low-budget theater roles, including in Stephen Sondheim’s musical A Little Night Music alongside Maureen Lipman, who later moved to the West End.

She graduated from Rada in January 2013 and signed up for a summer season at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

Her stock began to rise, and she starred opposite Jude Law in the West End production of Henry V and in the Kenneth Branagh Theater Company production of The Winter’s Tale.

In 2016, she got her TV role in the BBC drama War & Peace, playing Princess Marya.

Since then, the Kerry star has had huge roles in Fargo, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, Judy and The Lost Daughter.

And now she’s landed her first Oscar nomination for her role in The Lost Daughter, where she played the younger version of Olivia Colman’s character.

She will face Judi Dench, Ariana DeBose, Kirsten Dunst and Aunjanue Ellis.

Praise poured in around the world for the Irish star and his proud mum Marinna told how Jessie was “absolutely overwhelmed”.

Jessie reached the final of I'd Do Anything


Jessie reached the final of I’d Do AnythingCredit: BBC
Jessie is very different from her time on the reality show


Jessie is very different from her time on the reality showCredit: Alamy

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