Ashley Jensen was born in Annan, Dumfriesshire, Scotland and raised by her mother. She wanted to become an actor from an early age, joining London’s National Youth Theatre when she was just 14. She went on to study drama at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh.
One of her biggest passions within acting is physical comedy. She credits the sitcoms she watched growing up for shaping the actress she is today. Other influences include Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin and Michael Crawford’s British character, Frank Spencer.
When she finished school, Ashley applied to become a teacher as a fall-back and was hired. Three days before she was set to start, she backed out and turned her attention to the small screen. She had booked small roles on several series, including EastEnders and Clocking Off. Her big break came in 2005 when she co-starred alongside Ricky Gervais on the BBC show Extras. Starring as aspiring actress Maggie Jacobs, Ashley received two British Comedy awards and a BAFTA nomination.
Her first major role on American television was on the hit TV series Ugly Betty in 2006. Ashley stayed on for three seasons, leaving the show in 2009 when production moved to New York from Los Angeles.
Since then, she has starred on many TV shows, including CBS' Accidentally on Purpose and Channel 4's Catastrophe, and she also narrated the British medical program Embarrassing Bodies. She currently plays the title role on Acorn TV’s popular series Agatha Raisin, an adaptation of the detective books of the same name.
Ashley has also played roles in several films, including Small Time (2014) and The Lobster (2015), and she has provided voices for the major motion pictures How to Train Your Dragon (2010), Arthur Christmas (2011) and the live-action Lady and the Tramp (2019) for Disney+, providing the voice for the Scottish Terrier, Jock.
Ashley lives in the U.K. with her son, Francie Jonathan Beesley. Her husband, Terence Beesely, died in November 2017. The couple met in 1999 when both were acting in a stage production of Shakespeare's King Lear and married in 2007 with a small ceremony in Big Sur, California.