Dawn French and Lenny Henry lived with police officers due to racism

LONDON - APRIL 26: Dawn French and Lenny Henry pose in the press room at the BAFTA Television Awards 2009 held at The Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre on April 26, 2009 in London, England. (Photo by Dave Hogan/Getty Images)
Dawn French and Lenny Henry at the Bafta Television Awards 2009. (Dave Hogan/Getty Images)

Dawn French has revealed she and ex-husband Sir Lenny Henry were forced to have police officers live in their home due to “continual racism”.

Henry, who was knighted in 2015, has often spoken about the racism he has suffered in his life, and French, who was married to him for 25 years, has now spoken of the shock of witnessing it first-hand.

Speaking on Times Radio, she said: “I had never experienced anything like that until I met him and I just couldn’t believe the continual racism that happens in his life, the casual, insidious racism which I found really offensive.  

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“But then the big giant ‘let’s smear s**t on your door and try to set fire to your house’ kind of racism, and I was so angry about it and that’s what got us through it.”

Comedian Lenny Henry and wife Dawn French, also a comedian, pose at Buckingham Palace in London after Lenny was presented with a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) from the Queen. 24/5/99: N/paper report that Henry met blonde woman at hotel. (Photo by Fiona Hanson - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Dawn French and Lenny Henry pose at Buckingham Palace in London after Henry was presented with a CBE. (Fiona Hanson – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)

The targeted abuse became so bad they were forced to go to extreme lengths to secure their safety.

She added: “For a while, we had the police living inside our home when some people had scratched really racist slogans on every panel on two cars outside our house.”

French, 63, also spoke about how their daughter Billie, 29, who the comedian couple adopted as a baby, handles racism.

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The Vicar Of Dibley star said: “And now I have a mixed-race daughter and I see what she experiences, I see it.

“But she’s very strong and she can sniff a racist at 200 yards and takes a nice steep swerve to the left.”

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French told the Sunday Times Magazine in 2017: “People tried to burn our house down. But although that was hugely disappointing and shocking, you have to get past it.

British comedians Dawn French and Lenny Henry at their wedding at St Paul's, Covent Garden, London, 21st October 1984. (Photo by Reg Burkett/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Dawn French and Lenny Henry at their wedding at St Paul’s, Covent Garden, London, 21 October, 1984. (Reg Burkett/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

“We were lucky, we had a big house and a gate, and could employ people to protect us when we needed it.”

French’s interview with Times Radio will be broadcast on Mariella Frostrup’s show at 1pm on Monday, 12 October.

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