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She claimed on the 10 December 2010 edition of The Graham Norton Show that she had been approached by the Doctor Who production team because the "part is an acting part, but there's also singing involved". Having no experience with acting, she believed that her audition would be "rubbish". However, they rang her back on her thirtieth birthday and told her she had won the role. Prior to this she had also appeared on Emmerdale, but not in an acting capacity.
Between 19 March and 22 May 2012, Jenkins competed in the 14th season of the American dance competition series Dancing with the Stars which served to introduce her to a wider audience outside the UK. Consistently an audience and judge's favourite, Jenkins overcame a minor back problem in the final week of competition to come in second to NFL football player Donald Driver at the conclusion of the competition.