Dawn Tinsley is the receptionist at Wernham Hogg. Her career ambition is to become an illustrator. After working part time as a receptionist she ends up going eventually going full time and moves further away from pursuing her dream.
It’s clear that she doesn’t really enjoy her job, and having to deal with David Brent’s misogyny and narcissism on a daily basis makes the job even less pleasing for her.
Dawn Tinsley and David Brent
As Dawn is the office receptionist she also serves as David’s personal assistant. Being at the beck and call of a man like David Brent can be trying and Dawn manages to navigate the challenges thrown her way albeit with difficulty.
Dawn Tinlsey also has to contend with other emotional rollercoasters concerning her relationship with the fiancé Lee, as well as the concurrent mutual feelings she has for Tim.
Brent is constantly looking to validate his ego through Dawn, often asking her questions about himself and sometimes even performing for her. Examples include when he was talking about having a big night out saying there are guys his age that look 50, and then asking her how old she thinks he looks. When she tries to suggest to late 30’s he cuts her off and says “thirties”.
Dawn’s tolerance for Brents’ male chauvinism and and patronising treatment of her only extends so far. It reaches a breaking point when he over steps the mark by playing a practical joke on her which backfires. With Ricky the intern present, David tells dawn that she is being being fired due to an allegation of theft concerning post-it notes.
It’s only when she breaks down crying that David attempts to rectify the situation by telling Dawn is was just a joke. Dawn get’s up from her chair and calls David a sad little man before walking out of the meeting room.
She does also have some warmer moment with David, where one get’s to see a glimmer of his softer side that only a woman could bring. Examples of this include one evening when he’s had a rough day and he invites Dawn into his office to have a drink with him, talk openly about his frustrations and even share some poetry with her.
Another example is during Training Day when she ostensibly breaks up with Lee. As a way to console Dawn, David calls her into his office with Gareth present and proceeds to play her a song on his guitar with a chorus consisting of the line, “Goodbye my sweet princess”, which is in reference to Princess Diana, but according to David aptly fits Dawn’s dilemma.
She thanks David for the song, to which he promptly transitions into the first first lines of “Every breath you take” by The Police.
Dawn and Lee
For over 90% of the series, Dawn is engaged to Lee who works in a “blue-collar” job at Wernham Hogg down in the warehouse. Lee typifies your working-class lad. He’s an alpha-male who unenthused about life in general. Like Brent he is also a misogynist.
The best examples of this is when Tim is taking the team on a tour of the warehouse. Lee and his colleagues are sitting down on a break when Glynn makes a snide remark at Tim about being gay. Tim comes back with a punchy remark.
Lee then says Dawn will get “her milkers” out for a tenner. Repulsed by the comment, Dawn tell Lee to “f**k off” and then Glynn jokes that he won’t be “seeing those tonight”. Lee quips and say, “it’s alright, I’ve got cable”.
He does’t like his job, doesn’t seem to do much outside of work, and exhibits a certain level of ambivalence toward Dawn. As a result, Dawn appears to somewhat be trapped in her relationship with Lee. It’s clear that they don’t have much chemistry between them, but seem to continue on with their relationship regardless.
Lee applies his low aspirations to Dawn, encouraging her to give up on the dream of becoming an illustrator and focus being a full-time receptionist.
They both eventually resign from Wernham Hogg and move to Florida for a while we they can live rent free in Lee’s sisters house and babysit her child. This sabbatical only seems to move them further apart from each other and by the time they return to the UK, their relationship appears to be on the rocks.
Wernham Hogg’s Christmas party is the nail in the proverbial coffin for Lee and Dawn. After receiving a set of oil paints from Tim as a “Secret Santa” gift and opening the gift on the taxi ride hime, Dawn returns to the Christmas party without Lee (who has passed out in the cab) and walks directly over to Tim and kisses him. That’s how the entire series ends.
Dawn and Tim
From the very first episode it’s discernible that Dawn and Lee share a special relationship. The rapport they have is conveyed in a way which is believable and relatable to most. These sorts of office romances happen all the time.
The both get each either and their connection is best conveyed through humour with Gareth as the vehicle. They both plan practical jokes for Gareth, which Tim executes with perfection, leaving the both of them in stitches laughing.
During the second season, Dawn and Tim’s friendship is impacted by both Tim’s promotion to Senior Sales Clerk and his brief romance with Rachel. Their friendship is restored in the second of half of the second series once Tim calls it off with Rachel.
Dawn liking for Tim is apparent in many scenes without dialogue. Scenes which pan over to Dawn looking across the office at Tim, Gazing at him in awe. When Rachel and Neil do charity dance in the office, Dawn is caught by the camera looking at Tim’s reaction to Rachel dancing with Neil.
When Tim is accused by David of superimposing his face on a porn image and it soon transpires that Finchy was the culprit, Dawn quickly stands up for Tim and pressures David to apologise to Tim which he does reluctantly.
Dawn and Tim’s relationship has an original and very pleasant ending and coincides with the final episode in the series. Tim carefully orchestrates the planning of Secret Santa so that he can buy Dawn her gift.
After giving her a set of oil paints, including a sketch that Dawn did of Tim and a note saying “never give up”, Dawn makes an on-the-spot decision that Tim is the one for her. The series end with Dawn and Tim sharing a kiss at the Christmas party.
Who Plays Dawn Tinsley?
Lucy Davis plays the role of Dawn Tinsley. She was born in 1973, in Solihull, West Midlands. Apart from her role in The Office, her other notable appearances have been in the films Shawn of the Dead (2004), and Wonder Woman (2017). She was previously married to Welsh actor Owain Yeoman.