Born in Leeds with a mixed-race parentage, she was put up for adoption at the age of three. "Bruce" is the surname of the couple who adopted her and raised her in Craghead, a small mining village in County Durham, regarding the North East as her home. At the age of fifteen she trained as a nurse, largely because it was her sister's profession, but failed her exams, and, after seeing a touring version of Hair in Newcastle, decided she wanted to become an actress. In 1975 she came to notice in the BBC television series Angels.
Her other credits include Doctor Who, Only Fools and Horses, Rock Follies, Red Dwarf, Van der Valk, Bad Girls, Casualty, Doctors and Holby City.