Julia Sawalha

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Julia Sawalha
Born (1968-09-09) 9 September 1968 (age 52)
Wandsworth, London, England
EducationItalia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts
Years active1981–present
Parent(s)Nadim Sawalha (father)
RelativesNabil Sawalha (paternal uncle)

Julia Sawalha (born 9 September 1968)[1][2] is an English actress, who is best known for her role as Saffron "Saffy" Monsoon in the BBC sitcom Absolutely Fabulous. She is also known for portraying Lynda Day, editor of the Junior Gazette, in Press Gang, Lydia Bennet in the 1995 television miniseries of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and voicing Ginger in Chicken Run. Additionally, she played Dorcas Lane in the BBC's costume drama Lark Rise to Candleford, Carla Borrego in Jonathan Creek, and Jan Ward in the 2014 BBC One mystery Remember Me.

Early life and education[]

Sawalha was born in Wandsworth, London, and is the daughter of Roberta Lane and actor Nadim Sawalha. Her father was born in Madaba, Jordan. She was named after her paternal grandmother, a businesswoman who had received an award from Queen Noor for enterprise. She is of Jordanian, English, and French Huguenot ancestry.[3]

Sawalha was educated at the Theatre Arts School, a fee-paying independent school which is part of the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts,[4] based at the time in Clapham in south London, which she left at the age of fifteen.[4]

She is part of an acting family; Sawalha's father Nadim appeared in the James Bond movies The Spy Who Loved Me and The Living Daylights'


Sawalha made her debut in the 1982 BBC miniseries Fame Is the Spur,[5] and in 1988 played a small role in Inspector Morse on the episode "Last Seen Wearing". She first gained attention for her starring role in the Bafta award-winning ITV teenage comedy-drama Press Gang, which ran from 1989 to 1993.

In 1992 she starred in episode "Parade" (S2 E4) of Bottom as Veronica Head, a beautiful young barmaid at the Lamb and Flag, whom Richie tries to woo by boasting of his false adventures in the Falklands.

From 1991 to 1994, she starred in the ITV family comedy Second Thoughts and continued with her character, Hannah (Lynda Bellingham's daughter), in the British Comedy Award-winning Faith in the Future (1995–98). In 1994, she played Mercy (Merry) Pecksniff in the BBC production of Martin Chuzzlewit.

From 1992 to 2012, Sawalha played strait-laced daughter Saffron "Saffy" Monsoon in the BBC sitcom Absolutely Fabulous alongside Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley.

She appeared in the 1995 BBC adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice as Lydia Bennet, with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth.

She voiced Ginger in DreamWorks/Aardman Animations' Chicken Run (2000).

She also played "Dawn the Wise Man" in The Flint Street Nativity on Christmas Eve.

In 2000, she appeared as Janet, the Australian barmaid ("Built for bar work; it's instinct... instinct!!") in the first series of the British sitcom Time Gentlemen Please. She also played the much put-upon PA to "Zak" in Argos TV adverts during 2002–2004, along with Richard E. Grant.[6]

She joined actor Ioan Gruffudd in the internationally successful TV adaptations of C. S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower novels, as the captain's wife Maria. The following year, she became Alan Davies's co-star in Jonathan Creek after Caroline Quentin left, appearing in a Christmas Special ("Satan's Chimney"). She returned for a series between 2003 and 2004.

In 2006, she participated in the third series of the genealogy documentary series Who Do You Think You Are?[7] tracing her family's roots, which are Jordanian Bedouin on her father's side, and French Huguenot on her mother's. She also appeared in the pilot of BBC 1's A Taste of my Life presented by Nigel Slater.[8]

After a two-year break, she was back on screen in May 2007, competing in the BBC dog training celebrity reality show The Underdog Show.She then returned to acting in two successive BBC costume dramas: as Jessie Brown in 2007 series Cranford, followed by Lark Rise to Candleford in 2008.

She provided the voice acting for Sister Hannah (a.k.a. "Hammer"), a main character in the 2008 Xbox 360 video game Fable II.[9]

In Autumn 2014, Julia played the part of Jan Ward in BBC One's thriller miniseries Remember Me, featuring Michael Palin.

On 9 May 2015 she read the account of a member of the Women's Land Army at VE Day 70: A Party to Remember in Horse Guards Parade, London, which was broadcast live on BBC1.[citation needed]

In 2016, she appeared in an episode of Midsomer Murders and reprised her role as Saffron "Saffy" Monsoon in Absolutey Fabulous: The Movie.

In July 2020, she made a statement revealing Aardman Animations' intention to recast her character in the upcoming sequel to Chicken Run, stating that she is now considered to sound too old, and commented "I have officially been plucked, stuffed & roasted". The decision was met with widespread criticism with some finding the decision ageist. She even released video clips online of her voicing the character again to prove her voice still sounded the same.[1][10][11][12]

Personal life[]

She had a relationship with Dexter Fletcher whom she met on the set of Press Gang.[13]

On 1 January 2004, tabloid newspapers reported that she had married Alan Davies, her co-star in the television series Jonathan Creek. Both she and Davies, who avoided discussing their private lives in public, denied this, and took legal action against the reports.[14][15]



Year Title Role Notes
1981 Keep It in the Family Walk-On Role uncredited
1982 The Pirates of Penzance Daughter uncredited
1991 Buddy's Song Kelly
1995 In The Bleak Midwinter Nina Raymond (Ophelia)
1996 The Wind in the Willows The Jailer's Daughter
2000 Chicken Run Ginger (voice) Animated film
2001 Venus and Mars Marie
The Final Curtain Karen Willet
2016 Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Saffron 'Saffy' Monsoon


Year Title Role Notes
1982 Fame Is the Spur Amy Episode: "1.2"
Educating Marmalade Good Girl 4 episodes
1988 Inspector Morse Rachel Episode: "Last Seen Wearing"
1989–1993 Press Gang Lynda Day/Young Katherine Hill 43 episodes
RTS Television AwardBest Actor
1990 Spatz Chloe Fairbanks Episode: "The Sound of Muzak"
1991 El C.I.D. Trudy Episode: "Thursday's Child"
Casualty Nikki Watson Episode: "Living in Hope"
1991–1994 Second Thoughts Hannah Greyshott 47 episodes
1992 Bottom Veronica Head Episode: "Parade"
1992–2012 Absolutely Fabulous Saffron 'Saffy' Monsoon 40 episodes
1993 Parallel 9 Herself Episode: "Episode 2.5"
1994 Lovejoy Joanna Whymark Episode: "Double-Edged Sword"
Keeper Alison tv short
Martin Chuzzlewit Mercy Pecksniff 6 episodes
1995 Pride and Prejudice Lydia Bennet 6 episodes
TV mini-series
1995–1998 Faith in the Future Hannah Greyshott 22 episodes
1996 French and Saunders Herself Episode: "Baywatch"
Tales from the Crypt Teresa Episode: "The Kidnapper"
1997 McLibel! Helen Steel "Episode 1.1"
TV mini-series
Ain't Misbehavin' Dolly Nightingale 3 episodes<be>TV mini-series
An Audience with the Spice Girls TV special
1998 Absolutely Fabulous: Absolutely Not! Saffron 'Saffy' Monsoon video
Light Lunch Herself Episode: "The Future's Bright, the Future's Funny"
1999 Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death Emma Charity spoof TV movie by Comic Relief
The Flint Street Nativity Wise Man TV movie
The Nearly Complete and Utter History of Everything Catherine Parr TV movie
Late Lunch Herself Episode: "#2.14"
1999–2000 Kipper Mouse (voice) 4 episodes
2000 Mirrorball Freda Keill TV short
Sheeep Georgina (voice) 26 episodes
The Hatching of 'Chicken Run' Herself TV special
Poultry in Motion: The Making of Chicken Run Herself TV special
HBO First Look Herself Episode: "The Hatching of Chicken Run"
Stars in Their Eyes Herself Episode: "Cerys Matthews"
Bob Martin Herself Episode: "Through the Keyhole"
Masterchef Herself Episode: "#10.14"
2000–2001 Time Gentlemen Please Janet Wilson 21 episodes
2001–2004 Jonathan Creek Carla Borrego 7 episodes
2003 Hornblower Maria Mason/Hornblower TV movie
2003–2004 Comedy Connections Narrator (voice) 14 episodes
2004 The Story of Absolutely Fabulous Herself TV special
White Box Saffron TV movie
2006 A Taste of My Life Herself TV special
Who Do You Think You Are? Herself Episode: "Julia Sawalha"
2007 Cranford Jessie Brown 5 episodes
The Underdog Show Herself Unknown episodes
The Graham Norton Show Herself Episode: "#1.7"
2008–2011 Lark Rise to Candleford Dorcas Lane 40 episodes
2009 The Alan Titchmarsh Show Herself Episode: "9 March 2009"
2013 Agatha Christie's Marple Mrs. Cresswell Episode: "Greenshaw's Folly"
2014 Remember Me Jan Ward 3 episodes
2016 Midsomer Murders Penny Henderson Episode: "Saints and Sinners"
2020 It's Pony Jill Sneekly (voice)

Video games[]

Year Title Role Notes
2008 Fable II Hannah/Hammer Xbox 360 game
2020 World of Warcraft: Shadowlands Computer game


  1. ^ Jump up to: a b "Julia Sawalha 'devastated and furious' at Chicken Run sequel 'ageism'". BBC News. 10 July 2020. Retrieved 28 February 2021.
  2. ^ "Julia Sawalha". BFI. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  3. ^ Julia's profile at BBC History
  4. ^ Jump up to: a b Sarah Gristwood (26 November 1995). "Absolutely fab". The Independent. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  5. ^ Chicken Run DVD Cast Bio
  6. ^ "Withnail star takes Argos upmarket". The Guardian. 26 July 2002. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  7. ^ "BBC ONE Autumn 2006". BBC. 18 July 2006.
  8. ^ BBC Food – A Taste of my Life Pilot episode description[dead link]
  9. ^ "Fable II game review". The Telegraph. 3 November 2008. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  10. ^ Grater, Tom (10 July 2020). "'Chicken Run' Actress Julia Sawalha Says She Is Being Re-Cast In Sequel For "Sounding Too Old"". Deadline. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  11. ^ "Chicken Run 2 Called Ageist For Recasting Original Main Characters". ScreenRant. 10 July 2020. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  12. ^ "'Chicken Run' Star Julia Sawalha is Being Replaced in the Sequel Because Her Voice Sounds "Too Old"". /Film. 10 July 2020. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  13. ^ https://www.lep.co.uk/arts-and-culture/film-and-tv/julia-sawalha-keen-press-gang-reunion-30-years-2846442%3famp
  14. ^ "TV stars act over marriage report". BBC News. 6 January 2004.
  15. ^ "Relative Values: Nadia and Julia Sawalha". The Sunday Times. London. 1 April 2007.

External links[]

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