Originally seen as just the ‘brains’ of the class, Mandy Freemont eventually found herself on the arm of Gonch Gardener, but not before proving that there was much more to her than just intelligence. Actress Melanie Hiscock remembers her single series in Grange Hill.
How did you get the part of Mandy?
I was a student at drama school and my agent told me the BBC were holding auditions for a new female pupil character for Grange Hill so I went to the auditions. Almost all of the other girls had been made to look like teenage versions of JonBenet Ramsey with their make-up on and their pretty dresses. I think I made an impact on the casting directors by not being in a dress or overloaded with make-up and hairspray.
Mandy joined when the characters in the class were already well established. Was it difficult having to establish Mandy’s character when viewers were already used to the characters you were acting with?
It’s always difficult establishing yourself when you’re a new regular character joining an established regular cast. It wasn’t helped by child labour laws which limited the amount of time the producers could use you in storylines.
Who were you friends with on the show?
Tina Mahon and Simone Hyams among others. The girls were always closer to each other than to the boys.
Are you still in touch with anyone from the show now?
No I largely lost touch after I left Grange Hill.
Were you anything like Mandy was when you were at school?
I’d have to say I was like Mandy and yet not like Mandy. At a real school, “brains” get bullied. A lot of boys don’t like girls that are as smart as them or smarter. They want decorative female objects on their arms.
What was your favourite storyline that you were involved with?
Definitely Gonch using Mandy to get what he wants. I know it’s the one I’m most remembered for and it’s probably cliche.
What is your fondest memory from Grange Hill?
Definitely the wonderful cast…. we were like a family… very close.
When you left Grange Hill was acting something that you wanted to pursue?
Yes but I knew I was typecast… Even if I’d appeared in a Shakespeare play, the reviews would have said “former Grange Hill actor Melanie Hiscock”
What do you do now?
I lived in Israel for years…. I hope to have children and a family someday.
If you were given the chance to return to acting, would you take it?
In a heartbeat!
Thanks to Melanie Hiscock
Interview (c) Neil Mattocks. Reproduced by kind permission.