In 1986, Ziggy Greaves arrived at Grange Hill, having moved with his family from Liverpool. Over 4 series, Ziggy, played by George Christopher, became one of Grange Hill’s most popular and best remembered characters. Grange Hill Gold talked to George about life at Grange Hill and beyond.
Grange Hill was very much a London based show. How did you end up being cast as Ziggy?
There were auditions in Manchester. I turned up not expecting to get it as there was hundreds there, but I got down to the last 2. Phil Redmond had the final say and picked me. I think because I was a Scouser and the other kid was a Yorkshire lad. Originally Ziggy was either going to be a Yorkshire, Manc or Scouse lad.
What do you think it was that made Phil Redmond choose you?
I think it was being from Liverpool, plus I think I reminded him of himself when he was younger.
Had you done much acting before Grange Hill?
I had done one film called ‘No Surrender’ in which I had 1 line. I’d also done one play (Romeo & Juliet).
Grange Hill, meant moving to London. Was this a problem for you?
At first I hated it. Homesickness was the biggest problem, but once I became friends with people it got easier. It did get lonely at times I must admit.
Did any of your family move down with you?
No. I stayed with a chaperone and his family. Jeff was his name. Me and the boys mention him a few times in the show. Him and his family were a great comfort without whom I might not have stayed in London as long.
It must have been difficult, being that age, moving to a new place without your family, and being the only one in that situation. But I suppose it was an opportunity that was too good to turn down?
It all happened so fast that I never had time to think about my situation at first. Now I wouldn’t change it for the world.
How much did being on Grange Hill change your life?
Dramatically. It changed how my life went for good and bad reasons. Being in the public eye has its ups as well as downs. More ups I think though. It was good as the rest of the cast were going through same thing.
How similar was the character of Ziggy to yourself?
Very similar. Cheeky, always trying to make money. That was me at school. I was not as good a footballer though. John Alford (Robbie Wright) was better.
Did Ziggy’s character become more like you as the writers got to know you?
Yes, definitely. They wrote for me in the end I think. Sometimes it was me on screen not Ziggy!
Were you happy with the way the character developed and the storylines you got?
Yes I got a lot of fun stuff to do. I hated the donkey stuff. That bored me.
Any favourite storylines?
The stuff chasing the intruder with Mr Griffiths and the boys, and going round London with Robbie was a good few days. The Isle of White was a great laugh too.
You joined GH at its most successful and controversial period. Do you think it ever went too far with the issues it handled?
No, I thought the drugs storyline worked well and opened a lot of kids’ eyes to a dangerous world you can easily get involved in.
That was eerie, seeing him dead in the car. Still sends shivers thinking about how he looked. You were lead to believe Bronson may have killed him or at least drove him to killing himself.
How involved were you with ‘Just Say No’ and the Grange Hill album? Does you CV mention you having a number one single?
I wasn’t involved in the singing side of it, only the video. I try to forget as I look ridiculous in that video.
Did you learn the dance routine?
Er no! I stood behind the girls during the dance though!! I think John Drummond (Trevor Cleaver) saw me and joined me for that moment too!
Recently you’ve had the chance to rewatch your GH episodes. What did you think of them now?
I laugh a lot as I see things I’d forgotten . . . . . all the hidden and sly things me and the boys (ie Trev and Robbie) threw in. I also cringe at some of the lines and stuff I did. I wore some terrible jumpers and a terrible suit jacket for some reason at Ronnie’s party. Not to mention my mullet when I first started!
Is it strange to think that these moments of your life are preserved forever on film?
It’s nice to think my memory will stay there long after I’m gone ; that my kids and their kids can see how I was at that time.
Michael Sheard said that the cast all got on very well. Was that really the case?
Ha ha! Yeah I guess so. There was the odd row but nothing really serious. You had to get on as you had to work together every day. Me and John Alford never got on at first but became great friends soon enough.
Do you think the ‘adults’ found it difficult working with a junior cast and vice versa?
They stuck to themselves alot and we did too. Sometimes we’d meet up afterwards and they were cool. Mr Griffiths (George A. Cooper) was my fave. He had everyone in stitches, just a very happy go lucky person who never moaned, always smiling.
Who did you get on particularly well with in the main cast?
John Drummond (Trevor Cleaver) was my best mate whilst in London. He virtually lived with me in the end. I taught him how to cop off with girls. He still is a very good friend. And John Alford (Robbie Wright) is a good friend still.
Rumours persist about backstage romance between the cast. Was there any?
My lips were and still are sealed! Although i think there was something going on between Trev and Harriet the donkey!
So the rumour about Ziggy and Imelda being friendly behind the scenes is just a rumour?!!!
Where did you hear that? No I always secretly fancied her but never made a move…don’t mix business with pleasure I guess!
I have to say that as a pair of enemies on screen Ziggy and Imelda worked so well. That stuff with the fibreglass was brilliant. Anyone of that GH era must always think of you two when they see fibreglass nowadays!!!
It got some complaints at the time due to copy cat incidents. It will always remind me too when I see it!
Was there any character you wanted Ziggy to get together with?
Fiona (Lee-Fraser) who played Laura or Sara (McGlasson) who played Julia I wouldn’t have minded Zig dating!
Yes I’d done 4 years and decided I wanted to come home. I was glad in a way as I thought the sixth form wouldn’t have worked for me. I left on top so to speak.
General thought is that after you left GH went downhill, character and storyline wise. Do you agree?
I hate to admit it but I felt once my generation (Trev, Vince, Robbie, Ted, Gonch) went, they couldn’t replace those comedy type characters. I stopped watching once my old friends left.
You were probably part of the last era of GH that EVERYONE watched. That must have caused you a lot of public attention.
There were personal appearances. That was nice money-wise. I still get recognised today. I have to live with that but most people are cool about it.
Did being so well known become a problem for you?
SOMETIMES…I had a few fights with jealous idiots over the years but you learn how to avoid trouble before it starts.
Would you have fancied your own Grange Hill spin-off show like Tucker’s Luck?
I would have loved it!
Now that GH is produced by Mersey TV, could you ever see yourself returning? Simon O’Brien (another of Phil Redmond’s protégés from Brookside) plays the caretaker. Can you see yourself doing anything like that?
I hear rumours and if it happens then I’d take it with open arms. I’d love to go back….
What have you been doing since Grange Hill?
I’ve worked in theatre land a lot. I have also written and produced my own plays ; one about 2 boxers on the Titanic, and I’m now writing a stage version of Papillon.
Over the past few years there’s been several GH reunions for TV /radio. Is it strange seeing all these people again?
I love meeting up with them all again. I’d love to meet Tim Polley (Banksie) and Ricky Simmonds (Ant Jones) again. Recently Fleur Taylor (Imelda) emailed me which was nice.
What do you imagine Ziggy is doing now?
Maybe a PE teacher or sports teacher, married to Jackie, with 8 kids…ha ha!
Any final words about Grange Hill?
I loved my 4 years on there. They were the best 4 years of my life and I’ve never had an acting job to compare with it. Never had as many laughs as I did back then.
Many thanks to George Christopher for taking part in this interview.
(c) 2005 Grange Hill Gold – Not to be reproduced without permission