Grange Hill girls are never anything other than noticeable, and Julie Marchant was one of those. Best friend to Fay Lucas, and some-time friend to everyone else, Julie always made sure that everyone heard exactly what she had to say. Played by Lisa York, the character of Julie was synonymous with the golden era of Grange Hill. Here, Lisa talks exclusively to Grange Hill Gold about her time on the show.
What lead to you going into acting?
When I was young I used to copy older girls in my street when they danced and someone suggested I attend the local dancing school.
What roles had you played before joining Grange Hill?
I was lucky really, I started performing professionally at the age of four. I got a part in the king and I and then went on to perform in Annie. Both shows were in the West End and to be honest that’s where I always wanted to be.
Did you audition specifically for the part of Julie?
Yes, I did, me and Vince Matthews auditioned at the same time. I had a broken arm at the time. I broke it playing football.
Did the character develop along the lines of your own personality?
I’m a little more feisty in real life, but like Julie always stood by her friends.
Did you get on well with from the cast?
Yeah, there were a few disputes, a few girl v boys’ situations. Alison Bettles was my best mate there and I ended up going out with Lee Sparke for 5 years but I have to say on the whole I think I got on with most people.
How did you get on with the adults in the cast?
How they put up with us I don’t know, I’m sure they thought we were spoilt brats but I don’t remember any of the adults being horrible and some were quite a laugh.
Generally the response was lovely. Most people just wanted to say hello. My character wasn’t nasty so I didn’t get a bad reaction really. But there were occasions, if there was a few of us together, in a public place it could get overwhelming. Me, Lee Mac and Ricky Simmonds went to a school in Hackney and it ended up me and Lee Mac being chased through the streets. The girls weren’t nasty or anything but sods law I was with Lee Mac!
Julie spent most of her time being involved in other people’s storylines, rather than having many of her own, yet she was still a popular character. Would you have liked to have had more storylines of your own?
There is a story behind that. I was getting into trouble at my real school and was actually told by my school heads I couldn’t do GH anymore because of my behaviour. My dad struck a deal that as long as I behaved I could return. The deal was to cut down the episodes I did that year which affected some of the scripts.
Grange Hill won a BAFTA during the 1986 series, and for many this is regarded as the golden era of Grange Hill. Why do you think this series was so successful?
Its successful because at the time, kids related to it. I remember watching the first ever episode. Everyone wanted to go to a school like GH and be like the kids from GH.
I loved being involved in it because I had so many experiences because of it. However, it was bittersweet for me as me and Tim Polley were the only main characters that was involved in Just Say No that didn’t go to America.
Did you expect your role in Grange Hill to be remembered 20 years later?
There has been so much interest lately, especially as the series has been running for 30 years. I now get to see people I haven’t seen in a long while. The GH re union helped. Erkan and I keep in regular contact now and I got to see Lee in Cirque de Celebratie.
What a re your favourite memories from your time playing Julie?
Not necessarily playing the character, but what we did. We went to an outward bound centre and spent a month away from home. We flooded the toilets at the BBC, played dares, had debates and to top the list, was me literally running into Chrissy Boy from Madness. I was so star struck!!
Do you have a favourite episode?
Me and Annette Firman having a fight was a good episode and us getting kidnapped by some boys in a car. But going on location in Wales was hilarious.
Do you have any bad memories of your time there?
Getting shouted at for not speaking in a French accent. If you see the episode you will see that I had been crying. Mmlokie (Christie – Kevin Baylon) was a great help that day.
You left Grange Hill after 6 years; what lead to you leaving?
They didn’t have an upper sixth!
What have you been doing since you left Grange Hill?
I did work after GH but small parts really. I ended up going to Australia and when I got back I ended up going to work in the city. In those days it was much more attractive.
How do you look back on your time in the series?
Now, with very fond memories.
Do you keep in touch with anyone from your time on Grange Hill?
Alison Bettles (Fay) has always remained a good friend. I love Ruth Carraway (Helen) and occasionally keep in contact with Julianne Steel (Dianne Cooney) and Lee Sparke (Jonah). Since the reunion I have a good relationship with Erkan (Roland). But the internet has got a lot of us in contact again.
The first 4 series of Grange Hill came out on DVD in November, but the BBC has refused to release subsequent series . Are you keen to see your episodes released on DVD?
My dad was rubbish at recording any episodes so I don’t have many of my own so I would love the BBC to release them.
2008 is the 30th Anniversary of Grange Hill and there’s been several rumours of a special celebration and a Grange Hill Film. Will you be involved in anyway?
I don’t know if a film would work but who knows.
Grange Hill was axed by the BBC this year. What are your views on this decision?
Probably the right decision, I have a 12 year old who would rather watch Hollyoaks.
Do you think there is still a place for Grange Hill on Children’s TV?
Not anymore. I think it is more of a nostalgia thing now.
Do you have a message for the thousands of Grange Hill fans out there?
Glad you remained ever faithful and I hope like me, you remember it fondly.
Thanks very much to Lisa York for taking part in this interview.
Interview © 2008 – Grange Hill Gold
Not to be reproduced without permission.