Julia Sawalha

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Julia Sawalha
Born (1968-09-09) 9 September 1968 (age 51)
Wandsworth, London, England
EducationItalia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts
OccupationActress, voice artist
Years active1981–present
TelevisionPress Gang
Second Thoughts
Jonathan Creek
Martin Chuzzlewit
Pride and Prejudice
Ain't Misbehavin
Faith in the Future
Absolutely Fabulous
Lark Rise to Candleford
Remember Me
Parent(s)Nadim Sawalha
Roberta Lane
RelativesNadia Sawalha (sister)
Nabil Sawalha (paternal uncle)

Julia Sawalha (born 9 September 1968)[1] is an English actress and voice artist known mainly for her role as Saffron Monsoon in the BBC sitcom Absolutely Fabulous. She is also known for portraying Lynda Day, editor of the Junior Gazette, in Press Gang and Lydia Bennet in the 1995 television miniseries of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. 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[edit]

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.[2]

Sawalha was educated at the Theatre Arts School, a fee-paying independent school which is part of the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts,[3] based at the time in Clapham in south London, which she left at the age of fifteen.[3]

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, while her sister Nadia starred in the soap EastEnders and is now a television presenter and chat show host with whom she has appeared on Lily Savage's Blankety Blank.[4]


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 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's Chicken Run. 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 has also 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 2003–2004.

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.[9] 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.[10] 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, that was broadcast live on BBC1.

Personal life[edit]

She had a relationship with Keith Allen, whom she met on the set of Martin Chuzzlewit.[11]

On 1 January 2004, it was alleged in the tabloid newspapers 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.[12]

She met Rich Annetts at the Glastonbury Festival in 2005. The couple moved to Bath, Somerset, and lived in a flat close to the Royal Crescent. Sawalha started growing her own vegetables, attending yoga lessons and studying for an Open University English degree.[9][13] Sawalha and Annetts have since separated.



Year Film 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
2002 Venus and Mars Marie
The Final Curtain Karen Willet
2016 Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Saffron Monsoon


Year Film Role Notes
1982 Fame Is the Spur Amy TV series (1 episode: "Episode 1.2")
Educating Marmalade Good Girl TV series (4 episodes)
1988 Inspector Morse Rachel TV series (1 episode: "Last Seen Wearing")
1989 Press Gang Lynda Day/Young Katherine Hill TV series (43 episodes: 1989–1993)
RTS Television AwardBest Actor
1990 Spatz Chloe Fairbanks TV series (1 episode: "The Sound of Muzak")
1991 El C.I.D. Trudy TV series (1 episode: "Thursday's Child")
Casualty Nikki Watson TV series (1 episode: "Living In Hope")
Second Thoughts Hannah Greyshott TV series (47 episodes: 1991–1994)
1992 Bottom Veronica Head TV series (1 episode: "Parade")
Absolutely Fabulous Saffron Monsoon TV series (40 episodes: 1992–2012)
The Word TV series (1 episode: "Episode 3.2")
1993 Parallel 9 TV series (1 episode: "Episode 2.5")
1994 Lovejoy Joanna Whymark TV series (1 episode: "Double-Edged Sword")
Keeper Alison tv short
Martin Chuzzlewit Mercy Pecksniff TV series (6 episodes)
1995 Pride and Prejudice Lydia Bennet TV mini-series (6 episodes)
Faith in the Future Hannah Greyshott TV series (22 episodes: 1995–1998)
1996 French and Saunders TV series (1 episode: "Baywatch")
Tales from the Crypt Teresa TV series (1 episode: "The Kidnapper")
1997 McLibel! Helen Steel TV mini-series (1 episode: "Episode 1.1")
Ain't Misbehavin' Dolly Nightingale TV mini-series (3 episodes)
An Audience with the Spice Girls TV special
1998 Absolutely Fabulous: Absolutely Not! Saffron Monsoon video
Light Lunch TV series (1 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 TV series (1 episode: "#2.14")
1999–2000 Kipper the Dog Mouse (voice) Animated TV series (4 episodes)
2000 Mirrorball Freda Keill TV short
Time Gentlemen Please Janet Wilson TV series (21 episodes: 2000–2001)
Sheeep Georgina (voice) Animated TV series (26 episodes: 2000)
The Hatching of 'Chicken Run' TV special
Loose Women TV series (1 episode: "#2.13")
Bob Martin TV series (1 episode: "Through the Keyhole")
Masterchef TV series (1 episode: "#10.14")
Poultry in Motion: The Making of Chicken Run Herself TV special
HBO First Look Herself TV series (1 episode: "The Hatching of Chicken Run")
Stars in Their Eyes TV series (1 episode: "Cerys Matthews")
2001 Jonathan Creek Carla Borrego TV series (7 episodes: 2002–2004)
2003 Hornblower Maria Mason/Hornblower TV series (2 films: 2003)
2004 Comedy Connections Narrator (voice) TV series (14 episodes: 2003–2004)
The Story of Absolutely Fabulous TV special
Hell's Kitchen TV series (1 episode: "#1.4")
2006 A Taste of My Life TV special
Who Do You Think You Are? TV series (1 episode: "Julia Sawalha")
2007 Cranford Jessie Brown TV series (5 episodes)
The Underdog Show TV series (unknown episodes)
The Graham Norton Show TV series (1 episode: "#1.7")
2008 Lark Rise to Candleford Dorcas Lane TV series (40 episodes: 2008–2011)
2009 The Alan Titchmarsh Show TV series (1 episode: "9 March 2009")
2013 Agatha Christie's Marple Mrs. Cresswell TV series (1 episode: "Greenshaw's Folly")
2014 Remember Me Jan Ward TV series (3 episodes)
2016 Midsomer Murders Penny Henderson TV series (1 episode: "Saints and Sinners")
2020 It's Pony Jill Sneekly (voice) TV series

Video games[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2008 Fable II Hannah/Hammer Xbox 360 game


  1. ^ "Julia Sawalha's Net Worth 2019 – How Much is Julia Worth Now?". networthstats.com. Retrieved 18 July 2019.
  2. ^ Julia's profile at BBC History
  3. ^ a b Sarah Gristwood (26 November 1995). "Absolutely fab". The Independent. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  4. ^ Lily Savage's Blankety Blank. 4 March 2001. ITV.
  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. ^ a b 'Settled' Julia seeks new role Daily Express, 21 March 2007
  10. ^ "Fable II game review". The Telegraph. 3 November 2008. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  11. ^ "I can't stand actors" 21 August 2005, The Observer
  12. ^ "TV stars act over marriage report". BBC News. 6 January 2004.
  13. ^ "Relative Values: Nadia and Julia Sawalha". The Sunday Times. London. 1 April 2007.

External links[edit]