Sarah Gordy

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Close up of Sarah Gordy smiling while her dad gives her a peck on the cheek
Sarah Gordy receiving a peck on the cheek from her dad.

Sarah Gordy, MBE (born September 1976[1]) is a British actress who has Down syndrome. She is best known for her roles as Orlando Quine in Strike: The Silkworm and Lady Pamela Holland in the BBC TV series of Upstairs Downstairs. She has also acted in episodes of Call the Midwife, Holby City and Doctors. As well as these BBC shows, she has acted in short films, radio dramas, commercials and many theatre productions. In 2018 she became the first woman with Down syndrome to be made an MBE[2] and the first person with Down syndrome to receive an honorary degree from a UK university.[3]

Early life[edit]

Born in London to a British mother and American father, she has lived in both the UK and US.[4] Sarah Gordy grew up in Bromley and attended primary school in Orpington, Greater London. Because of her father's job, the family moved to the United States where she attended middle school in Houston, Texas.[5] The family returned to the UK when Gordy was 16 years old. They moved to Lewes, East Sussex, where she attended Sussex Downs College and became increasingly involved in acting.[5]


Gordy gained her first professional acting job on the ITV television series, Peak Practice, as Jessica Bain in "Walls of Jericho" (Series 10, Episode 11). She subsequently landed many other TV and theatre roles.[6]

In summer 2010, Gordy found out she had been chosen for the role of Lady Pamela Holland in the new BBC One production of Upstairs Downstairs. Lady Pamela was the long-lost sister of the lead character, Sir Hallam. Part of her role was written to illustrate the 1930s attitudes to disabilities.[7] Her character was introduced in the third episode of the three-part drama. Lady Pamela became a regular character in the second series, which was televised in February 2012.

Gordy starred in episode #3.5 of Call the Midwife, which was first broadcast on BBC One on 16 February 2014. She played Sally Harper,[8] a young woman with Down Syndrome who fell pregnant from her relationship with Jacob Milligan, a young man with cerebral palsy, played by Colin Young. Written by series creator, Heidi Thomas, the episode highlighted the treatment of people with physical and intellectual disabilities in British society in the late 1950s.

Gordy has read four "Bedtime Stories" for CBeebies and acting in the BBC Radio 4 play, Resurrection, in April 2012[7].

In 2012, Gordy starred in the short film "TimeSlip", written and directed by Suchi Chatterjee. It was made with the support of the Oyster Project in Lewes. It won the Our Story award in the Oska Bright Film Festival 2013. It also won the Our Story Class in the Australian 2014 Sit Down Shut Up & Watch (SDSW) Festival and was short-listed for the Picture This Film Festival in Calgary, Canada. Gordy co-directed and played Mary in "The Infant King"[9] for the Oyster Project.

In 2013 Gordy won a BBC Sussex and Surrey Community Heroes Award[10]. She was given the Arts Award in Lewes Town Council’s Civic Awards[11] in 2014 for service to the people of Lewes and her work in the Arts, especially for disabled people living and working in Lewes.[12]

Gordy broke new ground in 2014 by playing a central character without a disability in the play Crocodiles at Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre.[13] She has done a lot of theatre work, appearing in Once We were Mothers by Lisa Evans for the New Vic, Newcastle under Lyme, and in its second production at The Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond. She co-starred in the two-person play Into the Blue at The Arcola Theatre, London. She played the leading role in a touring theatre production, Seize the Day, with Hijinx Theatre,[14] and has also toured with The Theatre Centre and Kazzum Theatre.

Gordy is also one of the principal dancers for Culture Device Dance Project, an experimental dance company for professional dancers with Down syndrome.[15] She has performed in Germany, Macedonia, UK and Ireland. She performed a series of dance pieces at the My Perspective International Photography Competition Awards Ceremony in June 2016[16] which is held each year by the Down's Syndrome Association (DSA).

Gordy has also done a lot of modelling work. She is one of the models in the ongoing Radical Beauty Project, which seeks to change the way we see Downs Syndrome[17]. She was photographed by Rankin as part of Mencap #HereIAm campaign[18]. She worked with Richard Bailey on his award-winning After Vermeer series[19] for Shifting Perspectives for the Down's Syndrome Association.

In 2017, Gordy portrayed Orlando Quine in two episodes of Strike: The Silkworm [20][21]

In November 2018 Gordy was presented with an MBE for services to the arts and people with disabilities. The MBE had been awarded as part of the Queen's Birthday Honours in June.[22] She became the first woman with Down syndrome to be awarded an MBE.[2] The following month she received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Nottingham, becoming the first person with Down syndrome to be awarded an honorary degree by a British university.[23]

Gordy starred in Jellyfish, a new play written by Ben Weatherill, which premiered at the Bush Theatre in June 2018. Following a sold out run at the Bush, Jellyfish moved to the National Theatre in July 2019[24]. Gordy was nominated for Best West End Debut in The Stage Debut Awards 2019[25].

In March 2019, Gordy performed "The Rite Re-evisioned" with Culture Device Dance Project and dancers of The Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House[26]. Culture Device performed the dance again for the film "The Rite", which has been nominated for Fashion Film Award[27].

In 2019 Gordy joined the cast of The A Word for the third season of the BBC drama series.[28]

Personal life[edit]

Sarah has a younger sister Catherine.[5] Their mother, Jane Gordy, acts as Sarah's drama coach,[6] travelling with her and helping with her lines.[5] Jane has said "The interesting thing about Sarah is she doesn’t really act. She feels very emotional on set. She can’t fake emotion, so instead she believes everything about her character."[29]

Gordy lives in Lewes, East Sussex.[7] She loves dancing and working out at the gym. When she is not acting she volunteers at the local British Heart Foundation charity shop.[7]

Sarah is a celebrity ambassador for Mencap[13] and Patron of Circus Starr. In 2019 Sarah became Patron of the Cutting Edge Theatre Company in Scotland.


  1. ^ "Sarah GORDY - Personal Appointments (free information from Companies House)". Retrieved 2019-01-25.
  2. ^ a b "Actresses Emma Thompson and Sarah Gordy honoured at Buckingham Palace". BBC News. Retrieved 2018-11-08.
  3. ^ "Sarah Gordy MBE: Actor in honorary degree first". BBC News. Retrieved 2018-12-12.
  4. ^ "Sarah Gordy". IMDb. Retrieved 2016-03-30.
  5. ^ a b c d Sanderson, Elizabeth (20 February 2012). "The actress with Down's syndrome who has earned a milestone role in BBC's Upstairs Downstairs drama". Daily Mail. Retrieved 2012-09-25.
  6. ^ a b "Sarah Gordy - 'I didn't get bullied and was lucky to avoid that'". Sussex Courier. 16 March 2012. Retrieved 2012-09-25.
  7. ^ a b c d Wallin, James (21 February 2012). "Upstairs Downstairs actress's new-found fame". The Argus (Sussex). Retrieved 2012-09-25.
  8. ^ Eley, Adam (8 May 2015). "The struggle to find work when you have Down's syndrome". BBC. Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  9. ^ "The Infant King on December 1st - Sarah Gordy". 21 November 2012.
  10. ^ "BBC Sussex & Surrey Community Heroes Awards - Sarah Gordy". 13 December 2013.
  11. ^ "Recognising local heroes in Lewes Civic Awards".
  12. ^ Lewes Town Council’s Civic Awards 2014, Sussex Express.
  13. ^ a b Salman, Saba (2014-10-14). "'I am different, that is good': how an actor with Down's syndrome is changing perceptions". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-03-30.
  14. ^ "The Ouch Assessment: Sarah Gordy". 11 September 2006. BBC Ouch!. Retrieved 2012-09-25.
  15. ^ Device, Culture. "Culture Device - ABOUT -". Culture Device. Retrieved 2016-03-30.
  16. ^ "My Perspective 2016 Winners Announced!". Retrieved 2018-12-12.
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ "Exclusive Interview with Sarah Gordy (Orlando Quine) –".
  21. ^ Reporters, Telegraph (15 December 2017). "What's on TV today: Our Guy in Russia and Nadiya's Family Favourites" – via
  22. ^ "Call The Midwife star Sarah Gordy becomes first woman with Down syndrome to receive MBE". Metro. 8 November 2018. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
  23. ^ Bunn, Matthew (3 December 2018). "Call the Midwife actress to become first person with Down's Syndrome to gain honorary doctorate in a UK university". Nottingham Post. Retrieved 2018-12-12.
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ "Filming commences on The A Word series three". BBC. 24 May 2019.
  29. ^ Thompson, Kate; Francis, Jenny (21 March 2012). "My son loves Lady Gaga, football and cuddles... and he also has Down's". The Sun. Retrieved 2012-09-25.

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