Julia Sawalha (born 9 September 1968) is a British actress 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.
Sawalha was born in Lambeth, London, 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.
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.
Sawalha made her debut in the 1982 BBC miniseries Fame Is the Spur 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 1991–94, 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. 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? 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. 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. 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. 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.
Sawalha lived with Press Gang co-star Dexter Fletcher, and subsequently comedian Richard Herring. She also had a relationship with Patrick Marber. She had an affair with Keith Allen, whom she met on the set of Martin Chuzzlewit.
On 1 January 2004, it was alleged in the tabloid newspapers that she had married boyfriend 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.
After 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. Sawalha and Annetts have since split up.
|1981||Keep It in the Family||Walk-On Role||uncredited|
|1982||The Pirates of Penzance||Daughter||uncredited|
|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 Award – Best 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 Grayshot||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)|
|1994||Lovejoy||Joanna Whymark||TV series (1 episode: "Double-Edged Sword")|
|Martin Chuzzlewit||Mercy Pecksniff||TV series (6 episodes)|
|1995||In The Bleak Midwinter||Nina Raymond (Ophelia)|
|Pride and Prejudice||Lydia Bennet||TV mini-series (6 episodes)|
|Faith in the Future||Hannah Grayshot||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")|
|The Wind in the Willows||The Jailer's Daughter|
|1997||McLibel!||Helen Steel||TV mini-series (1 episode: "Episode 1.1")|
|Ain't Misbehavin'||Dolly Nightingale||TV mini-series (3 episodes)|
|1998||Absolutely Fabulous: Absolutely Not!||Saffron Monsoon||video|
|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|
|2000||Mirrorball||Freda Keill||TV short|
|Time Gentlemen Please||Janet Wilson||TV series (21 episodes: 2000–2001)|
|Chicken Run||Ginger||Animated film|
|2001||Venus and Mars||Marie|
|Jonathan Creek||Carla Borrego||TV series (7 episodes: 2002–2004)|
|2002||The Final Curtain||Karen Willet|
|2003||Hornblower||Maria Mason/Hornblower||TV series (2 films: 2003)|
|2007||Cranford||Jessie Brown||TV series (5 episodes)|
|2008||Lark Rise to Candleford||Dorcas Lane||TV series (40 episodes: 2008–2011)|
|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")|
|2016||Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie||Saffron Monsoon|
|1992||The Word||TV series (1 episode: "Episode 3.2")|
|1993||Parallel 9||TV series (1 episode: "Episode 2.5")|
|1997||An Audience with the Spice Girls||TV special|
|1998||Light Lunch||TV series (1 episode: "The Future's Bright, the Future's Funny")|
|1999||Late Lunch||TV series (1 episode: "#2.14")|
|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||TV special|
|HBO First Look||TV series (1 episode: "The Hatching of Chicken Run")|
|Stars in Their Eyes||TV series (1 episode: "Cerys Matthews")|
|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||The Underdog Show||TV series (unknown episodes)|
|The Graham Norton Show||TV series (1 episode: "#1.7")|
|2009||The Alan Titchmarsh Show||TV series (1 episode: "9 March 2009")|
|1999 - 2000||Kipper the Dog||Mouse||Animated TV series (4 episodes: 1999 - 2000)|
|2000||Sheeep||Georgina||Animated TV series (26 episodes: 2000)|
|2000||Chicken Run||Ginger||Animated Movie|
|2004||Comedy Connections||Narrator||TV series (14 episodes: 2003–2004)|
|2008||Fable II||Hannah/Hammer||Game for Xbox 360|