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.

Early life

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.[1]

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.[2]


Sawalha made her debut in the 1982 BBC miniseries Fame Is the Spur[3] 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.[4] 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.[5] 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?[6] 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.[7] 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.[8] 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.[9] 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

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.[10]

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.[11]

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.[8][12] Sawalha and Annetts have since split up.[13]


Film and television

Year Film Role Notes
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 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")
Buddy's Song Kelly
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")
Keeper Alison tv short
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

Other appearances

Year Appearance Notes
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")


Year Title Role Notes
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


  1. ^ Julia's profile at BBC History
  2. ^ Lily Savage's Blankety Blank. 4 March 2001. ITV. 
  3. ^ Chicken Run DVD Cast Bio
  4. ^ "Withnail star takes Argos upmarket". The Guardian. 26 July 2002. Retrieved 29 January 2018. 
  5. ^ "Hornblower:Duty" cast list on IMDB
  6. ^ "BBC ONE Autumn 2006". BBC. 18 July 2006. 
  7. ^ BBC Food – A Taste of my Life Pilot episode description[dead link]
  8. ^ a b 'Settled' Julia seeks new role Daily Express, 21 March 2007
  9. ^ "Fable II game review". The Telegraph. 3 November 2008. Retrieved 29 January 2018. 
  10. ^ "I can't stand actors" 21 August 2005, The Observer
  11. ^ "TV stars act over marriage report". BBC News. 6 January 2004. 
  12. ^ "Relative Values: Nadia and Julia Sawalha". The Sunday Times. London. 1 April 2007. 
  13. ^ "Ab Fab star Julia Sawalha: My disastrous relationships have made me give up on ever becoming a mum". Daily Mail. 21 Mar 2008. 

External links