Grange Hill's Zammo on gritty show which changed TV

Discussion in 'TV Central' started by Barbara Fan, Apr 30, 2018.

  1. Barbara Fan

    Barbara Fan Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Grange Hill's Zammo on gritty show which changed TV - and how he wants to get cast back together for reunion episode

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    our decades ago a gritty new drama exploded into the cosy world of kids’ telly – highlighting issues like teen pregnancies and drugs.

    In an era of cartoons and “safe” programmes Grange Hill delved right into the rough and tumble of life in a secondary school.


    It dealt with bullying, racism and other problems that confronted pupils every day, holding eight million viewers enthralled in its 1980s heyday.

    And it was a launching pad for the careers of its cast, several of whom went on to become some of Britain’s best-loved stars.


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    Lee as Zammo (Image: BBC)
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    Erkan Mustafa as Roland Browning, Lee Sparke as Jonah Jones and Lee MacDonald as Zammo (Image: PA)
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    Tim Polley as Steven Banks, Melissa Wilks as Jackie Wright and Lee as Zammo (Image: PA)
    Incredibly, this year marks the 40th anniversary of the first episode of the award-winning BBC show, which ran from 1978 to 2008.

    And celebrating the landmark Lee MacDonald, who played tough teen Sammy “Zammo” Maguire, says it broke the mould for children’s TV.

    Lee, now a 49-year-old dad who owns a locksmith business, was in the show from 1982 to 1987.

    And he said: “Before Grange Hill the only kids’ programmes you could watch were cartoons.

    “Then all of a sudden comes this drama that kids can relate to. It just hit home – and it was really mischievous.

    “People have such fond memories of it, they say it had a huge impact on their childhood.

    “The first episode I ever filmed was at Chessington Zoo. We went on a ghost train – as an 11-year old, that was unbelievable.

    “Without a doubt the Grange Hill years were the best of my life.”

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    The cast record their single Just Say No (Image: BBC)
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    Lee and Erkan are still good pals (Image: Birmingham Post and Mail)
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    Click to play

    Lee now wants to get his old classmates, including Todd Carty and Susan Tully , back on telly in a special one-off episode based around a school reunion.

    He said: “It would be brilliant. There are so many times somebody’s said, ‘Why don’t we try and get something on telly?’ It’s just trying to get it all sorted.”

    Lee lost contact with co-stars for 25 years. But thanks to social media they’re all back in touch now and have a Facebook group.

    Lee also talks regularly to Erkan Mustafa – now a 47-year-old writer-producer – who played bullied Roland Browning.

    Grange Hill, set in the fictional North London borough of Northam, was initially conceived as a nine-part series. Yesterday, ex-cast and crew met at Royal Holloway University in London to celebrate at an event organised with TV archive organisation Kaleidoscope.

    Spokesperson Chris Perry said: “Kaleidoscope organised anniversary events for Blue Peter and Play School, so it seemed natural to do likewise for Grange Hill.

    “It was a pivotal moment in TV drama. Without it, we would have no Tracy Beaker, Byker Grove or Hollyoaks nowadays. Forty years deserves a celebration.”
     
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  2. Barbara Fan

    Barbara Fan Super Moderator Staff Member

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    For those of a certain age in UK, i loved the early days of Grange Hill and bought s1-4 on DVD last year

    Strange to see some cast as youngsters before they went onto find fame as adults

    the saddest thing for me watching was seeing Benny, played so brilliantly by Terry Sue Patt, a great wee actor who should have gone onto great things as an adult and was sadly found dead in his flat in 2015. Such a talent who was great to watch
     
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  3. Barbara Fan

    Barbara Fan Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Todd Carty played Peter 'Tucker' Jenkins
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    Susan Tully was Suzanne Ross
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    Amanda Mealing as Tracy Edwards

    Viewers were captivated by the show’s groundbreaking storylines. Over the years it won four BAFTA awards and clocked up many other nominations.

    One of its best known and most controversial plots saw Zammo get addicted to heroin in 1986.

    The Beeb consulted Lee’s parents and took him to rehab centres for research.

    Lee, then 15, said: “As a teenager, you’re given the lines and you don’t think much about it. But as I got older I realised what a big issue that was.”

    The storyline tied in with the US-led War on Drugs at the time.

    Grange Hill’s cast and crew released a cover of campaign song Just Say No, which got to No5, and went to the White House to meet First Lady Nancy Reagan.

    Lee joked: “The song was terrible then and it’s terrible now – but people still remember it.”

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    Terry Sue-Patt was Benny Green
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    John Alford starred as Robert Wright


    Other plots included Precious Matthews standing up to racist bully Norman “Gripper” Stebson and prankster Jeremy Irvine drowning while retrieving Fay Lucas’ bangle from the pool.

    Viewers also followed Chrissy Mainwaring’s pregnancy with Ted Fisk, the introduction of disabled characters Denny Roberts and Rachel Burns and a plot in which Tom Smith raped Leah Stewart.

    Lee reveals there was secret off-camera tension in the cast over different backgrounds. However Lee, who attended a local drama academy in his spare time and found out about Grange Hill auditions through that, said they all “soon bonded”.

    After Lee left the show he pursued boxing but this was cut short by a car crash in the 1990s.

    He opened Mentor Locksmith and Safe Co in Wallington, Surrey, 20 years ago, explaining: “I just wanted to forget about Grange Hill, but then I started enjoying it again.

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    Michelle Herbert as Trisha Yates
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    John Holmes was Gonch
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    Paula Ann Bland as Claire Scott
    “Every day somebody of a certain age comes in and shouts, “Just Say No” at me or mentions the show.” His partner Jess Bartram, 44, step-daughter Katie, 10, and nine-year-old son Harry have seen old episodes but Lee refuses to let them watch his heroin storyline.

    He occasionally still dabbles in acting, has an upcoming role in a sitcom and recently filmed a TV advert in which he is a locksmith.

    Lee has also appeared on Celebrities, Cirque du Celebrite and Who’s Doing the Dishes?

    But he said: “If I can get away with it, I want to do parts that are just like me, like Zammo. Most acting is just playing yourself with different voices.”
     
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