Todd Carty with GH Online webmaster Simon Luxton

If one name personifies Grange Hill, it has to be Todd Carty. As fast-talking and loveable Tucker Jenkins, the original star of Grange Hill brought a new breed of hero to children's TV and thanks to Grange Hill, the versatile actor's career has never looked back. He went onto other successful, high profile roles in EastEnders and then The Bill.

So when I heard Todd would be doing panto at our local theatre this year, I couldn't believe my luck. It's Grange Hill's 30th anniversary year (as well as being its last), and if GH Online could secure a meeting with Todd whilst he's down here then it would be the result of everything we've worked for in its eight years of operation. All we have to do now is get onto the Queen's Theatre to see what they can arrange for us. One letter and several phone calls later I am offered a short meeting with Todd when he's next in the area to promote the panto.

Finally the day dawns. One bright September morning I report to the Queen's Theatre as arranged where Sarah Anderson, the PR greets me. I had hoped Andrew (Gregson, co-owner of GH Online) would be joining me, but he is unable to attend so I'm flying solo. It's all very nerve-wracking; in eight years of running GH Online I have never met anyone from the series, let alone it's biggest star, so as I wait for Todd's arrival I'm very much hoping not to mess things up.

Suddenly, Sarah returns shepherding in a casually-dressed figure wearing a West Ham cap and jeans. It's Todd, and after introductions he immediately puts me at ease. Had I come far, he asks as we head for the Queen's upstairs restaurant. Sarah gets us a cup of coffee and we set right to work; with no recording equipment other than a camcorder on me, I rely on good old pen and paper and mad scribbling as we begin our chat about Grange Hill. After posing for the obligatory fan photo, Todd positively lights up as I pull out my Grange Hill annual for him to sign and he enjoys a nostalgic flick through the pages.

What are your thoughts on Grange Hill coming to an end - do you think it could have continued?
Naturally I feel a tinge of sadness now that Grange Hill has finished - when we first started few of us thought it would last one series and it ended up going on for 30 years. But now sadly I feel it’s time to say goodbye to the old girl, love and respect.

Todd with Chris Perry-MetcalfeWhat was it like working with Chris Perry-Metcalf (Togger)? He's proved to be a smash hit with the recent fans, do you think he has a good future ahead of him as an actor?
He’s a lovely lad - when I first went back about four years ago I saw this young 13-year old who was knee-high to a grasshopper - now when I went back the second time I was surprised how tall he was - he looked about 6ft five! Chris is very down to earth, very grounded and I wish him all the best.

Were you always going to be in the series just ended, or was it a final swan song?
Yes I think it was a final swan song - the powers that be certainly felt this was the end and I knew it would be too. It was a pleasure to be asked back and a nice way to say goodbye to something which gave me so much pleasure.

Now that Grange Hill has ended, what do you think is the future for contemporary children’s drama on television?
TV bosses need to get their fingers out and and make a new contemporary drama for today’s audiences. These days the audience is divided - you’ve got the 8-11s on one side and the 12s and over on the other - but then society is very different from when we started. Grange Hill could reinvent itself perhaps in a different form, if someone was prepared to give it a go.

Your happiest memory of working on Grange Hill?
Definitely the first and second series, because Tucker thought he was bionic and invincible. I remember sitting in a field one lunchtime not having a care in the world - no responsibilities etc - great days!

Todd in Jack And The BeanstalkYou’re here because you’re in panto at the Queen’s Theatre this year, tell us who you’re playing and when we can expect to see you on stage.
Well I’m playing Ferdinand Fleshcreep, the baddie - since The Bill (where I played Gabriel Kent) I now get all the bad parts! Before then it was the other way round. I love panto - the one year I didn’t do it I was twiddling my thumbs on Christmas Day - and my kids will come down I’m sure and see me.

And beyond Jack And The Beanstalk, what are your plans?
Channel Five have just bought the rights to my book, “The Dangerous Adventures For Boys”, and that’s coming out next October. I’ll be appearing with my son James, 11, he wants to become an actor too and I’m happy to support him here. I’m also a director now, I’ve been back to Doctors to direct a three-parter which is currently going out, the first one I did earlier this year.

Finally, do you have a message for the readers of GH Online?
Thanks for sticking with Grange Hill, your loyalty is much appreciated. And for all fans past and present, keep logging on to GH Online, because you never know what might happen!

The main business over, Todd and I sit back and enjoy our refreshments. Todd is more than keen to flick through my Grange Hill annual (the very first one) and gets nostalgic over the artwork in the picture stories. "You don't get drawings like these any more!" he says, picking out a pic of Tucker and saying "That's just like my son!" He also ponders the possibility of bringing his family to spend Christmas in North Devon and I tell him about the area's magnificent Christmas lights. Sadly though, our brief meeting is over no sooner than it began; Todd has an engagement with local radio right after me and Sarah brings over the reporter and introduces him. With that, we say our goodbyes and I leave the Queen's Theatre delighted to have met the man who many believe was the one true star of Grange Hill.

© GH Online 2008. Unauthorised reproduction of text and images strictly prohibited without written permission from GH Online. We are most grateful to Sarah Anderson of North Devon Theatres Trust for arranging this rendezvous for us, but our main thanks must go to Todd Carty for being such an obliging and informative interviewee.

To mark the end of Grange Hill, and its 30th anniversary, here are two exclusive commemorative wallpapers of Grange Hill's original star. Click on either image and the full 1024x768 image will open in a new window.