FRAN SOUNDS OFF...WE TALK TO REBEKAH JOY GILGAN
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Rebekah Joy GilganYorkshire lass Rebekah Joy Gilgan joined Grange Hill as the show was undergoing a critical transitional point. The last of the "Just Say No" crew were in their final year in the show, and the Year 10 class with Justine Dean and Matthew Pearson taking centre stage. GH Online talks to Rebekah, who played bolshie Fran Williams, about being the only Northern girl in the show, perception of Grange Hill in the 1990s and thoughts on the show's demise.

 

As a Yorkshire lass, how did you come to be involved with Grange Hill, a show with a distinctly London identity?
In the audition they were seeking a dark haired girl, I just happened to be Northern and I think they liked it.

Was the fact that Fran was from the north of any significance to the plot?
Not particularly but I did have a cousin that come down from Newcastle during one series.

How did you feel when you discovered you got the part?
Like I had been chosen by God!! (it seemed like a complete fluke)

What was your favourite storyline?
Probably the discovery of the twins, as it was a quirky story line.

At the time you joined Grange Hill, the programme was not enjoying the high profile it did just five years earlier (Just Say No and all that), and it would seem that the 1990s era of Grange Hill is not remembered with the same fondness as the show's early years and is almost always overlooked by journalists writing about Grange Hill. Do you think this is fair?
I think that was just the natural peek for the program, but it was still very popular as Sky TV was not around so it was still on a prime spot.

Fran sees double
(RealPlayer required)

Did you get on well with your co-stars? Are you still in touch with any of them? And what of the adult actors - was there a "them and us" off-screen between them and the child stars?
Generally we got on well, although there was some bitching and backstabbing with all the prima donnas around, there was definitely a pecking order.

Tell us about coming to film on Dartmoor - was it as much the big adventure for you all as actors as it was meant to be for your screen characters?
No it wasn't an adventure, everyone hated it as we had to sleep in bunk beds and cook our own dinners, and we were all used to hotels- we were outraged!!

Why did you leave Grange Hill when you did (Fran didn't stay for her A-level year)?
I left to pursue Emmerdale and I wanted to relocate up north to be near my family.

Career-wise you were one of the more successful members of your screen class - going on to Emmerdale and recently being seen under the wheels of a train in Casualty. Did you ever think that Grange Hill would open those doors for you?
I always saw acting as a hobby, so I never expected to get jobs, so when I did it was a nice surprise.

Apart from yourself, some of your co-stars have gone on to lead very successful careers, most notably Julie and Clare Buckfield - did you imagine they would end up doing so well?
Yes, it always felt very possible that people could go on to be successful, as in those days it was difficult to get into the acting world so we seemed to have an advantage.

What are you doing with yourself these days?
I run my own pie shop.

When did you last watch Grange Hill?
Not since I've left to be honest!

Does it seem strange to you that Grange Hill is now made in the North with an exclusively Northern cast, when in your day you were the sole Northerner in a sea of Londoners?
Yes it's bizarre, I can't quite get my head around that GH is now a northern school!

I noticed you were on City Hospital a few years back with your son who is autistic. Are you familiar with the story of Martin Miller in Grange Hill, a pupil who has Asperger's Syndrome, and if so how well do you think it was handled?
No I didn't see that episode but I think its good that things like that are brought into the public realm, as its a very common syndrome.

I also believe you are dyslexic; did this cause any problems for you as an actress on Grange Hill and later in your career? You probably know that Grange Hill itself had tackled the subject of dyslexia back in 1979 (Simon Shaw) and how good a job do you think they made of it?
Luckily I can read very well so the scripts weren't a problem to memorise, its just the just the spelling i struggle with. Again I didn't see that episode as I was only 4 at the time, so my days were filled with dolls' tea parties, also I didn't know I was dyslexic at this time hahaha

The BBC has just announced the cancellation of Grange Hill after exactly 30 years. Do you think it could have continued or did you feel it was the right time to end it?
I think GH's glory days were well and truly over, the BBC thought they were flogging a dead horse, so it's no surprise to see they finally ended it.

Any final thoughts?
Never drink wine before beer.


© GH Online 2008. Our grateful thanks to Rebekah for sparing the time to talk to us!