LAURA SADLER: 1980-2003
Francesca Martinez: Grange Hill's Comedy Sensation
Grange Hill For Christmas
The Gripper Stebson Years
The Michael Sheard Interview
Laura Sadler: 1980-2003
Sportsmaster to Headmaster: 15 Years of Mr Robson
Flying High with Grange Hill

CLOSE UP SPECIALS
The Curtain Comes Down: the demise of Grange Hill
Grange Hill Reunited
Grange Hill Moves North
Many Grange Hill actors are relative unknowns when they come into the series. But in 1997 Grange Hill pulled off a major coup when it signed up a talented 15-year old to play the demanding role of Judi Jeffreys. That actress was Laura Sadler, who already had a movie with Julie Walters and a couple of TV roles to her name. Being in Grange Hill led to Laura being in demand, and before long Laura would establish another popular role in the medical drama Holby City. Sadly her career and young life were cut tragically short when Laura died after falling 40ft from a second floor balcony in June 2003. She was just 22. GH Online remembers her career.

DESTINED TO ACT
Born in Ascot, Berkshire, Laura grew up in London and knew she always wanted to act. Her inspiration was Marilyn Monroe and in 2002 Laura said of her: "I think Marilyn's the epitome of a woman, she was fantastic and I don't think there'll be anyone like her ever again." So began her career at the tender age of six. She attended the Jackie Palmer stage school and at 12 she won a scholarship to the renowned Sylvia Young Theatre School in London. Sylvia Young has provided many of Grange Hill's actors and also takes the credit for other celebs such as Nicole and Natalie Appleton, John and Nick Pickard, Samantha Janus and Emma Bunton. Many youngsters try and fail to win a place at Sylvia Young's each year, so it was clear that Laura had the exceptional talent needed to gain a place.
Laura as Gabby Goggle, CITV 1995, with Malcolm Jeffries and Su Elliot
Close-up of Laura in "Gogglevision"

Her first big break in 1989 was as Sebina in "Inspector Morse", a non-speaking role involving an elephant ride! The first time I saw Laura on TV was in 1995, when she appeared as Gabby Goggle in Goggle Vision, a series about a TV-mad family marking 40 years of Children's ITV. Sadly the only clip of Laura I have from that series is the background shot below, from a CITV continuity link.

Laura left Goggle Vision and in 1996 moved onto the big screen, in the movie Intimate Relations starring Rupert Graves and Julie Walters. She played Walters' teenage daughter who has an illicit relationship with her mum's handsome lodger, and carried off the role beautifully. Back in TV land, Goggle Vision continued with Gabby now played by Melanie Martinez, who has not been heard of since.

 

JUDI MOVES GRANGE HILL AUDIENCES
Then came the role we're bonkers about. In 1996, while taking her GCSEs, Laura Sadler won the role of Judi Jeffreys in Series 20 of Grange Hill. It was a role Laura was to make her own and she played the part with great skill and emotion. Judi was a caring but put-upon Year 9 pupil who struggled to combine normal teenage life with looking after her mum who suffered from MS. She also had to look after her little brothers. Judi worried constantly that social services would find out about her home life and take them into care. Inevitably social services did find out, but Judi needn't have worried - they merely provided a home help. There were some powerful scenes in that series, especially when a rift developed between Judi and best mate Sarah-Jane, and I would think many people cheered when Judi told Mrs Holmes where to get off!

Laura's second series of GRANGE HILL, shown in 1998, was one which tested her acting ability as Judi's face was mistakenly slashed by knife-wielding Sean Pearce. Judi was left with a permanent scar, and Laura movingly showed Judi's pain as she attempted to come to terms with her disfigurement. Sean (Iain Robertson) struck up a friendship with Judi and, trusting as ever, she couldn't see he was trying to cover his tracks. Eventually Judi twigged and was stunned to find the knife in Sean's coat pocket, but through the ordeal she became closer to boyfriend Wayne. In real life, Laura was dating Iain Robertson.

Just when you thought Judi's fortunes had turned the corner, viewers were proved horrifically wrong in the 1999 series. Alec, excluded from Grange Hill and living on the streets, was desperate to talk to Judi and sneaked into school. He cornered Judi in a store-room, and they were locked in. Alec's smoking and some spilt white spirit started a fire, and while he managed to jump clear from the window the terrified Judi fell to her death in a jaw-dropping scene.

CASTING HER SPELL FURTHER
That may have been the last we saw of Laura in Grange Hill, but in October 1999 Laura played the part of Skirty Marm in a new BBC1 children's comedy, Belfry Witches. Skirty Marm was a teenage witch banished to earth from Witch Island with her pal Old Noshie (Lucy Davis of "The Office" fame). The pair settled in a sleepy village where they caused mayhem!

Finally, her biggest role and one that made Laura a household name. She played Sandy Harper in the hugely popular Casualty spin-off, Holby City. For Laura it meant a return to Elstree where Grange Hill was filmed. Quickly she became a popular member of the cast as the unlucky-in-love staff nurse. Laura was contracted to Holby until next March. Mal Young, the BBC's Controller of Drama Series, led tributes to the young actress. "Everyone at Holby City, and indeed, across the BBC, are devastated by this news," he said. "Laura was a much loved, talented and respected actress. She brought so much to the role with her infectious enthusiasm, dedication and 100% professionalism. "Television has lost a talent who had so much more to give."

On stage Laura captured the imagination on Hollywood icon Dustin Hoffman who was so taken with her performance in Six Characters In Search Of An Author at the National Theatre, he asked to meet her backstage. She received plaudits for her part in Roy Williams' council estate drama Lift Off at London's Royal Court, and Toby Whithouse's Jump Mr Malinoff, Jump, at the Soho Theatre, among others.

"Laura was not a typical actress at all. She was not at all showbizzy and loud. She was such a lovely, humble girl, very sweet and an excellent friend.
Fiona Wade
"Laura was the most, kind, warm, generous and decent person I've had the pleasure of working with. Thinking back I can't remember a time when she wasn't smiling. It's a loss not only to the acting world, but to the rest of the world as well. I speak for all the current cast and crew that knew Laura when I say, we will all miss her terribly and hope she is happy wherever she is."
John Joseph
"She was lovely."
Leona Kadir
Click here to read your tributes to Laura

Despite her talents Laura found fame difficult to cope with. If fans recognised her in the street she would deny she was Judi, and that "she just looked like her". On the subject of autographs, she added "I get really nervous and embarrassed and sweaty. "When people ask if they can have my autograph I always look at them as if they're a bit mad and wonder why they would want my autograph. That's one bit I hate about my job." Nonetheless she lived for acting. "Who could ask for a better job, we just go around playing doctors and nurses. It's never the same, every day is different."

Her mum Sonya had kept a constant vigil at her daughter's bedside. Laura's agent, Michelle Milburn, said: "She had a unique talent, and I am certain was only at the start of what would have been a brilliant career. "However, her greatest gift, was her ability to bring out the best in all who were lucky enough to know her." Lorraine Heggessey, Controller of BBC1, described Sadler as a "sweet, modest, hard working girl". "I'm devastated that we have lost such a talented young actress. When I first met Laura on Grange Hill it was clear she had enormous potential."

Co-stars Kate Bell (Kelly) and Peter Morton (Wayne) were at Laura's bedside. Peter's mum Kathleen told the Daily Mail: "They have known each other for years and I don't know how Peter will cope without her. She was alovely, sweet girl. I don't know what happened, but this doesn't sound like the Laura I knew." Laura lived close to Peter in High Wycombe. Fiona Wade, who played Joanna Day, said: "Laura was not a typical actress at all. She was not at all showbizzy and loud. She was such a lovely, humble girl, very sweet and an excellent friend." John Joseph, who joined Grange Hill as Ian while Judi was central to the storyline, said: "Laura was the most, kind, warm, generous and decent person I've had the pleasure of working with. I can't remember a time when she wasn't smiling. It's a loss not only to the acting world, but to the rest of the world as well."

Laura Sadler died on 19 June 2003. Many believed she would have become a huge star. One thing's for certain - Laura touched the lives of everyone who knew her or saw her on TV, and she'll never be forgotten.

Rest in peace Laura, wherever you are.