My name is Sarah Gordy and I’m appearing in the TV programme Upstairs Downstairs. I was in a few school plays, but I mainly got into acting after leaving school. I did some work with [disability arts organisation] Carousel and got my big break when Carlton Television wanted someone with Down’s syndrome for Peak Practice.
My mum and I have a pint of beer every time I get an audition. Every time I get a part, we have a bottle of Champagne – if we don’t get paid very much, it might be a bottle of Prosecco.
I got the part in Upstairs Downstairs through my agent, who was working with BBC casting director Andy Pryor. I was star-struck when I met Andy – he’s done the casting for Dr Who, Torchwood, Call the Midwife and lots more.
It was like a dream come true to do Upstairs Downstairs – I had a ball. It’s been a great year for me. I’ve been working with big stars. I was nervous for the very first time, but I had Dame Eileen Atkins encouraging me to carry on – that helped me to not be nervous any more. When the show is on, my neighbour comes over and we watch it together.
My character, Pamela, was so nice to play. Pamela is more upper class than the downstairs characters, so she doesn’t have to lift a finger. As the series goes on, Pamela becomes more confident and glamorous. I had some great outfits with lots of wonderful jewellery.
When I read the script, I realised that she’s the protector of the family – she doesn’t want them to get hurt in any way. She particularly loves her brother and doesn’t want him to get hurt. I’m protective of my family in real life too – my younger sister, my mum and dad.
It made me aware of how adults with a learning disability were treated in the 1930s – it was really appalling. I think it tugs on people’s hearts and when they watch it they cry for my character. Heidi Thomas, who wrote the series, had a brother with Down’s syndrome who died, so that inspired her to include my character.
Acting with a monkey
Acting with a monkey was a challenge, because I hadn’t worked with animals before. I didn’t know how to react to the monkey or how to communicate with it. I had a note saying not to look at the monkey or he might go wild, so I just held my hand out to feed him grapes.
I’ve done television, film, theatre and radio work. I love them all, but I’m most experienced in theatre plays – I enjoy getting very deep into my character. In TV, it’s a challenge, because you sometimes have to wait a long time to perhaps not say very much. It’s all very fast-paced, but I love it!
I also have a radio show called Gordy’s Grooves on Radio Lewes, which is run by the Oyster Project. I do interviews and play all kinds of music – I’m mostly interested in jazz and soul.
I’ll be on BBC Radio 4 this Easter in a play called Resurrection. I play a girl called Alice, whose father is a clergyman. It’s all set in biblical times in Bethlehem and Jerusalem.
My Down’s syndrome isn’t an issue for the actors I’ve worked with – they just ignore it and are really nice. I get on with the other Upstairs Downstairs actors like a house on fire. My advice to other actors with a learning disability would be to just be yourself, really. Work with friendly people first to build up that confidence.