A versatile career in the spotlight
With show business running through her veins, there was never any doubt that Julie Peasgood would follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a performer too, as she tells Kate Chapman.
The Grimsby born actress, best known for her roles in Brookside, Emmerdale and Hollyoaks, has appeared in numerous television programmes and plays since making her TV debut at 17.
Julie has many strings to her bow and is also an accomplished presenter, author, voice-over artist and travel writer. She also currently co-hosts and co-produces her own series – Crafty Beggars – with her business partner Wendy Turner Webster. As one of the flagship shows on a new channel, Together TV, they cover all crafts, including upcycling and recycling.
Now after a short break from acting, Julie is returning to our television screens alongside Dame Emma Thompson in Years & Years, a new series penned by Russell T Davies.
“I’ve done lots of amazing theatre productions, but I think my first love is probably television,” said Julie.
“I’ve had a couple of years away from it, so I’m really excited to be back working on Years & Years.
“Russell T Davies is a wonderful writer and this is a powerful and extraordinary series, one of the best things I have ever read.”
The BBC One production is described as a unique and ambitious six-part series, following one family as it attempts to survive the future. Thompson plays Vivienne Rook, an outspoken celebrity turned political figure whose controversial opinions divide the nation and Julie, who is actually playing herself, is cast as her best friend. The show is expected to hit our screens sometime later this year.
Although she always had her heart set on going into the entertainment industry, Julie’s first love was dancing and from a young age she aspired to be a ballerina.
“I knew I wanted to be on the stage from an early age,” she recalls. “My mum was a juggler in Bertram Mills Circus, so performing was in my blood!
“I went to a wonderful dance teacher in Grimsby – Penny Smith, who is a superb teacher and is still going strong. I was 11 – quite late to start ballet – and then when I was 16 I won a scholarship and went on to train at The Arts Educational School in London.
“While I was down there it became apparent that I was growing a little too tall for dancing, and I started to realise that perhaps it wasn’t the life for me.
“Then I had an accident, which turned out to be a very fortunate one; I injured my foot badly and had to take several months off from dancing. During that time I did a lot of acting as I was on a course incorporating ballet and drama, and so I started gravitating more towards that.
“My life then turned into a bit of a fairy story as I was in a play which a top agent came to see, and she sent me to audition for the lead in a TV play, which was the first episode in a series called Seven Faces of Woman. It was a very prestigious production; in fact Charles Aznavour’s hit song ʻSheʼ was written as the theme music for the series.
“I got the job in ʻCherryripe and the Lugworm Diggerʼ, and I loved every minute. For me it felt like I had come home – I was in the right place at the right time and from there I embarked on a long, and luckily successful, acting career.”
And it’s certainly been a varied one as Julie has appeared in a diverse range of productions; she spent five years with the Royal Shakespeare Company, performed in the West End at the Old Vic, and appeared in three soap operas as well as other shows including Casualty, First Born, Taggart, Holby City, The Bill and The Ruth Rendell Mysteries. Her film credits include the cult horror House of the Long Shadows alongside Vincent Price, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.
In her mid-30s Julie’s career took another change of direction when she tried her hand at presenting, after being offered the opportunity to become a reviewer for Good Morning. She loved the challenge and it led to more presenting on Loose Women, Boot Sale Challenge and This Morning, where she stood in for Judy Finnigan.
“That was my first experience of live television,” says Julie. “Back then, people didn’t diversify so much – the focus was very much on either acting or presenting. I realised though that I felt as comfortable in front of the camera being myself, as I did when I was acting, possibly even more so.
“Then things changed again when I turned 50 and I was given the opportunity to write a factual book about sex. It went on to win an award (much to my surprise!) and suddenly I had another whole new career.
“I became an agony aunt for five papers and magazines and was a regular on the The Alan Titchmarsh Show. I never set out to be an agony aunt, but I really enjoyed it.”
After four years solving the nation’s problems Julie decided to switch her focus to travel writing – combining her passion for exploring new places with her love of writing.
“I love travelling; I had my own travel show on LBC Radio called The Great Escape, and now I’m contributing editor for Cruise International magazine and I write travel pieces for newspapers including the Mail on Sunday and the Telegraph,” she added.
“I’ve also done public speaking, talking about various things from my career to the history of teddy bears, and during the past few year years I have co-presented and co-produced Crafty Beggars.
“One of the benefits of keeping so busy is I that never get bored!”
Despite doing so much Julie still finds time to return to her native Lincolnshire, where she has family and friends, usually visiting a couple of times a year.
She has strong links with Grimsby and as well as appearing in panto at the Auditorium, Julie is also a supporter of several local charities, community events and groups, including Work Wise Women, who she is hosting a craft evening for in the new year.
And in between all that, she’s relishing another exciting role – as a loving grandmother to Saha (2).
“That’s undoubtedly my most important role to date, I love spending time with her and my daughter Kate is expecting her second baby shortly, which is very exciting,” she said.
“I feel very lucky, and so privileged to have been able to make a career out of things that I really love doing.”