Sally Bretton — things you didn’t know about the TV star

Sally Bretton attends the EE BAFTA Film Awards 2023 at The Royal Festival Hall
Sally Bretton has become a household name thanks to her many TV roles. (Image credit: Getty)

Sally Bretton is best known for playing Lucy Adams in the long-running BBC sitcom, Not Going Out, and as Martha Lloyd in Death in Paradise spin-off Beyond Paradise.

She actually made her first TV appearance as a child star in 1987. Sally is back on our screens in Beyond Paradise season 2, which sees her back as Martha, the fiancée of DI Humphrey Goodman (played by Kris Marshall)

Taling about series 2, she says: "We left Humphrey and Martha at the end of the first series discussing what it means to be a family. Now, they're exploring fostering, and it's lovely watching them come together.

"The comedy in this is much gentler than in Not Going Out. But Humphrey and Martha are quite playful with each other, and there's an appreciation of each other's foibles that brings humor into the show".

Despite her successful career, married mum-of-three Sally isn't a fan of the limelight and enjoys leading a quiet life with her young family away from the cameras. Here are a few things you may not know about her…

Beyond Paradise season 2 main cast shot

Sally Bretton as Martha with the Beyond Paradise team (Image credit: BBC)

Sally Bretton isn’t her real name

Sally Bretton was born Sally Davis and grew up in Hertfordshire. After graduating from Central School of Speech and Drama in 1999, she joined Equity, the performing arts and entertainment union, but realised she’d have to change her surname as there was another Sally Davis on their books. 

Sally's new moniker came to her while she was working as a Saturday girl in the Barnet branch of Next. “A friend brought in a book all about the meanings of names, and I was in the staff room flicking through,” she told The Telegraph

Sally wasn’t far into the book when she fell on Bretton, and that was that. “I just thought, 'Yup, I quite like that.’ It’s totally random, but I thought it sounded quite nice.”

She experienced fame at a young age

Mollie (Francesca Newman), Lucy (Sally Bretton) and Lee (Lee Mack) (L-R) in Not Going Out season 13

Sally as Lucy in Not Going Out (Image credit: BBC/Pete Dadds/Avalon)

Sally was bitten by the performing bug when she was at primary school and always knew she wanted to be an actress.

She attended a local drama club, which had an agency attached to it, and auditions led Sally to land roles in TV adverts as well as Warner Brothers mini-series Napoleon and Josephine

However, achieving a minor level of fame was something that didn’t always sit well with the young Sally.  “It was sometimes difficult to navigate. I didn’t get teased or bullied, but I was always aware that people knew that about me …” she told The Telegraph. Even today, Sally admits: “I would much rather go in (to auditions), faff around and pretend, and come home. That would be my ideal.”

She used to be a drama teacher

While she was studying at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London, Sally spent her weekends teaching budding young stars at Top Hat Stage and Screen School. 

Reflecting on her former job in an interview with The Glasgow Times, Sally said: “I loved it, but I just love kids. I got hooked on performing at primary school. I think that’s all you want for your own children, isn’t it? That chance to find a passion, something they will love doing.”

Sally Bretton as Martha Lloyd in Beyond Paradise, standing in her café which can be seen out of focus behind her

Sally Bretton as Martha in Beyond Paradise. (Image credit: BBC)

She starred in the first series of The Office

Fans of Ricky Gervais’s iconic sitcom The Office may remember Sally starred in the first series, which aired back in 2001. 

The actress played the part of intern Donna, whose parents were the friends of regional manager David Brent (Gervais), and with whom she was lodging.

Donna caused a stir amongst the staff at Wernham Hogg when she started an office romance with handsome temp Ricky. But the character’s most memorable moment came when she branded pedantic salesman Gareth Keenan a "weasel-faced arse" after his numerous creepy attempts to woo her!

She's played the same character for over a decade

Not Going Out Christmas 2023 cast hold up a 100 sign to celebrate 100 episodes

Sally Bretton and co-star Lee Mack celebrating 100 episodes of Not Going Out (Image credit: BBC)

Acting can be a fickle profession, but Sally is lucky enough to have a steady income thanks to her role in the long-running BBC One series Not Going Out, which has now reached 100 episodes. The actress has been with the show since its second series playing Lucy Adams, who was initially Lee's landlady and is now the wife of Lee Mack’s character.

13 series on Not Going Out still draws in an audience of millions, but Sally recalls having lots of auditions to win the part, telling us: "There were lots of rounds. I was called back lots and lots of times. That's what I remember about it. It was a lot of times. Six or something ridiculous."

She's enjoyed a varied career

Sally has rarely been out of work since graduating from drama school over two decades ago. 

Her acting CV includes parts in popular dramas such as The Bill, Casualty, Lewis and Hotel Babylon. Other notable roles include Death in Paradise, Green King and Outlaw

Sally has achieved success on the stage, starring in touring productions of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Shakespeare’s King Lear. And she’s also lent her voice to a number of Radio 4 plays, including Births, Deaths and Marriages.

She fiercely guards her private life

Not much is known about Sally’s personal life, and she prefers to keep it that way, choosing not to have a presence on social media. 

The low-key actress is married to husband Lee, who works as a photographer and the couple are parents to three daughters, including twins. 

The family live near the pretty market town of Hitchin in Hertfordshire and devoted mum Sally makes sure her work doesn't take her away from her girls for long periods of time. 

In 2020, she starred in a UK touring production of Dial M for Murder, but revealed she doesn’t take on many roles like that because “touring is not a good fit with family life.”

Sally Bretton's fact file

Frequently asked questions about the star...

How old is Sally Bretton?

Sally Bretton is 43, she was born on April 23, 1980.

Is Sally Bretton married?

Sally is married to husband Lee, who works as a photographer.

Does Sally Bretton have any children?

Sally and husband Lee are parents to three daughters.

Where was Sally Bretton born?

Sally Bretton was born and raised in Hertfordshire.

How tall is Sally Bretton?

Sally Bretton is five foot four.

We work hard to ensure that all information is correct. Facts that change over time, such as age, will be correct, to the best of our knowledge, at the time of the last article update.

Laura Morgan
Freelance writer

Laura has been a journalist for over a decade, writing about soaps, TV entertainment, fashion, beauty, and food. After graduating from university, she started her career working at a national soap and TV magazine. During her seven-year stint there she joined the cast of Emmerdale for a tour around the famous village, partied with soap stars at awards bashes, interviewed her acting idol David Suchet, and sat in the front row of Strictly Come Dancing

Her heart lies with the soaps, and her all-time favourite character has to be EastEnders' Pat Butcher - no one rocked a big earring quite like her. She's also a huge fan of detective crime dramas, particularly old school Inspector Morse, Endeavour, and adaptations of Agatha Christie's Marple and Poirot. When she's not writing, she loves a spot of second-hand shopping and going on adventures with her young son.