They really did just say no…
Lee MacDonald, who played the iconic Samuel “Zammo” McGuire in Grange Hill, has poured scorn on claims that the cast of the children’s TV show took drugs on their much-publicised trip to The White House.
Back in the 80s, fictional Zammo famously became hooked on heroin, and eventually died from an overdose.
The cast of the show then released the single “Just Say No” and were subsequently invited to The White House by then first lady Nancy Reagan, as part of her anti-drugs crusade.
But in later years, it was claimed that some of the young actors hadn’t practised what they’d preached, and had secretly smoked marijuana in the presidential building.
Says Lee, now 50: ‘That really annoyed me! We were with chaperones; my mum was there as well.
“Even if you go to the toilet in the White House, you get followed by a bodyguard. Every part of that building, you get followed around. You couldn’t even smoke a cigarette in there, so to say you can smoke drugs...”
He adds: “It’s put a dark light on that, and it is totally untrue. It didn’t happen; it couldn’t happen - ask anyone.
“It’s a shame. I really put my support behind that campaign, and it annoys me. There’s no way in a month of Sundays it could’ve happened.”
Lee appeared in Grange Hill from 1982 -1987, and now owns a locksmiths shop in Wallington, Surrey. But he will be back on screens tonight in EastEnders, playing the guest role of Terry, a bus driver who has pipped Queen Vic landlord Mick Carter to the post in a radio competition to win tickets for a Spice Girls gig.
He reveals: “EastEnders is always something that I have wanted to do; it’s been on my bucket list.
“When I first left Grange Hill, EastEnders had just moved to the Grange Hill studios. I was going to go and see Julia Crampsie, the casting director, but I never did it, and that is a massive regret. Not that I would’ve necessarily got a part on it, but just to show my face.
“So when my agent rang and said “You’ve got to go up to Elstree (where EastEnders is filmed), I was like ‘Yes, I’m there!’ I was so chuffed!
“I had a read-through with the Director and I felt really confident – the words were written very much how I would speak as a Londoner, so it all fell into place.
“My photo is still up at Elstree, which is mad. When I walked into reception, there were pictures of Zammo, Roland and Kevin. It was like going back in time!”
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When she is not writing about soaps, watching soaps, or interviewing people who are in soaps, she loves going to the theatre, taking a long walk or pottering about at home, obsessing over Farrow and Ball paint.