Grange Hill star Lee MacDonald: 'I won’t let my kids watch clips of Zammo’s drug storyline'

Lee MacDonald as Terry in EastEnders
(Image credit: BBC)

The 50 year old says the scenes are 'a bit heavy'

As Grange Hill’s Samuel "Zammo" McGuire, Lee MacDonald was at the centre of arguably the most iconic storyline to hit children’s TV, as his character got hooked on heroin and subsequently died from an overdose.

But the now 50 year old actor is in no hurry to show his acclaimed performances to his own children, believing the scenes are far too dark.

He tells us: “I’ve got a stepdaughter, Katie, and a son Harry, who are both 11. They’ve watched the first few episodes and they absolutely loved them - they were 8 or 9 at the time. But I stopped them from watching the drugs storyline, and they still haven’t watched it to this day, just because I thought it was a bit heavy.

“But (when it originally aired) any age could’ve watched it, and it was quite hard hitting. I remember there was a bit in the toilet, where I was spaced out.”

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Lee – who had a guest turn in EastEnders last night as bus driver Terry – adds that when he was first told about the plot, neither he nor his parents had any idea of how much an impact it would go on to have.

He reveals: “At the time, we were just having really good fun, and then they (the production team) said to my parents, ‘We want Lee to do a heroin storyline.’ I don’t think they were that aware of heroin at that time.

“Anthony Minghella (Oscar-winning director of The English Patient) was the script editor, and it was done really well. Before we started filming, I would go to drug rehabilitation centres to talk to ex drug addicts, and that was when it hit home and I realised what kind of storyline was in front of us.

“But I didn’t take any of the work home. You do the scene and as soon as they say ‘cut’, because you’re so young, you snap out of the character really quickly and forget about it until the next day and the next scene.”

The star, who now owns a locksmiths shop in Wallington, Surrey, adds that his stint in the famous programme, from 1982-1987, was one of the happiest times of his life.

“I had such a good time doing it," he recalls. "It was one of the best things I’ve ever done, and the memories are unbelievable. The first episode I did was the one where we went to Chessington Zoo. It’s still my favourite episode and I watch it on YouTube.

“To be in Grange Hill was the biggest thing you could imagine being in, and obviously the drugs story was massive and we went to America and released the single (‘Just Say No’).

“If I do stuff (acting work) now, fair play, and if I don’t, whatever. But that is something that I did do, and I have nothing but fond memories of it.”



Alison Slade
Soaps Editor
Alison Slade has over 20 years of experience as a TV journalist and has spent the vast majority of that time as Soap Editor of TV Times magazine.  She is passionate about the ability of soaps to change the world by presenting important, issue-based stories about real people in a relatable way. There are few soap actors that she hasn’t interviewed over the years, and her expertise in the genre means she has been called upon as a judge numerous times for The British Soap Awards and the BAFTA TV Awards.

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.