Written by Doctor Who and Sherlock showrunner Steven Moffat, CITV drama Press Gang ran for five series between 1989 and 1993. Aimed at a teenage audience, the show chronicled the creation of the Junior Gazette newspaper and tackled a number of hard-hitting issues including solvent abuse and gun control.
As well as producing many column inches, Press Gang gave us a number of well-known acting talents, including…
Dexter Fletcher, played Spike Thompson
For Fletcher, Press Gang was the springboard into a long and varied career, albeit with his native British accent this time around. But it wasn’t his first role – a turn as Baby Face in Bugsy Malone remains one of his most famous, although his career really took off once Spike had finally set aside his reporter’s pad. Further gigs in Brit crime flicks Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Layer Cake followed, along with roles in Band of Brothers, The Virgin Queen and Hotel Babylon on the small screen. The last few years have seen him pair guest roles in Misfits, Death in Paradise and more with a move behind the camera, directing Wild Bill and Sunshine on Leith – both earning rave reviews.
Julia Sawalha, played Lynda Day
Ever since portraying strong-willed Junior Gazette editor Lynda Day, Sawalha’s had a penchant for loud-mouthed characters. Nowadays she’s best known for playing Jennifer Saunders’ strait-laced daughter Saffron on Absolutely Fabulous but she also appeared in the BBC’s 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, playing Lydia Bennet opposite Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth as Austen’s lovers. In the last two decades, Sawalha’s appeared with Ioan Gruffudd in adaptations of CS Forester’s Hornblower novels, playing the captain’s wife Maria, before becoming Alan Davies’ Jonathan Creek co-star following Caroline Quentin’s departure. In later years she’s pulled on a corset to appear in costume dramas Cranford and Lark Rise to Candleford and will star opposite Michael Pain in upcoming BBC series Remember Me this autumn.
Lee Ross, played Kenny Phillips
Lee’s first role came opposite his future co-star, Dexter Fletcher, in gangster musical Bugsy Malone, before becoming Lynda’s assistant editor and right hand man, Kenny. He departed the drama in 1991, going on to land small roles in films Secrets & Lies (1996) and 1999’s Rogue Trader. But it’s television where he’s spent much of his career, appearing in a series of sketches on The Catherine Tate Show, as well as guest-starring in Waking the Dead, Hustle, Life on Mars and more. More recently, he journeyed to Walford, playing Denise Parish’s violent ex-husband Owen Turner between 2006-2009, before boarding ITV’s widely-panned Titanic and playing Vince’s colleague Kev Mitchell in The Driver.
Paul Reynolds, played Colin Mathews
The man behind Thatcherite financier Colin has kept his face on the telly for the last twenty years with roles in Waking the Dead and reuniting with his Press Gang co-star Julia Sawalha as Squeak in Absolutely Fabulous. On the silver screen, Reynolds starred opposite a young Christopher Eccleston in Let Him Have It back in 1991, and spent eight years voicing Fizza in BBC World Service radio drama Westway. In recent years he’s taken a step back from acting, turning his focus to writing and producing.
Lucy Benjamin, played Julie Craig
Benjamin departed Press Gang after just one series but returned to play Julie in the final two runs, before going on to appear with Adrian Edmondson and Rik Mayall in Bottom. In 1998 she landed the role of Lisa Fowler in EastEnders, staying in Walford for five years during which she was revealed as the gunman in the soap’s much-hyped Who Shot Phil? storyline which saw her character attempt to do away with her on-screen lover. Since departing in 2003, Benjamin’s returned to Albert Square on two brief occasions, picked up a guest role in Doctors and flown Down Under to appear as a contestant on the ninth series of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!
Gabrielle Anwar, played Sam Black
Soon after playing Press Gang’s head of graphics, Anwar met and moved to America with US actor Craig Sheffer. The pair starred in a string of movies together, but her biggest early break came in 1991’s If Looks Could Kill (released in the UK as Teen Agent) in which she played Roger Daltrey’s on-screen daughter. She starred with Al Pacino in 1992’s Scent of a Woman and appeared in For Love or Money and The Three Musketeers. On TV, Anwar played Princess Margaret in Showtime series The Tudors and has appeared Fiona Glenanne in long-running US series Burn Notice. She became a US citizen in order to vote for Barack Obama in the 2008 Presidential election.
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