Daniela Denby-Ashe

Daniela Denby-Ashe (born 9 August 1978) is an English actress, best known for playing the character Sarah Hills in the soap opera EastEnders, Margaret Hale in the period drama North and South and Janey Harper in the sitcom My Family. She also played the character Lorraine Donnegan in the drama series Waterloo Road after previously playing a different character, "Jem Allen" in one episode a few years earlier.

Daniela Denby-Ashe
Daniela Denby-Ashe

(1978-08-09) 9 August 1978
North West London,[1] England
Years active1992–present

She has one daughter, Evie.

Early life

Daniela's parents are of Polish descent, her paternal surname being Pszkit. Before they married, they decided to create a more British-sounding family name, so they looked in the telephone directory and each chose a name they liked and hyphenated them.[2]

Denby-Ashe is fluent in English, Polish and French – the latter due to her grandmother, who was brought up in France until World War II.[3] She began studying ballet at the age of two and tap at a later stage; from the ages of 10 to 16, she attended several stage schools including Corona Academy.


Daniela first gained film experience on the children's video Nursery Rhymes 2 from Pickwick Video. She appeared in many television commercials as a child actor which then led on to children's drama such as Kevin & Co, as well as the Channel 4 sitcom Desmond's. Daniela also appeared briefly alongside Jennifer Saunders and Julia Sawalha in season 3 episode 6 of Absolutely Fabulous. Her big break came in 1995 when she landed the role of Sarah Hills in the BBC soap opera EastEnders. She played this character until 1999.

The following year she got the role of Janey Harper in the BBC sitcom, My Family. Daniela took a break from My Family for the fourth series in 2003, but returned to the role in 2004. The eleventh and final series first aired on BBC One from June 2011.

In 2005 she took the lead role of Margaret Hale in the BBC TV drama adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's North & South, and in 2006 played Mary in the science fiction TV series Torchwood episode Greeks Bearing Gifts. Her other television roles include Office Gossip, Rescue Me, Is Harry on the Boat?, and The Afternoon Play. From 2003 she appeared in the Radio 4 comedy Ring Around the Bath.[4]

In 2007, she starred as Robert Maxwell's secretary in Maxwell, a BBC drama about his life.[5]

In December 2008 she appeared in BBC Four's supernatural drama series Crooked House, and in October 2010 she starred in an episode of the ITV detective drama Midsomer Murders. In April 2009 she appeared in the fourth series of the BBC drama Waterloo Road as deceitful supply teacher, Jem Allen. In April 2012, she returned to the drama as a new regular character, Lorraine Donegan. The character, a former pupil taught by current headteacher Michael Byrne (Alec Newman), played an important role in a storyline that has seen the current school move from its location in Rochdale to a new site in Greenock, Scotland at the end of the seventh series. The character appeared regularly throughout the eighth series, however the character left the school toward the end of the series due to a disagreement with Michael, leading to her handing the school over to LEA control.

She appeared in Mum in 2019.


Year Title Role Notes
1992 Desmond's Jackie Episode: "Growing Pains"
1992 Kevin and Co Sophie Coe 6 episodes
1993 The Bill Joanne Jameson Episode: "In Safe Hands"
1994 The Bill Debbie Higgins Episode: "Gone Away"
1995 The Bill Deirdre Jackson Episode: "Powerless"
1995 Absolutely Fabulous Victoria Episode: "The End"
1995–99 EastEnders Sarah Hills 276 episodes
1999 Molly Mary Television film
2000 Fish Jess Taylor 6 episodes
2000-2002, 2004-2011 My Family Janey Harper 94 episodes
2001 Is Harry on the Boat? Lorraine Television film
2001 Office Gossip Cheryl 6 episodes
2002 Rescue Me Julie Carter Episode: "Gone Away"
2003 The Afternoon Play Kate Episode: "Girls' Weekend"
2004 North & South Margaret Hale All episodes
2006 The Family Man Kelly Movie
2006 Torchwood Mary Episode: "Greeks Bearing Gifts"
2007 Maxwell Andrea Martin Television film
2008 Crooked House Hannah 2 episodes
2009 Waterloo Road Jem Allen Series 4, Episode 16
2010 Midsomer Murders Camilla Farquaharson Episode: "The Noble Art"
2012–13 Waterloo Road Lorraine Donnegan 32 episodes
2016 Silent Witness Julia Lubas Series 19, In Plain Sight (Parts 1 and 2)
2017 Heidi: Queen of the Mountain Gertrude Film, Director: Bhavna Talwar


  1. "The Walford Gazette Internet Edition: The Daniela Denby-Ashe Interview : Summer 99". wgazette.com. Archived from the original on 28 July 2015. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  2. '"Believe it or not, there's is [sic] a story behind my last name. My dad came here when he was twelve. My dad was born in Poland. His name was Miroslaw Pszkit (pronounced SHKEET). Needless to say, when he arrived some people wouldn't learn how to pronounce it properly. So just before he and my mum got married they had a look in the telephone directory. One found the name Denby and the other found Ashe. They couldn't decide between them which name to use so they just put them together with a hyphen in the middle. I'm not Pszkit like my dad; I was born with Denby-Ashe on my birth certificate. So that's where my birth certificate comes from." Daniela Denby-Ashe Interview (Summer 1999) Archived 7 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine, wgazette.com; accessed 9 March 2016.
  3. "Daniela Denby-Ashe profile at". celebarazzi.com. Retrieved 2 February 2014.
  4. "Ring Around the Bath" (PDF). Global British Comedy Collaborative. 27 March 2005.
  5. "Suchet in title role of BBC Two's drama special Maxwell". BBC Press Office. 16 February 2007.
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