April Walker (born 1941) is a British actress, primarily for the BBC, best known for her regular appearances on the hit variety show The Two Ronnies, episodic guest roles on numerous other shows, such as Fawlty Towers and Dial M for Murder, and also for having been the first woman cast in the seminal role of Sarah Jane Smith for the series Doctor Who.
Walker got her start on television with a role on the ITVseries No Hiding Place in 1964. Eventually, Walker began to secure regular episodic work, appearing most often on dramas and comedies, including Father Brown, The Prince and the Pauper, Anna Karenina, Yes Minister, and Wyatt's Watchdogs. She also appeared in episodes The Two Ronnies, the BBC comedy show, from 1973–1984.
Doctor Who's Sarah Jane SmithEdit
In 1973, the long-running television series Doctor Who was looking for a new companion for the star character. After auditioning many women, producer Barry Letts selected April Walker for the role of Sarah Jane Smith. Unfortunately, the actor playing the Doctor, Jon Pertwee, disliked the selection, in part because he was not comfortable with a female co-star who was so tall. Already contractually protected, Walker was paid for the entire season but not actually used, the role being re-cast to Elisabeth Sladen. Sladen and a handful of others kept the secret of whom she had replaced, taking it literally to their graves. But when David Brunt was compiling a Doctor Who DVD, he came across a BBC memo that revealed Walker as the mysterious first Sarah Jane Smith.
When Walker gave her first interview regarding her casting in Doctor Who, she also revealed that at more-or-less the same time, she was cast as Jutta Baumgarten, Terry Collier's estranged wife in Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?: the intention being that she would be a regular character in the show's second series. After filming her first scene, which would have closed the final episode of the first series, the producers changed their minds about including the character, dropped the scene and released Walker from the role. Walker appears on the credits for the episode, despite not appearing. Walker gave her first on screen interview to Time Space Visualiser in May 2020, where she went into much more detail about her release from the role of Sarah Jane Smith. Walker also revealed she later worked with Jon Pertwee on The Navy Lark and told him that although she understood his thinking, she would never forgive him. She also admitted that she stopped watching Dr Who after being released.
Doctor Who producer Letts later cast Walker in his production of The Prince and the Pauper. However, in her 2020 interview, Walker also revealed that any fees she earned from BBC productions were off-set against her payment for series 11 of Dr Who until the full amount was repaid.
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