Was Julia Sawalha in Vera, what episode was it and what movies and TV shows have you seen her in before?

Did you really see Julia Sawalha in Vera? You might not be completely certain after enjoying the latest season of ITV's Ann Cleeves drama

Brenda Blethyn as DCI Vera Stanhope side-by-side with Julia Sawalha as Helen Rushden
(Image credit: ITV STUDIOS FOR ITV1)

You might be wondering if you really saw Julia Sawalha in Vera as the latest season brought in some brilliant and recognisable guest stars for its spellbinding episodes.

Since it first started 13 years ago, ITV’s Ann Cleeves drama Vera has seen plenty of regular cast members come and go, but they’re not the only performances to have attracted our attention. Alongside sad departures like when we saw Kenny Doughty leave Vera as DS Aiden Healy, each episode introduces and then bids a fond farewell to talented guest stars. The same is true of other popular crime dramas and in Vera season 13 we saw some exciting names in the new episodes. Often we’re so swept away by the storylines we might not be certain we’ve identified the right actor and so some people might be wondering if they really saw Julia Sawalha in Vera recently.

*Warning: spoilers for season 13 ahead*

GILLIAN KEARNEY as Deborah Mcswain, FRASER JAMES as Tom Rushden, JULIA SAWALHA as Helen Rushden

(Image credit: ITV STUDIOS FOR ITV1)

Was Julia Sawalha in Vera season 13? 

Anyone who thought they spotted Julia Sawalha in Vera can rest assured that they have got it right as she was indeed part of the season 13 guest cast list. She is ITV Loose Women panellist and actor Nadia Sawalha’s sister and they do resemble each other, so some fans might well have been left a little confused over which of the actor siblings they saw.

Julia Sawalha appeared in Vera season 13 episode 2, entitled Tender, where she played the role of coffee shop business owner Helen Rushden. Helen had taken in the episode’s murder victim, Gabi, who she believed was vulnerable and going through treatment for Hodgkin Lymphoma.

FRASER JAMES as Tom Rushden and JULIA SAWALHA as Helen Rushden

(Image credit: ITV STUDIOS FOR ITV1)

The Rising Tide by Ann Cleeves |Was £9.99, Now £7.49 at Amazon

The Rising Tide by Ann Cleeves |Was £9.99, Now £7.49 at Amazon

The Rising Tide is the latest in the Vera Stanhope series by Ann Cleeves and was the story that the 2023 Christmas special adapted. Vera and her team are called in to investigate after the reunion of a group of friends on Holy Island ends in one of them being found dead.

As the episode progressed it became clear to DCI Vera Stanhope and DI Joe Ashworth that Gabi had been living a lie and had deceived Helen. Not only was she not ill, but she had pretended to have the same type of cancer that her late sister had died of. Helen had been paying for her lifestyle and allowing her to live in her home, pushing Helen's husband Tom out. Meanwhile, Gabi had been sleeping with Helen’s married son after he found out about her lies. 

The way the episode left things makes it unlikely we’ll see Julia Sawalha back in another season of Vera, at least as this character. Helen made peace with what had happened and attended Gabi’s memorial with Gabi’s mother Deborah, drawing her storyline to an end.

What other Julia Sawalha movies and TV shows are there? 

If you knew you recognised Julia Sawalha in Vera but weren’t quite sure where from then it could be because you’ve seen a number of her other movies and TV shows. This month alone has been a busy one for Julia’s TV appearances as not only has she appeared in Vera season 13 which aired on 14th January, but she’s also been part of the latest season of fellow ITV show, The Masked Singer. She was unmasked as Bubble Tea on 20th January, the night before the Vera season 13 finale aired.

The cast of Absolutely Fabulous including Julia Sawalha

(Image credit: United Archives GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo)

Julia Sawalha has also been the original voice of Ginger in Chicken Run, appeared in Midsomer Murders, Jonathan Creek, Lark Rise to Candleford and Agatha Christie’s Marple. She remains perhaps most famous for her role as Saffron in Absolutely Fabulous alongside Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders and has played her in the TV series, movie and comic relief special.

Vera season 13 episode 2 was the most recently aired of Julia Sawalha movies and TV shows and after proving her singing credentials on The Masked Singer, who knows where her skills could take her in her next role?

Vera seasons 1-13 are available to watch via ITVX now. 

Emma Shacklock

Emma is a Royal Editor with eight years experience working in publishing. Her specialist areas include the British Royal Family, ranging from protocol to outfits. Alongside putting her royal knowledge to good use, Emma knows all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV and more. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, Emma enjoys cooking, long walks and watching yet more crime dramas!