Gillian Taylforth (born 14 August 1955) is an English actress. She is known for her role as Kathy Beale on the BBC soap opera, EastEnders (1985–2000) and has also appeared as Jackie Pascoe-Webb on ITV's Footballers Wives (2002–06), and more recently as Sgt. Nikki Wright in ITV's The Bill (2006–08). She has also appeared in film during her early career, and has presented on ITV's Loose Women and appeared as a celebrity contestant on Strictly Come Dancing in 2008. In January 2013 she was a contestant in Celebrity Big Brother.
Taylforth's relationship with Geoff Knights of over 23 years was heavily reported in the media due to his reported abusive behaviour. In 1994, Taylforth sued The Sun newspaper for libel after they ran a story claiming she had been caught by police performing a sexual act on Knights in their car. She lost the case.
Taylforth started her career in the 1970s and attended the Anna Scher Theatre School in London. Before securing her big acting break Taylforth worked as a secretary between minor acting roles. Early television appearances include roles in the BBC comedy Hi-de-Hi!, Shelley, Play for Today, On Safari, Minder, Sink or Swim and The Rag Trade. In 1980 she won the role of Sherry in the film The Long Good Friday, which proved to be extremely successful at the box office.
On 19 February 1985, Taylforth appeared as Kathy Beale in the first episode of the BBC's new soap opera EastEnders. This role earned her huge popularity and public recognition on British television. Taylforth's character was in the show on and off from 1985 until 2000, and covered an array of serious issues including rape, domestic violence, teenage pregnancy, divorce, alcoholism and meningitis. She became one of the longest running characters to feature in the soap, but eventually quit in 1998, and made a brief return in 1999 to aid the departure of actor Ross Kemp, who played her character's brother-in-law, Grant Mitchell. Taylforth made her last appearance as Kathy on 6 January 2000.
Although press rumours throughout 2005 suggested that Taylforth was returning to the show, this did not occur and the character of Kathy died off-screen in February 2006, in a car crash in South Africa. Taylforth has commented: "I was a bit upset at first because it was 13 years of my life and I didn't like the thought of being killed off. I thought she might come back to see Ian (her on-screen son) and have some illness. But that's the way it goes." Since, Taylforth has expressed an interest in returning to the show, if Kathy was to 'come back from the dead' and has openly said that it was a mistake to 'kill off' her character. In 2013, she not only repeated her wish to return to EastEnders but revealed that former producers wanted Kathy back in EastEnders and admitted that it was a very big mistake to kill off the character. However, an EastEnders spokesperson said that producers currently have no plans to bring back Kathy Beale.
After quitting EastEnders Taylforth was cast as Jackie Pascoe-Webb in ITV's popular televised drama, Footballers Wives. In a Channel 4 poll for the 100 Greatest Sexy Moments, a time where she ends up having sex on top of a snooker table with Cristian Solimeno, was placed at number 49. She played the role for all five series, which made her the only cast member to appear in every series without taking a break. (Zöe Lucker also appeared in all five series, but left midway through the 4th series before returning towards the end of the final one.)
In 2006 she played the role of Mandy Searle in the comedy/drama Jane Hall and she also has appeared as a recurring panelist on ITV's topical chat-show Loose Women (2000, 2006 and 2008). She won a regular part in ITV's police drama The Bill playing Sergeant Nikki Wright, and made her first screen appearance on 8 November 2006.Taylforth left the role in 2008.
In February 2013, it was announced she had joined the cast of British soap Hollyoaks as a mother of five sons, further details of her character have yet to be revealed.
Taylforth was partnered with Anton Du Beke in the sixth series of Strictly Come Dancing in 2008 but was voted off in Week 2 after a dance-off with Jodie Kidd. It later emerged that Taylforth had suffered torn knee ligaments whilst in training for the live shows but chose to dance on regardless.
Taylforth is the sister of actress Kim Taylforth. During her time in EastEnders she dated her fellow cast-mate Nick Berry, who played Simon Wicks. She began a relationship with Geoff Knights in the late 1980s. The couple lived in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. She gave birth to their daughter Jessica in 1992. In 1996 she suffered a miscarriage, and less than a year later doctors told her that the baby she was carrying had severe abnormalities and she was advised to terminate the pregnancy." In 1999 she became a mother for a second time, to son Harrison.
Knights and Taylforth have an extensive tabloid media history. In January 1994 Taylforth was involved in a high-profile court case when she sued The Sun newspaper for libel after they ran a story claiming she and Knights had performed sexual acts on a slip road on the A1 in their Range Rover. Taylforth claimed that her partner had suffered an acute attack of pancreatitis and she was merely massaging his stomach to soothe his abdominal pain; however, a police officer claimed that she was performing fellatio instead. During the court case The Sun's defence counsel, George Carman QC, entered into evidence a 35 minute home video of Taylforth "suggestively posing with a large sausage [...] graphically simulating masturbation with a wine bottle" and boasting to the camera, “I give very good head”. The jury returned a 10-2 majority verdict in favour of The Sun, after which Taylforth collapsed and was taken away by an ambulance.
In November 2006, after celebrating their 20th anniversary, Knights was arrested following a bust-up with Taylforth and spent 18 hours in a police cell. Knights reportedly argued with Taylforth in front of their seven-year-old son at their home in Herts, and then allegedly punched her; she required three stitches on her scalp. Taylforth contacted the police resulting in Knight's arrest, but she reportedly dropped all charges against her partner. In January 2009, Knights was arrested for allegedly assaulting the ex-boyfriend of the couple's daughter Jessica, who was in turn arrested for allegedly assaulting Jessica. It was reported in June 2009 that Taylforth and Knights had split after 23 years together.
In 1995 Taylforth wrote an autobiography entitled Kathy and Me in which she describes her childhood, her teenage years, her first forays into acting and her lifestyle.