AS A SCHOOLGIRL in Crowborough, Sarah Gordy escaped the bullying which many people with special needs endure.
The Down's Syndrome sufferer attended Grove Park Special School before moving on to a mainstream school in Houston, USA.
She has since grown into a star, charming viewers of the TV show Upstairs Downstairs as Lady Pamela Hollands and highlighting the way people with learning difficulties were treated in the 1930s.
So she is grateful modern society was kinder to her.
"I didn't get bullied and I was lucky to avoid that issue, but I do have friends with experience of that," she said.
Miss Gordy admits she has not kept in touch with many people from her school days – travelling around with her acting career has not helped – but her mum Jane and younger sister Catherine have been a constant throughout her rise to stardom.
On the tricky subject of integrated education Mrs Gordy, who acts as her daughter's personal assistant, said: "Sarah always enjoyed her schooling in Crowborough with other people with different disabilities. Drama tends to bring people out a bit and makes them more confident, and at school, with all those other people around, she acted almost like a caring mother figure.
"But different people need different things and I think it's good that both mainstream education and special schools are available."
Miss Gordy added: "I was doing musicals and theatre performances and I wanted to take the acting a bit more seriously."
Up until that point she had not given too much thought to a career after school, but she loved animals and undertook a work experience placement at The Pet Food Shop in Croft Road, Crowborough.
She added: "I just loved animals but I couldn't have pets at home because Mum is allergic. But my favourite job is acting, it's my passion."
After her family's brief stop in Houston, they returned to East Sussex and Miss Gordy went to college in Lewes. It was at this point she got her big break in ITV drama Peak Practice.
From there she went on to theatre work, radio and more one-off TV appearances until she landed the role of Lady Pamela in the BBC's answer to ITV hit Downton Abbey.
Not for the first time, Miss Gordy plays a character suffering from Down's Syndrome. She is locked away in an asylum by her cruel aristocratic family, but reunited at the end of the first series.
Miss Gordy said: "Over the six episodes in the second series, my character Pamela Hollands becomes more confident and glamorous as time goes by."
Next up for Miss Gordy is a feature film called The Girl From Tibet, in which she plays a teenager of about 15.
She said: "Although I'm in my early 30s, I don't mind playing younger parts. I played a younger girl in theatre production Into The Blue but this is a film about innocence. I like variety."
Indeed, although now making a name for herself in TV and film, she started off in theatre and still enjoys it.
"I do also love having a live audience, I love sharing the experience with them," she said.
She also writes her own poetry about things she sees and her experiences with Down's Syndrome, has dabbled with modelling and is starring in a play on Radio 4 called Resurrection, to be aired on Good Friday. She added: "I want to do more of everything.
"I'm doing more costume dramas at the moment but my main dream is to be in Dr Who. I watch a lot of TV but mainly Upstairs Downstairs and Dr Who."
Away from the limelight a further interest for the grounded Miss Gordy is the Oyster Project in Lewes, helping others with difficulties similar to her own.
She explained: "The project is for adults with disabilities and I'm the project manager. We have a guy called Jim Russell who organises the events but I do some of the events as well. I help with drama because I want to share my experiences with other people."
Keeping busy, she also offers her services at a drop-in cafe at All Saints' Church and at the British Heart Foundation charity shop in Lewes, where she now lives.