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Bad Girl plays it for laughs; Debra Stephenson can play a psycho inmate, but she's much more into comedy roles.



BBC1, Monday, 10.40pm

DEBRA STEPHENSON has gone from psychotic prisoner to a laugh-a-minute technophobe.

No, she's not suffering from a split personality, she's just showing her versatility as one of this country's finest actresses.

Best known for her role as the menacing Shell Dockley in the critically acclaimed prison drama Bad Girls, Debra is confident she can captivate audiences with her part in the comic line-up on the BBC's new sketch show TV To Go.

"It's an incredibly funny show and I'm sure it will touch a nerve with plenty of people who have had everyday nightmares with technology," she says.

TV To Go promises to tickle the funny bone of all technophobes so if the mere mention of the words email, mobile phone, web-site and DVD send a chill through your spine then this is the sketch show for you.

Among her array of comic characters, Debra plays Simone, an ever optimistic tele-sales girl who faces rejection on a daily basis.

"We've all been harassed by people like Simone," says 27-year-old Debra. "It's a tragic existence because no one is ever pleased to hear from a telesales person.

"Most of the time we cut them off before they've even had the chance to get started on their sales pitch. Soul destroying for them but a wonderful opportunity to make comedy out of it for me," says Debra.

Her technologically inept characters in TV To Go are a far cry from her hard-hitting Bad Girls role, a role for which she was nominated for Best Actress in last year's prestigious National Television Award.

While Debra celebrates the fame Shell Dockley has brought her, she is delighted she has been released from the role to pursue comedy.

"I'm the type of actress who wants to get out there and try everything, I don't want to be typecast," she says.

Appearing alongside Debra in the BBC's new sketch show is My Hero star Hugh Dennis and Pauline McLynn, the actress better known as Father Ted's tea-making housekeeper Mrs Doyle.

For Debra, working next to Pauline turned out to be a constant carry on.

"Can you imagine what it's like trying to keep a straight face when you're working with someone like Pauline?" she says. "She has this knack of being able to make you laugh all the time. Quite a distraction."

Despite the fact that Debra is best known for gritty dramas and hard-hitting storylines, her comedy role in TV To Go isn't a new venture for her having cut her comedy teeth as a teenager on talent show, Opportunity Knocks.

"When I was 14 I got to the finals of the show but I didn't win," she says. "Back then I did impressions of people like Cilla Black, Shirley Bassey and Kate Bush - a pretty strange way for a teenager to spend her nights, but I had a great time.

"I'm not in the slightest bit embarrassed by what I did back then although I wore a hideous black velvet dress which was covered in sequins. My only regret is that I hadn't discovered the wonders of tweezers - my eyebrows just looked ridiculous."

And the thought of returning to the comic circuit makes Debra very happy indeed.

"It's been a long road back to comedy but I got there in the end and hopefully, fingers crossed, this is just the beginning."
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:May 12, 2001
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