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Being a star in EastEnders left me so lonely and depressed; IRISH ACTRESS TELLS OF HER NIGHTMARE ON TOP SOAP.

Byline: PAUL MARTIN

EASTENDERS star Melanie Clark Pullen has revealed how becoming a celebrity sent her spiralling into depression.

The young Irish actress, who played Queen Vic barmaid Marie Flaherty, said she was left feeling lonely and deeply down in the dumps after 18 months on the show.

"She said: "The whole thing terrified the life out of me.

"It was a real baptism of fire and quite unnerving.

"I didn't quite know what I was letting myself in for.

"Coming from Blackrock, near Dublin, I just didn't realise what an obsession EastEnders is over in England.

"I found it extremely difficult adjusting to London. I didn't know my way around, but everyone knew me.

"I would ask the way to Marks & Spencers and get: 'Oh, my God - it's Mary off the telly'.'And I'd get 16-year-old boys going: 'Hello Mary, I'll show you a good time'.

"I started to suffer panic attacks and felt increasingly isolated. "It was worse coming straight from Ireland.

"You wouldn't expect someone from France to come over and say: 'Oh, I'm feeling fine'.

"Ireland is a different country, a different sense of humour, a different way of doing things."

Melanie left the soap a couple of months ago but didn't reveal how she felt at the time.

But looking back she believes she was close to being tipped over the edge.

She explained: "I don't want to make a big deal out of it and say I had a mental breakdown, but I did feel very low for a while and I was quite scared.

"I got very fearful that everyone wanted a piece of me - which is somewhat true."

And she added: "You can't actually make friends that easily when you are in a TV show because you don't know who wants to make friends with you and who just wants to know that girl off the TV."

Melanie landed what she thought would be a dream role in the soap shortly after she finished a four-year course at Trinity College.

She was planning a career in Irish language theatre when she landed an audition for the role inAlbert Square.

She said: "A casting agent I'd met suggested putting me up for the part of Mary Flaherty.

"I hadn't even been to a professional audition before, so I thought it would be good experience. I was completely floored when they offered me the job."

Almost immediately she had to leave her family and friends and move to London to star in the show watched by millions of viewers.

Despite her battle with depression, Melanie said her co-stars in EastEnders couldn't have been nicer.

She said: "There were famous cast members who came up and said: 'Here's my number. If you need anything call me. It's really hard, you won't know how it hits you'.

"They were great and I couldn't ask for more from them - but the time was right to move on."

And she revealed that she has just got engaged to her boyfriend, an IT consultant.

She said: "His name is Simon and he is from Northern Ireland.

"We met at college but he says I ignored him, then we were introduced again by a friend a year ago.

"He is in IT and as I spend more time out of work than I do in, I'm hoping he might become a dot.com millionaire!""

CAPTION(S):

SUPPORT: Melanie with friend and co-star Todd Carty; SMILES BETTER: Melanie is engaged
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 25, 2000
Words:579
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