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Interview: Annette Ekblom - How I survived the darkest days of my life; Take Me star Annette Ekblom talks about her unhappy, drug-taking past and the love for daughter Amelia which helped her overcome the bad times.

Byline: Angela Hagan

As she sips iced tea at a cafe in Notting Hill, close to her London flat, glamorous Take Me star Annette Ekblom looks half her 41 years. From her sunny smile, no one would suspect that she had suffered more tragedy than most of us face in a lifetime.

At seven her father died, in her rebellious teens she took hard drugs and ran away from home, she became a single mum at 22, and has failed to find lasting romance. Yet she refuses to let life's difficulties get the better of her.

In fact, having daughter Amelia, now 19, was the spur Annette needed to kickstart her career. Determined to make a good life for her baby, she threw herself into acting and is now one of our most popular TV stars. Her love for Amelia also helped her turn her back on a lifestyle so reckless it's a miracle she survived.

"I took every drug under the sun between the ages of 16 and 18. I was a nightmare," recalls Annette, who has starred in Peak Practice, Morse, The Brokers Man and Brookside. "I did drugs every day for a year. On days out with the family I'd go to a dealer and get some acid first. I'd be smiling away to myself and no one knew.

"I suppose I was really unhappy and I went through that awful thing of hating myself. And when you hate yourself you do worse and worse things. It was a really bad time."

It's not hard to understand why Annette, who was born and grew up in Wallasey, Merseyside, felt the need to escape from herself. When her father died from emphysema she was isolated in her grief.

"I can only ever remember my dad being ill," says Annette, whose older brothers John and Neil had both left home by then. "I wasn't allowed to go to the funeral because mum thought it might upset me. But the cemetery was across the road from our house so I watched it from the bedroom window and felt really left out. The moment my dad died I felt excluded from everything. My mum was only trying to protect me, but I needed somebody to talk to.

"Back at school my friends didn't want to know me because of what had happened. I can draw a line there from when my life altered. It did make me tough."

Annette was sent to a boarding school in Surrey but, at 14, after staying with her brother in Toronto for the summer holidays, she decided not to go back there. So she started at Wallasey High instead. It was then that her life started to spiral out of control.

"I hated it. It had been so civilised at boarding school," she says. "Here there was bullying and people being hit over the head with milk bottles. On my first day I was jumped by a gang of girls at the sweet shop. I didn't really make any friends there. Eventually I just stopped going. In the mornings I'd dress in my uniform and leave the house, then sneak back. I missed whole terms.

"I became the teenager from hell. I didn't bother taking O-levels and left home when I was 16 and got a flat without even telling mum. She thought I'd been abducted. I was gone for three days, and then one night I went to a nightclub and the police raided it looking for underage drinkers. At the police station they discovered I was a runaway. After that I started taking drugs. I don't know how I survived it all."

When she was 22, Annette fell pregnant by her boyfriend of two years, fellow actor Alan Warner. "I had no doubt that I wanted it," she says. "But Alan didn't want a baby so we split up. The relationship was going pear-shaped by that time anyway. Once again, my mum was brilliant. She stood by me and I went back to live with her."

Annette's daughter, Amelia Warner, who she fondly calls Millie, is following in her mother's footsteps. She co-starred with Kate Winslet in Quills and played the title role in the BBC drama Lorna Doone. Amelia has just got engaged to former Ballykissangel star Colin Farrell, 24, who is now a rising Hollywood actor. The couple announced their engagement last month when Annette was staying with them in LA.

"It's great they've found each other," she says. "I love him and it's a relief for me that Millie's met someone who looks after her and who she can trust. It's rare that they're both young but so ready to commit. And she didn't have to kiss many frogs before she found her prince!"

In Take Me, Annette plays Lauren, who turns to swinging in an effort to cope with the death of her young son. It also co-stars Beth Goddard who plays her sister Kay. Next, she starts on A Touch Of Frost with David Jason. Ironically, although mother and daughter have both had career success, Amelia has found a happiness in love which has eluded Annette.

"I've never really had a happy relationship," says Annette with a wry smile. "Maybe it's just me, but I get bored. I get lonely sometimes too...

"I went to see the film Moulin Rouge with Millie recently and there's a line it saying, `The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return'. Afterwards I said to Millie, `I don't know how to be loved, that's my problem'."

Remembering that scared and lonely young girl watching her father's funeral from afar, it's no surprise she's not yet opened up to love. But who knows what the future holds for Annette Ekblom.

l Take Me, Monday, ITV, 9.30pm.
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 11, 2001
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