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Interview Nicola Stephenson: Me, cool and calm?; Nicola Stephenson says she's so clumsy she nearly killed someone while filming Clocking Off. She talks to Janie Lawrence about that, her ideal men (yes men) and life after that Brookside lesbian snog.

Byline: Janie Lawrence

So you've left the bedpans of Holby City and swapped them for a fork lift truck in Clocking Off? I'm playing a single mum called Suzie. She's really brash and larger than life and very sexually liberated although she's not that lucky with men. She's very funny, up for anything and talks about sex to everyone. But the story takes a twist and you get to see her crushed emotionally.

Umm. A bit of a departure from the usually cool, calm characters you play. Which is more you? (Much laughter). It's true, most of the roles I have played have been these very together, efficient people, like Julie in Holby, but unfortunately that is so not me. I have the knees of an eight-year-old child - all covered in bruises - because I am so accident- prone. I am always walking into something and hurting myself or breaking things. Honestly, it's exhausting being me. I can never have anything nice because I know sooner or later I will end up breaking it. I would say Suzie is the closest I have ever played to my character. All my life I have wanted to be this elegant, poised person. I think that's how I ended up in acting.

So you could pretend to be this elegant woman? Well, I think my mum thought she could help me grow into one. When I was five she took me to ballet, tap and modern dance lessons in our local church hall in an attempt to make me less clumsy and more girly. It didn't work. We had a teacher just like Julie Walter's character in Billy Elliot, but instead of getting more poised I just got more show-offy.

Being an only child my parents never told me to stop showing off, so I just got more into it when we did our dance class shows. I would sing too and it was great. I knew from then on I wanted to be an actress. I think it is quite sad when children are told to be quiet. They should be allowed to express themselves.

Have you had any accident-prone moments while acting? Yes, just recently while filming Clocking Off. I nearly ended the career of actor Bob Pugh. I had to reverse my fork lift truck at high speed towards him and I nearly took him out.

Your local school has spawned a large number of actors...

Yes. It's quite strange that North Chadderton Comprehensive in Oldham has bred so many of us. There's Matthew Dunster, who played Ryan Sykes in Coronation Street; Geoff Hordley, who is Cain Dingle in Emmerdale; William Ash from Clocking Off; and Paul Hilton, a respected Royal Shakespeare Company actor. We were all passionate about our "art". Ha ha! You'd think we'd have got that knocked out of us in Oldham wouldn't you? We were all into the school plays, and in the sixth form one of our teachers started a theatre company with us. We loved it.

Did you go to drama school too? I did audition for a place, but then I got the role in Brookside. It was a case of shall I be a poor student for three years, or earn lots of money on the telly. Difficult choice that.

Do you think you'll ever escape the tag of "lesbian nanny from Brookside"? It was eight years ago and I've done so many other things, so I hope it's not the only thing that people remember me for.

But your snog with Anna Friel was a major television event - surely you're proud of that? It keeps getting shown on things like the top TV kisses and I am proud because it's a piece of work I did. A mate of mine was at university at the time. She and her mates all watched it together and were cheering when Anna and I snogged.

Talking of mates, you're good friends with former Holby co-stars, Lisa Faulkner and Angela Griffin and you've been nicknamed The Three Witches... That was something one of the directors of Holby called us because we all socialise together. You hardly ever make good friends that you keep in this industry. Often you become dead close to people then you don't bump into them for another three years. Those two people I will always have as friends. We talk to each other on the phone every day. We really support each other.

Are you scary and witchlike when you all go out on the razzle? We do Sunday lunches, we go out clubbing and we go to the pub quite a lot. But we don't go out and show off and say: "Look at us we're off the telly."

Were you unhappy about turning 30 last year? Not in the slightest. I felt really positive and optimistic about it - I feel like it's the best age I've ever been. I think women get so much more confident and sexy. A lot of my friends are going: "Oh my God. I'm getting wrinkles." But you're miles sexier when you're 30 than when you're 22. Look at Kylie, she's gorgeous. But it's not just to do with being more attractive. You've got your ideas about things more sorted out. It's a positivity about life - knowing what I want and what's important and what just doesn't matter in life, the things that you shouldn't worry your head about. I feel a lot calmer.

Where were you on the day itself? On a beach in LA with Angela, Lisa and my mum. Then later that week I had a karaoke party in London full of lots of really, rowdy drunk people. Angela has a lovely voice. I sang Dancing Queen and Lisa always sings Jolene because she loves her Country and Western.

I take it you don't worry about having to look stick thin for TV (she's just eaten a chunky KitKat)? I just think you can't worry about stuff like that - you just try to be a bit sensible and not take it too far.

You had an eight-year relationship with actor Kieran O'Brien (Robbie Coltrane's son in Cracker) which finished two years ago. Are you involved with anyone now? I'm single and I'm living on my own in West London so there's no one meaningful. But I'm dating.

So nothing serious came of you snogging MTV hunk Danann Breathnach at an awards ceremony. Yes, we snogged. He's a lovely guy. We didn't end up going out with each other, but he's really good fun and I get on really well with him. I went on a couple of dates with him afterwards. We still send text messages and emails to each other every now and then.

Have you got a "type"? People always say don't go out with an actor because they're insecure and flighty. But there's something very seductive about someone who does what you're passionate about. I wouldn't like a man who took himself too seriously and didn't respect my independence.

Is it fair to say you're a bit of a Bridget Jones? I identify more with Carrie out of Sex And The City. She's more confident, single and getting on with her life. Bridget Jones is more "Woe is me I don't want to be single". And I'm lucky I don't have to wear big pants. I read a brilliant poem the other day - it said if you spend your whole life looking for something you lose the moment.

Head or heart? You gotta go with your heart. I think it's the only thing that lasts. Although I think I probably want two different men - one you can count on, who's dead reliable and is lovely and warm and snuggly, and one who's dead exciting. I really do swing between the two. I don't fall in love easily.

So no broody ticking of the clock yet? I've been broody since I was about 19, but I need a husband first. I don't know how many children I'd want because I think you don't know how many you can manage until you've had one. I know that I love children and I feel quite maternal a lot. At the moment I have my godson, Joel, he's just learned to say "Nic, Nic" and I'm really chuffed.

Finally, your ideal co-star? Dennis Quaid, Russell Crowe or Jude Law? John Cusack. He's gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. He's just really good-looking and an absolutely brilliant actor.

Clocking Off returns to BBC1 in mid-February

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Nice role, shame about the overalls... Nicola in the new series of Clocking Off
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 13, 2002
Words:1434
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