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Interview: Emma Wray - My brush with death travelling the world; Emma Wray's globetrotting has brought her close to disaster, but she tells Sally Brockway why nothing can dampen her spirit of adventure.

The headline sent a chill through Emma Wray. Eight foreign tourists had been killed while on a trip to Uganda to see the rare mountain gorillas. And she had been at the exact same spot two months earlier.

"It was horrible to read about because that could have been me," says My Wonderful Life star Emma, 34. "I'd gone to see the gorillas in the mist, just like they had.

"This often happens to me - trouble breaks out in a place just before I arrive or just after I've left. It happened when I went to Mexico. The week after I left, there was a terrible whirlwind that caused loads of damage in Acapulco. I must be very lucky."

These brushes with disaster have done little to dent Emma's enthusiasm for travel. For most of her acting career, she has taken time off between jobs to trek around the globe. And, apart from a few minor illnesses, she always returns unscathed.

In fact the only time Emma really got into trouble was on the concourse of Euston station in London.

"It's typical," she shrugs. "I'd just spent a year travelling and nothing bad happens, and then I get mugged at Euston. It was about 11 o'clock at night when these guys came up and one of them smacked me on the back of my head with a cricket bat.

"All I had with me was a bag of washing, but I was so angry that he'd hit me. I was wrestling with him, trying to get this bag back, and all my dirty knickers and stuff went all over the place. The men ran away and I was left in a state of shock. My head was really sore and I was furious."

Emma's gypsy-like existence is a million miles away from her character as feisty nurse and single mum of two Donna in the hit sitcom. She lives in a rented flat, has few belongings, and no children. She works for several months, then spends the rest of the year indulging her love of travelling.

"Other actors don't understand. They're so passionate about their work, they don't see why I don't do more. But I'm passionate about travelling. I love being away from England. I like the fact that nobody can contact me. It's real freedom," says Emma.

Luckily, her partner Simon shares her wanderlust as Emma admits she hates going globetrotting on her own. So much so that four years ago she went on a round-the-world trip with a boyfriend who she'd only been dating for two weeks.

"I was either very brave or very stupid, but it did work out," she laughs. "I reckoned that if we were going to split up, we'd do it wherever. Why did the location matter?

"I did try to live on my own once but I couldn't bear it. I only lasted for six months. Now, I never have a chance to be on my own because I've always got mates around - scroungers who never have any money," she jokes, before adding, "No, I'm only messing - I have mates around my place because I like the house to be full."

Last year, she and Simon moved into a new rented home, but that's about all she'll reveal about their romance. "I'll tell you anything about myself, but I won't talk about my boyfriend," she insists in a manner that tells you she won't be persuaded otherwise. "It wouldn't be fair on him and I'm very private when it comes to my relationships."

Thankfully, Simon is nothing like the dull doctor Roger (played by Hamish Clark) who Donna dates in My Wonderful Life.

"Roger keeps putting shelves up. He wants to sit at home with his pipe and slippers, looking after the kids," says Emma with a grimace. "That's not me at all. I find that so boring - Donna does too, which is why she becomes interested in her ex."

Looking after kids is not on Emma's agenda either. In fact, the whole issue of children seems to irritate her as, being 34, people are starting to ask questions...

"If I got pregnant I'd have a kid, but it's not something I've planned," she says waspishly. "People say, `You'll want one in a few years', but I'm in my mid-thirties, I could have had four kids by now if I really wanted them."

Her philosophical outlook has much to do with her rise to fame, which was all down to a quirk of fate.

"I took a year off after my O-levels, but after a few weeks I was bored and decided I wanted to do A-levels immediately. A teacher told me about this drama school where the term started later than everywhere else," she explains. "I wasn't that interested in the drama side of things at all, but got involved just for a laugh. Even now, I don't really rate myself as an actress."

Her two screen characters have indeed been remarkably similar. First there was Brenda, the sharp-tongued Scouser in Watching, and now there's Donna, a similarly acerbic Scouser in My Wonderful Life.

"I'm just gobby and there are loads of women like me in Birkenhead," she laughs, ignoring her innate ability to deliver comic lines with perfect timing - something that most people have to work hard at.

In the flesh, Emma is every bit as forthright and spirited as the characters she's famed for. She puts much of it down to being 5ft.

"When you're small, you have to speak louder to be heard. People often talk to me like I'm a kid, which is really patronising."

But for all her brash front, there's a vaguely fragile air about Emma. She's uneasy about giving interviews and often puts herself down. She also hates the fame side of her work and feels uncomfortable when fans stop to chat.

"When I go out, I don't look anybody in the eye because I don't want them to know who I am," she says. "Recognition was never something I wanted. Somebody once tried to talk to me while I was having a row. I wasn't pleased and I swore at them. They told me they'd never watch me again. It didn't bother me."

What does bother her is onscreen nudity.

"I'd never do a nude scene. I had to do a bed scene in My Wonderful Life where myself and Phil Glenister draped ourselves in sheets. He had his kit off, but I was wearing all my clothes underneath," she says.

"I'd never do a nude scene. Not in a million years, no matter how much money I was offered. I don't think I look very nice with no clothes on.

"And besides," she adds, with a twinkle in her eye. "My mum would be really upset if I got my knockers out on the telly!"

l My Wonderful Life, Sunday, ITV, 10pm
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Brockway, Sally
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 1, 1999
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