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JOCKNEY REBEL; Nicola reveals how her mum gave up harsh times in Glasgow for a new life in London.

SHE has played everything from a heroin addict to Peter Pan since leaving EastEnders. Now Nicola Stapleton has found her perfect role - as a hell- raising Scot.

The actress, who made her name as the soap's runaway Mandy Salter, is back where she belongs, yards from where her mother was brought up in Glasgow's east end.

She is huddled in a cold, damp double- decker bus, waiting to shoot the next scene for a new Channel 4 comedy drama, The Young Person's Guide To Becoming A Rock Star.

Nicola plays Joe, a sex-mad guitarist in a band which goes from playing pubs to netting a record deal, via a string of wil parties. Forget the Commitments, these are The Jocks - hard- drinking young musicians on their way to the top.

"I've made Joe a wee hairy - pure dead gallus, by the way," says Nicola, with a perfect Glaswegian twang

It comes naturally to the actress whose mother, Kate, was born and brought up in a Dennistoun tenement. Many childhood holidays were spent hanging around closes and street corners with her Scottish cousins.

"The producers told me to water my accent down a bit," says Nicola, unable to hide her surprise. "But you can't play a Scots, person if you can't do the accent and I would hate to offend anyone by doing it badly."

Nicola's mother left Glasgow 25 years ago, disillusioned with her life as a cleaner and in search of something better in London. She found a husband, Vincent, and gave birth to Nicola.

It was a lifestyle many working-class women were resigned to, says the actress.

She says: "My mum went to London because it didn't work out in Scotland. Then she met a guy and she stayed.

"She came out the gutters of Glasgow and ended up in the gutters of London, picking up work as a chalet maid and a shop cleaner."

It was all very different for Nicola. She was brought up in a rough area of South London, but was sent to the same fee-paying drama school as Denise Van Outen, Dani Behr and fellow EastEnder Daniella Westbrook.

Nicola and Denise caught up on old times when the Big Breakfast star visited Glasgow recently. Denise and singer boyfriend Jay Kay, from Jamiroquai, were in town to shoot cameo roles for Rock Star, along with Noel Gallagher of Oasis.

"Mum and dad were worried I might be a young Cockney girl wasting my time at this school," says Nicola.

But Nicola proved a broad London accent was more useful than the clipped tones her parents wanted her to adopt. By the time she was 18, she had a starring role in EastEnders.

She left the soap in 1994 but, with two British films and the Channel 4 drama in the bag, she is back in the limelight.

She plays a heroin addict and single mother in Urban Ghost Story, which co- stars Jason Connery, while in The Killing Zone, she stars as an assassin's girlfriend.

The Young Person's Guide to Becoming A Rock Star could be Channel 4's answer to This Life, with the likes of Ciaran McMenamin, Duncan Marwick, Stephen McCole and Simone Labib about to become big names.

IF Joe's guitar playing doesn't get pulses racing, her sexual antics certainly will.

"She's a total tart," laughs Nicola, before back-pedalling furiously. "No, I don't mean a tart. Women should be able to sleep around the same as men, provided they practise safe sex.

"If Joe fancies a man, she drags him off and has sex with him."

Nicola laughs at the suggestion Rock Star - which begins on November 10 - might lead to a pop career, like Sean Maguire, who played her boyfriend in EastEnders

"I've been asked to record songs," says Nicola. "It's easy to stick someone famous in a studio and get someone else to write songs for them."

Which means that, for now, the guitar is slung back in the cupboard ... along with the Scottish accent.
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Author:Morgan, Kathleen
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Oct 31, 1998
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