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Showbiz: The Interview: TINY DRESSES ARE A DRAG.. BUT LOOKING GLAM IS ALL IN A DAY'S WORK; Matthew Bose on his role as cross-dressing, leg shaving, heel-wearing Paul.. the only gay in the Emmerdale village.

Byline: By LAURA DAVIDSON

When Matthew Bose was told he was to become Emmerdale's first ever drag queen, the actor didn't want to approach the role as just another hairy bloke in a dress.

The soap star embraced his cross-dressing character with both arms and went the whole hog to morph into Paul Lambert's alter ego, nightclub singer Thelma Louise.

Matthew, 33, said: "I went to New York to speak to some of the drag queens there. They're the real deal. They told me it was all about creating the illusion of glamour.

"It was difficult trying to get information out of them at first, mind you. They're very secretive about their methods for looking so realistically female - it's like the magic circle or something.

"Once befriended them, though, they told me everything I needed to know - and it made me realise there's more to this female lark than I first realised."

Matthew doesn't wimp out and go for heavy tights to disguise stubbly legs. He shaves his pins - and it doesn't stop there.

He laughed: "I have to shave my armpits as well. My shoulders are so big can only fit into strapless dresses or gowns with shoestring straps.

"After shaving my armpits for the first time, I realised you shouldn't put deodorant on straight away. I learned the hard way. Boy, did that sting.

"I haven't had the guts to go down the waxing route yet - I'm too scared. Shaving's bad enough. The itch when the hairs grow back is unbearable.

"Squeezing into tiny dresses is also a nightmare. The frock wore most recently was so tight my organs applied for a transplant.

"I've learned so much about what it takes tobe a woman since taking on this role and my hat, as well as my hair, comes off to you, ladies."

Matthew called on the assistance of his female co-stars to teach him how to sashay like a pro.

He said: "At first when I tried to walk in high heels, I couldn't get the motion right. looked like a trucker who'd been on a horse for a week.

"Then Lucy Pargeter, who plays Chas, showed me it's all about co-ordinating your shoulders, your hips and your attitude. Now I can even run in three-and-a-half inch stilettos.

"I'm a women's size eight in peep toes and can wear a size 10 dress off the peg, although it's got to be a style that will take my broad shoulders into account.

"A few people told me that I look like Sandra Bullock when I dress as Thelma and I was really thrilled at the compliment. You've got to be pleased with that, haven't you?" ?' Matthew's character Paul - the son of Diane Sugden's (Elizabeth Estensen) flighty sister Val Lambert (Charlie Hardwick) and ladies' man Rodney Blackstock (Patrick Mower) - first made his appearance in Emmerdale in 2004.

His alter ego Thelma Louise only surfaces at dramatic moments and fans last saw her in all her false-eyelashed, sequinned glory last week.

It followed the plotline that's seen Paul's on-off romance with binman Ivan (Daniel Brocklebank) sizzling away in secret.

While Paul wanted to shout from the rooftops that they were an item, Ivan - who has yet to come out as a bisexual - preferred to keep their trysts under wraps.

But on Tuesday the cat was really let out the bag in the middle of the Woolpack.

After performing for punters as Thelma Louise, Paul was having what he thought was a private lover's tiff with Ivan in the bathroom.

But his radio mike was still switched on and the whole lot was broadcast to everyone in the bar, including Paul's half sister Nicola Blackstock (Nicola Wheeler), who had a crush on Ivan.

This week it's make or break time for the pair. Ivan has to decide if he is really ready for a gay relationship and Paul has to consider whether Ivan's worth the risk of having his heart broken.

Matthew said: "Whether or not Ivan is the one for Paul, I'd like to see him with someone who makes him happy. He's always there as a shoulder to cry on for everyone else and he deserves his own happy ending."

Paul started his acting career after moving to LA from New York, following a stint as a male model. He moved to America's showbiz capital to be nearer friends and to study for a psychology degree. Half-way through the course, tutors thought he could do with a confidence-boosting course to prepare him for public speaking and sent him off to acting classes.

After a few sessions he was hooked and, when he completed his studies, he went around America on an improv tour instead of following a psychology career.

Five years ago, Matthew decided to return to Britain and landed bit parts in Cutting It, Coupling and Silent Witness, which led to his big break in Emmerdale.

He said: "I'd read before the audition that playing Paul may involve some cross dressing so went along in a dress I'd borrowed from a friend and my mum's shoes and hoped for the best.

"I'm chuffed to bits that I got the part but I'm also chuffed that there's so much more to Paul than just being a gay drag queen.

"There are so many different parts to his character and he's really fun to play."

Working on Emmerdale means Matthew now splits his time between Leeds and London. During the week he shares a flat with co-star Daniel and at weekends he goes home to Islington to the home he shares with partner James Ditchfield, 35, a TV director.

He said: "Life can be pretty hectic. We film six days a week sometimes, so time off is precious.

"Mostly James and I just enjoy doing everyday things like going to the cinema or going out for dinner when we're not working.

"It's strange - Thelma Louise wouldn't be happy with such mundane things but for me, most of the time I'm happy with just a quiet night in front of the telly

CAPTION(S):

Matthew thinks he looks like Sandra Bullock, top, when dressed as Thelma, left. Above, sharing a kiss with Ivan (Daniel Brocklebank
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 8, 2006
Words:1033
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