■ The actress, 40, on her surprise Welsh hit thriller, Keeping Faith, working with Russell T Davies and her wild patch in Greece
You must be happy with how Keeping Faith has been received.
Very happy and grateful — it was on the BBC Cymru Wales last year, then iPlayer, and now it’s been on BBC1. We’re thrilled with it. I was approached about it five years ago. I had to learn Welsh for it. I also had the scripts for four months before everyone else so I had a lot of input.
When are you starting the second series?
We’re waiting to be given the green light but we’re hopeful. You never know, do you? I’ve been a part of so many projects when I’ve thought we’ll definitely go again because of its popularity — and we don’t. Then there are others that go again and I can’t quite believe it.
How close did you come to giving up acting a few years ago?
When you’ve done something for a long time you have a wobble whatever your job may be — whether you’re a painter and decorator or a surgeon, you get to a point in your life where you think, ‘I’m bored and frustrated and maybe I should do something else’. I had that wobble, then this came along and became the biggest challenge of my career. So if it was my swansong I know I’d have gone out doing my best. It was a wobble and it happens. It will probably happen again this year, next year and every other year, and before every read-through and every job…
That sounds bleak…
It’s how I am. Some people have lots of confidence and some people don’t, and I’m constantly questioning if I’m doing the right thing. I love my job. If I wasn’t passionate about what I do I’d have stopped doing it years ago. But when it’s not working out, it’s a heart-breaking job to be in.
How do you keep yourself motivated in such a competitive industry?
I let the competitiveness go away. I don’t compete with anything or anyone. When I get scripts through and audition for it I work really hard and that’s all I can do — I can’t make anybody give me a job, I can’t make acting directors send me scripts, I just have to go with the flow. You’ve got to work with what you’re given and do your best. And when you walk out of the audition room, you leave it there. That’s just how it works. Sometimes you love it, sometimes you hate it.
You worked with Russell T Davies on Torchwood and A Very English Scandal. Will you be doing so again?
He could phone me in the next hour and I’d turn up on set for him this afternoon. He’s employed me for years, we’re really good friends, and I can phone him and ask him for advice — he’s a very loyal man.
Is joining the Royal Shakespeare Company all it’s cracked up to be?
I learned so much there — we got to go to America and the West End — and I’d advise any young actor to grab the opportunity because it’s brilliant foundation work. It’s everything it’s cracked up to be and more. From the moment you enter the rehearsal room to doing the fittings to walking out on stage your first night, it’s electrifying. I loved every second of it, so much so that when the season was over I stayed in Stratford-upon-Avon for another 18 months with my partner. I was working at the National Theatre and I’d drive back every weekend.
Weren’t you a holiday rep in Greece?
No — I covered for someone for one night. I went to Greece when I was 18 with a broken heart and a group of girls and we stayed for three months. I got really fat. I lived off lager. It was brilliant. Then my mum phoned me to say I’d got into drama school so I had to come home. I had a think about it but decided to come home and be confident and go for what I wanted to do.
How did you pay the bills while in Greece?
I was renting out speedboats. People could hire them for the day and I’d say: ‘Do you fancy doing this? Sign on the dotted line — don’t drink too much and enjoy yourself.’
Were you good at it?
I was s***. I get quite anxious when I have to meet new people — and that was the job. I did as little as possible to pay the rent and buy some lagers of a night. It was a hoot. It was good to let loose before doing three intense years of drama school. It was good to get that wild patch over with so I could then settle down and work hard.
Was your broken heart mended after the three months?
It was mended after five days. It was definitely worth the trip.
What lessons has your career in showbiz taught you?
Expect nothing and be grateful for everything.
Keeping Faith is out now on DVD