■ The ex-soap star, 43, on why she avoids corrie, how strictly has changed and loving her new radio career
What have you been up to on Radio 2?
I’ve been covering the Good Morning Sunday show for August. I’ve been doing some of Sara Cox’s shows and I’m doing my own wellbeing show on bank holiday Monday, which I pitched myself — they’re letting me give that a try. I feel very lucky.
What’s it about?
I wanted to do a show where people can talk about things they might usually run away from so it covers mental health, looking after your body and food. I like talking to people about difficult stuff.
What sort of stuff?
Death — people don’t like talking about the thought of dying or people they’ve known and loved who have died. It blows my mind. It’s the thing we’ll all experience at some point. We’re in a world of people suffering from anxiety and depression and I think that’s due to unprocessed emotion. Talking about something in the right way can be very healing.
Have you suffered from anxiety?
Not in the sense that some people do but I have woken up in the morning and felt anxious and so full of dread and I don’t know why.
Is some of that related to being self-employed?
No, but when you’re self-employed these things are magnified for you. A lot of people define themselves by their work and when you’re self-employed and aren’t doing the thing you want to do it can make you feel like a failure. It took me a while to realise that just because someone wasn’t paying me to act at that precise time, it didn’t make me less of a person.
How did this radio stuff start?
I’ve been an avid Radio 2 listener since I was 25. You get older and think, ‘I want to try that’. I asked for a meeting with the head of Radio 2 and it went from there. I thought, ‘I could either wish I could do this or actually make it happen’.
What do you enjoy about it?
Being myself. I’m employed to be other people usually so it’s nice to be able to say what’s on my mind rather than using someone else’s words. And even though you can be sitting behind a desk talking to thousands of people, I like the intimacy of it. You can make one off-the-cuff remark and you’ll get loads of texts saying ‘that happened to me’. It just feels like you’re having a conversation.
Do you watch EastEnders or Coronation Street?
I always used to watch Corrie and EastEnders but after being in both, I don’t watch either of them any more. Being in something ruins your enjoyment of it forever. It’s strange. It’s like me asking someone, ‘Do you still go back to that office and see those people even though you don’t work there any more?’ They’d say, ‘No, why the f*** would I do that?’
Did you have fun being a wrestler in the film Walk Like A Panther?
It was one of the best filming experiences I’ve ever had — it was such a laugh from start to finish. My character was a bit mental and narcissistic, which was fun. With a lot of work I’ll sit in the make-up chair and they’ll say, ‘OK, we’re just going to do you nice and natural’. With this it was about how much make-up I could get on my face and how many hairpieces I could wear.
Did you learn any cool wrestling moves?
Yes. I love doing all that physical stuff so I asked them to make my routine a bit harder so I could go a bit nuts. I learned that move where you flip yourself over the ropes — it felt really good flipping into the ring.
How has Strictly changed since you did it?
It’s way more glamorous and showy now, which I love. It’s amazing to have been in something and watch it grow like that — and people are still as enthusiastic as ever. It was a much more low-key affair when I did it.
What have you got lined up for the rest of the year?
Nothing. I’m auditioning at the moment but nothing’s set in stone. Fifteen years ago that would have freaked me out but now I think it’s quite exciting because I don’t know what’s around the corner. It could be brilliant, it could be s***, I don’t know.
What lessons has your career in showbiz taught you?
You have these ideas like ‘once I get to that point or once I work with that person, things will be different’. But often it isn’t. You go from job to job. When you see people on chat shows saying, ‘My life changed after that moment’… that moment happens to one per cent of us. That’s not to say it can’t happen but I’m not going to wait for it — I’m going to try to be as happy as I can and what will be will be. I’m over the idea that there’s somewhere I need to get to. It seems like such bulls***.
Halfpenny will be on Radio 2’s Good Morning Sunday from 6am to 9am until the end of August