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'I was hoping to go back' - Samantha Womack on life after EastEnders ahead of Norwich show

PUBLISHED: 15:30 18 June 2019 | UPDATED: 15:59 18 June 2019

Samantha Womack as Rachel Watson in The Girl on the Train Credit: Manuel Harlan

Samantha Womack as Rachel Watson in The Girl on the Train Credit: Manuel Harlan

Archant

Louisa Baldwin spoke to star of stage and screen Samantha Womack about leaving EastEnders and Norfolk holidays ahead of Theatre Royal show.

Samantha Womack Credit: PA Archive/PA ImagesSamantha Womack Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Samantha Womack is best known for playing Ronnie Mitchell in EastEnders from 2007 to 2017 when she came to a grizzly end after drowning in a pool with her character's sister Roxy.

On the show she was at the centre of some of the biggest storylines including finding her long lost daughter Danielle, who got run over when Ronnie found out her identity, and another which saw her swap her dead baby for Kat and Alfie's newborn which caused a media storm at the time.

But before she won the nations hearts in one of soap's best-loved double acts, she starred in shows such as Judge John Deed, Men Behaving Badly and she even represented the UK in Eurovision in 1991 with song 'A Message to Your Heart'.

Samantha, who is the niece of late footballer George Best, has also appeared in the successful Kingsman film series, Silent Witness, Sky One comedy-drama Mount Pleasant.

Her theatre credits include South Pacific,The Addams Family and now The Girl on the Train stage adaptation of Paula Hawkins' bestselling 2015 psychological thriller as troubled Rachel Watson alongside Coronation Street and Hollyoaks star Oliver Farnworth.

Ahead of the show coming to Norwich Theatre Royal from July 1 to 6, Samantha discussed how she prepared herself to play the complex character and how she really felt about leaving EastEnders.

Samantha Womack stars as Rachel Watson and Oliver Farnworth plays Scott Hipwell in The Girl on the Train Credit: Helen MaybanksSamantha Womack stars as Rachel Watson and Oliver Farnworth plays Scott Hipwell in The Girl on the Train Credit: Helen Maybanks

What is the Girl on the Train about and who do you play?

It is a thriller and a dark drama about coercive control, abuse and fixating on perfection and all the characters are imperfect and damaged in their own way.

I play Rachel Watson who has been in an abusive relationship, lost her job and she also can't conceive so drinks a lot and has a sketchy memory.

She sits on the train drinking vodka and fixates on a couple she can see from the window about their perfect life.

Next the policeman turns up and the woman she has been watching goes missing and due to her memory blackouts she can't remember if she was involved in the disappearance and becomes paranoid.

Rachel has taken a little while for me to get right because she is quite rude and disillusioned and provokes everyone she meets but the audience still needs to champion her which is a difficult balance but she is really lovely to play.

It is exhausting on a matinee day and I am happy to get her out of my head at the end of the evening but if there is just one show then I can let rip and be insane.

Samantha Womack in rehearsals for The Girl on the Train Credit: Helen MaybanksSamantha Womack in rehearsals for The Girl on the Train Credit: Helen Maybanks

Were you a fan of the book before you got the part?

I read it when it came out in 2015 but I didn't want to reread it and contaminate the play as I wanted to treat the show as its own thing.

Have you been to Norfolk before, if so where are you favourite places to visit?

I know the area quite well and enjoy going up to the lovely coast with my dogs and kids and I really enjoy Holkham, Stiffkey and Brancaster - basically anywhere close to the sea.

Holkham is also mentioned in the play quite a lot and I'm hoping to spend some afternoons on the beach with my family whilst I'm performing here.

Samantha Womack and Adam Jackson-Smith in The Girl on the Train Credit: Manuel HarlanSamantha Womack and Adam Jackson-Smith in The Girl on the Train Credit: Manuel Harlan

What has life been like since leaving EastEnders?

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It has been good and I haven't stopped working - I did The Addams Family all of last year and there has also been the Kingsman films and Silent Witness and then I've gone straight to this show.

Were you sad to leave EastEnders and do you think it was fitting that you and Rita left together?

It was hard to have a character killed that I loved and I was hoping to go back at some later stage.

Adam Jackson-Smith and Samantha Womack in The Girl on the Train Credit: Manuel HarlanAdam Jackson-Smith and Samantha Womack in The Girl on the Train Credit: Manuel Harlan

It is always sad to leave your friends and they became family over the years but I am still very close to Rita and speak to her four times a day.

Why do you think people related so much to Ronnie and Roxy?

They both had really good chemistry and loved each other and you could see the genuine connection and real feelings between us.

What was your favourite storyline from your time on the soap?

The Danielle storyline when I got back in touch with my daughter and it had great viewing figures.

What about the baby swap storyline that attracted quite a lot of controversy?

You get used to it as people are so invested in soaps so you expect it and it was mainly the media talking about it.

It was hard to act but it was also enjoyable as it was such a meaty storyline.

Generally though I prefer more realistic issues and struggle with the sensationalist ones.

You also competed on Eurovision in 1991, would you ever revive your singing career?

I was a session singer and Eurovision decided they wanted me to do it and I did the record and then I left the singing in my 20s.

Musicals were my way back into singing and it is hugely and deeply satisfying.

Why should people get tickets to The Girl on the Train if they haven't already?

It is one of the most exciting things I've been involved in and the audience covers a whole range of ages from teenagers to much older groups who are delighted and shocked at the same time.

The feedback has been great and it has been extended for six months and is going onto the West End.

You can purchase tickets to The Girl on the Train at theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk, by phone on 01603 630000 or in person at the box office.

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