Favourite TV role?
I like playing weird characters and although I loved playing Dawn in Eastenders the part that has stayed with me is one I had in a mini-series called Dinotopia in which I played a witch in an unreal world. I prefer playing surreal, bizarre parts.
Favourite role on stage?
Eliza in Pygmalion – parts like that don’t come along that often and she was a gift. She had such an incredible journey – oh god that sounds so cheesy doesn’t it?
What are the challenges of going from TV to the stage?
Finding the right level to pitch at is tricky. On TV smaller is bigger whereas on stage bigger is bigger. When I took my first part they kept on telling me to be bigger but I felt like I was already throwing my arms around and shouting. The only way I actually got a grasp on it was sitting right at the back of the stalls watching my cast mates perform. Only then did I realise that you can afford for every movement to be very exaggerated.
Worst moment on stage?
I hate it when I corpse on stage and laugh. I am doing a comedy at the moment with Reece Shearsmith and he is a brilliant comedian and every night mixes it up and does something different which is always hilarious but so difficult because I can’t laugh or look surprised – I still haven’t quite figured out how to stop myself.
Worst TV moment?
On Eastenders there wasn’t very much time for things to go wrong and I am a take 20 person, that’s why I am enjoying being on the stage so much because you have proper rehearsal time to figure out the way you want to play something. On Eastenders we didn’t rehearse at all, you got your lines and then you were doing it. So I often watched myself back and thought, ‘Oh god I didn’t get that right I should have done it differently.”
TV role you covet?
I have always wanted to do period pieces – a part in Downton would be amazing.
Kara Tointon is playing Evelyn in Absent Friends which is booking at the Harold Pinter Theatre until 14 April.
See pictures and interviews with Britain's leading actors - including Joseph Mawle, Russell Tovey, Eve Myles, Celia Imrie, Mackenzie Crook, Anne-Marie Duff, Jessica Raine, Kara Tointon, Tom Chambers, Ben Miller and many more - in Radio Times magazine's fantastic Olivier Awards special! Also in the new issue: Paul Weller, Jools Holland, Pamela Stephenson, Mary Beard, Clare Balding, Two Greedy Italians and Dara O Briain. In shops now.