What made you want to play Lady Mae in Mr Selfridge?
She’s delicious. She’s the only upper-class character and couldn’t be more different from Becky McDonald in Coronation Street – so quite a thrill after five years in the Street. What I like about her is that you don’t know whether she’s an angel or the devil.
What was the last TV programme you recommended to someone?
I’m afraid my current favourite is an American show – Breaking Bad. The scripts are incredible; it’s the first time since I was a child that I’ve actually shouted at the screen. I’ve never known a series get better and better.
How did you come across it?
When we finished filming The Best Possible Taste – the Kenny Everett drama for BBC4 – Oliver Lansley, who played Kenny, bought the first series for me as a present. I must have watched it in a weekend and that was it: I was completely addicted. I’ve since got my entire family and a dozen or so friends hooked, too.
What TV shows make you cringe?
Nothing, because I almost always have the television on in the background. It’s a comfort thing; it reminds me of home. My dad, bless him, was from a family of poor Irish immigrants and didn’t have a telly until he bought one himself with his first wage from the pit when he was 15. So he was completely obsessed with tellies and we had one in every room.
What makes you cry?
I’m not really a crier, but the other day I saw a trailer for the new film of Les Misérables and found myself filling up. That was the first stage show I ever saw in the West End, so it must have been the memories. I was ten and we came on a bus trip down to London.
Was that what gave you the acting bug?
My parents met through amateur dramatics, so it was a hobby for the whole family – until I was 18 and decided to see how I fared against the rest of the country. I auditioned for several drama schools, having never had an acting lesson in my life, and found myself at Rada.
What makes you reach for the “off ” switch?
Everything is interesting to me. That’s my world, isn’t it? Television. But for me to give something my complete attention, without half being on the internet or half painting my nails, it has to be a drama or The Apprentice – that’s my guilty pleasure.
Which TV drama would you like to bring back?
I’m a big believer in knowing when something needs to end, not dragging it on and diluting it so it loses its specialness. The only exception I would make to that is Cold Feet. It would be quite cool to see a one-off – to see where they all are.
Which film have you watched time and again?
Every Christmas we watch It’s a Wonderful Life with James Stewart. My dad made us watch it when we were really little and of course had absolutely no interest in seeing a black-and-white film; but now it’s a ritual.
Who’s left you starstruck?
I’ve never really been like that, to be honest. I’ll always talk to anybody. When I was growing up, I never had posters of boys on my walls, either; I was too down-to-earth to have crushes.
Mr Selfridge is on Sundays at 9:00pm on ITV1