samantha womack

First it was a massive bestseller, then a blockbuster film starring Emily Blunt, so there’s a lot of pressure on former EastEnders star Samantha Womack as she takes the title role in the stage version of psychological thriller Girl On The Train.

But the woman who played Ronnie Mitchell in the Albert Square soap is undaunted by taking on the character of Rachel Watson.

SUSPENSE – Samantha Womack and Adam Jackson-Smith, who plays Tom Watson, rehearsing Girl on the Train

“The good thing is this is the only part I’ve ever done where I can look absolutely terrible,” she laughs. “I don’t have to put any makeup on – she’s permanently hungover or drunk anyway… I’ve never done a part where I can be that relaxed. I can turn up in a pair of cargo pants and just walk on stage!”

But Samantha does think the theatre version of Girl On The Train can offer something the film couldn’t.

“It’s hard to do a novel like this and do it justice in a film because you have to make it feel like ‘real life’, and you don’t have so much access to inside someone’s head in a film,” she explains. “I think it really needed a bit more of that. I think in the play we’ve got a little bit more of that in.”

She said that she read Paula Hawkins’ novel when it came out and was “captivated” but adds: “I didn’t want to reread it and contaminate the play as I wanted to treat the show as its own thing.

“The opportunity to take on a role like this is incredibly exciting. I’ve been fascinated by thrillers for a long time and this kind of storytelling, like Hitchcock’s Rear Window, offers us a voyeurs journey into a world which is dangerous and full of suspense.”

For the uninitiated, Samantha goes on: “It’s 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, 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.”

It’s a complex character to portray and she adds: “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.

“I suppose everyone you play, you have to like, or understand at least. She’s someone who’s lost her way and been manipulated for a long time and had the misfortune to not have a baby, and so you find her at her lowest point, but what’s quite nice about her is that she’s quite firey and when she’s drunk she’s unpredictable.

“She’s a very good anti-hero. I liked reading about her, and when she’s drunk she’ll say out loud what other people won’t normally say and I love playing a character like that.”

The Girl on the Traincomes to Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre from Monday (8 July) until Saturday 13 July.

TERRIFIC PACIFIC – actor Daniel Koak with Samantha Womack as Nellie

TERRIFIC PACIFIC – actor Daniel Koak with Samantha Womack as Nellie

SAMANTHA WOMACK is pondering her next move as her starring role in South Pacific is about to come to an end.

Her final portrayal of Nellie Forbush in the stage musical will be in Woking on Saturday (July 21) as the tour finishes, so her options are open.

Despite a meeting with Simon Cowell, Samantha is not set to be a TV judge on Britain’s Got Talent – yet. She’d love to tackle a Shakespearean role or make an independent film, and she doesn’t rule out a return to EastEnders.

In fact she doesn’t rule out anything…except a second stint singing Britain’s entry for the Eurovision Song Contest.

“I’d never say never to anything in this business because I’m a jobbing actress,” she says when discussing a return to her role as the controversial baby snatcher Ronnie Branning in the Albert Square soap.

But Eurovision, it seems, is a different matter.

The singer/actress (then Samantha Janus) sang A Message To Your Heart back in 1991 when the contest was in Rome – and hated every minute of it.

“That doesn’t really count as a job!” she exclaims. “No, I don’t even consider that part of my career.

“I don’t think anyone enjoys it. Being in those environments when there’s lots of people and lots of press – it’s a nightmare, you’re just constantly being scrutinised – it’s a circus!

“Oh I love watching it – I just don’t want to be in it again.”

Samantha came joint 10th in the song contest with 47 points – a creditable performance compared with recent years
when the UK has traditionally come last as most nations refuse to vote for us.

“Of course it’s political,” adds Samantha. “Why wouldn’t it be? You can’t imagine why people would vote for us when we
keep invading different countries. It’s perfectly understandable.”

She has come a long way since those Eurovision days after appearing on TV in the comedy series Game On, ITV’s hard-hitting drama Liverpool One, and of course EastEnders.

“Nothing’s really quite the same as EastEnders in terms of people recognising you because you’re in people’s living rooms all week,” she says. “People feel they know you.

“I was recognised before but people were a bit more distant. I’d never avoid going anywhere or doing anything, it’s just part of the job. People are very nice, if you just say hello.”

Actually Britain’s Got Talent might outdo EastEnders for viewing figures and there were recent rumours that Samantha would be a judge on the TV talent show. But she’s says it isn’t likely to happen.

“That was never going to work in terms of dates for me,” she confirms. “The idea was that I’d stand in temporarily for Amanda Holden, but the dates didn’t work. I still wanted to fly out to America because I wanted to meet Simon Cowell and see his house. Who wouldn’t?

“I got to go to LA and meet him. He was absolutely charming and I had a lovely time.

“I don’t think it will happen in the future but who knows? I’d consider it very carefully.”

As for the future, she’s looking forward to her first decent break for five years while considering a couple of film scripts – but she does still have one unfulfilled ambition.

“I’ve never done Shakespeare and I’d be embarrassed to call myself an actor without having the guts to do it,” she says.

In the meantime she has a few more performances as South Pacific’s Nellie left to do and says she’ll miss the show and the cast.

“I love it, I’ll be very sad when it finishes. All jobs are different for different reasons but this is a really lovely company to work with, loads of really lovely people.

“And I get to sing Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair and I’m In Love With A Wonderful Guy – what could be better?”

South Pacific is on at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, until Saturday (July 21).