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.
“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.