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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 October 2005, 10:46 GMT 11:46 UK
Dobson on surviving life after soap
Anita Dobson
Anita Dobson plays Gertrude in English Touring Theatre's Hamlet
Former EastEnders star Anita Dobson can currently be found treading the boards as Gertrude in the English Touring Theatre's new production of Hamlet.

She's also appeared on stage for the National Theatre, as well as starring in a host of films and TV shows, including The Bill, Holby City and Hearts And Bones, alongside Hugo Speer and Dervla Kirwan.

But she is best known for her role as fiery EastEnders landlady Angie Watts.

As another wave of actors leave EastEnders and Coronation Street, the actress has some advice on how to survive life after soap:

I do not regret playing Angie for one second.

It was the most marvellous part a woman could wish for and it changed my life in so many ways.

But it's worrying that some actors and actresses are not fully aware of all the problems that might come with that kind of stardom.


Anita Dobson and Leslie Grantham in EastEnders
Dobson as Angie in EastEnders, with co-star Leslie Grantham
I had been working for 13 years doing repertory theatre, radio and musicals before I won the part in EastEnders.

Suddenly from being a jobbing actress trying to get a break I was the most photographed woman in Britain after Princess Diana.

You have drama schools telling you not to give up your day job, but nobody tells you what to do if you crack it.

So ask for help. Talk to other actors, talk to your producers and friends about any pressure you are under.

There is this great belief among actors that you have got to appear as if you can cope, when in fact the one who asks for help has the greatest strength.


I had waited so long for my break to come along that when it did I just gobbled it up in a frenzied way.

You need to get back into the world and live a bit
But the work rate in soap operas can exhaust your resources.

Halfway through my time on EastEnders I suddenly felt that my emotional and private life were not being nurtured in the same way.

You need to get back into the world, live a bit and build up your emotional bank. This can only make you a better actor.

Now there is more opportunity for soap stars to temporarily leave and do other things. Take that chance if you get it.


Anita Dobson on Holby City
Dobson's TV roles include Holby City, The Bill and New Tricks

After leaving EastEnders I jumped straight into a series of new roles. I always felt desperate to prove myself and didn't want to take a break.

I went back to work with directors who knew me before EastEnders happened, so theatre work was not a problem.

However, it was hard to get really good roles on TV for a few years. Angie was so easily recognised, and everybody desperately hoped I would play her again.

It was a very interesting time but, looking back, there were certain roles I took that were too similar to Angie. I was in danger of being typecast.

I learned that, at the end of the day, the only power we have as actors is to say "no". Try to pick roles you think are challenging, and would be good for you to do.


Are you happy to be followed by hordes of photographers?

No-one in their right mind wants to be followed by hordes of photographers, and I was not prepared for that degree of scrutiny.

But I have managed to live with it - you do toughen up a bit I think.

Don't believe agents who tell you to go to every single celebrity event - that's a lot of rubbish.

A certain amount of being seen at events is good, to keep you in the minds of casting agents, but you really need to direct their attention to your acting talent.

Reality TV is not an area I would go into as I think it's too competitive and it is often like watching paint dry.

You might make a lot of money from Celebrity Love Island but where do you go next?


I squirreled away all the money I earned from EastEnders, so I could then afford to try new things without earning the same level of wages for a while.

If I wanted to make a lot of money I would have done something else
If actors are given the chance to return to a soap, it can be quite hard to turn down its regular income - especially if you have a family to support.

But I always chose the hard route. I have always believed in this business that if you have the talent it will drive you forward. If I wanted to make a lot of money I would have done something else.

And while you are sitting around waiting for work, don't forget to have a good time and meet lots of people - there may be no time for that later.

You are writing the book of your life now - enjoy it every day.

Hamlet is touring nationwide until 26 November.

EastEnders' Angie joins The Bill
26 Apr 05 |  TV and Radio
Den and Angie team up again
05 Aug 99 |  Entertainment


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