Tracy-Ann Oberman interview

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Actress Tracy-Ann Oberman takes part in this Sunday’s episode of new entertainment series Born To Shine, airing at 8pm on ITV1.

Best known for her role in EastEnders as Chrissie Watts between 2004-2005, Tracy-Ann has also appeared in Robin Hood, Channel 4 comedy Friday Night Dinner and the two-part finale of Doctor Who‘s 2006 series as Torchwood boss Yvonne Hartman.

Hosted by Natasha Kaplinksy, Born To Shine sees the nation’s most talented children help celebrities learn a new skill to raise money for Save The Children’s ‘No Child Born To Die’ campaign as they attempt to win a place in the grand final.

> Find out more about the campaign on the Save The Children website.

CultBox caught up with Tracy-Ann to find out more…

How would you describe Born To Shine for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet?

“It’s for Save The Children and the idea was to get well-known people to go out of their comfort zone and study a skill that they’d never done before, but had maybe always wanted to. The twist is that they’re mentored by a child who is brilliant at that skill.

“So they’ve got Jason Manford learning opera singing, the comedian Jason Byrne learning Irish dancing, they have Nick Moran learning Mozart on the piano and I’m learning how to be a folk singer and guitarist. And then the public vote and all the money goes to Save The Children.”

How did you get involved?

“I’ve always been involved with Save The Children and tried to do what I can for them, then I got a phone call asking what I’d always wanted to.”

Were you a fan of folk music before the show?

“Yeah, I’ve always liked that sort of acoustic Joni Mitchell, Patti Smith, Suzanne Vega… then moving into the modern day, Mumford & Sons, Laura Marling, Johnny Flynn… so I really like all that stuff anyway, it’s been great to learn how to do it.”

How much time has it taken to learn?

“It’s taking up loads of time. I’ve got to keep rehearsing the guitar and the singing, and I’m being mentored by the child who’s also going to play on the night. They’re doing a lot of filming for it plus I’m doing the stuff for Save The Children, so it’s pretty full-on really.”

Had you played guitar before?

“Never, I’d never even picked up a guitar before this programme. It’s very hard! I now admire all my friends who played when I was younger. I wish I was one of the Mumfords!”

Do you think you’ll continue performing once Born To Shine is over?

“Yeah, I’ll definitely carry on singing and going to gigs as I’ve really tried to immerse myself in it.”

It’s been six years since you departed EastEnders – do you miss the show and would you still like to return to complete Chrissie’s story?

“The character was fantastic. When you’re in a soap, you can’t really do any other work, so it’s nice to have done loads of other stuff. But I loved that character and she was destined for prison so it’d be nice to complete that story in some way.”

Have you seen any of the new series of Torchwood?

“I haven’t had a chance but I’ve got it all on Sky+ and I’ve heard it’s fantastic. It’s brilliant that it’s become so successful in America as well.”

You starred as Yvonne Hartman, director of the London branch of the Torchwood Institute, in Series 2 of Doctor Who. Would you be up for returning to the role if they ever did a Torchwood flashback episode?

“Oh my God, I’d be over the moon! That was the highlight of my career because I’m such a massive Doctor Who fan. To be in it was so exciting. I always remember Russell at the time saying ‘oh maybe she could come back in a parallel universe?’, so you never know.”

Do you ever get mistaken for fellow Doctor Who guest star Alex Kingston?

“I do, I get mistaken for Alex Kingston all the time! I always have done, ever since she was in Moll Flanders. Then she was in ER and I did a stint in Casualty and everybody would get us confused.

“Now she’s in Doctor Who I get loads of her fan mail, I get stopped in the street regularly and I get masses of tweets! ‘I love you as River’, ‘I love you in Doctor Who’, ‘I love your hair’, ‘I love you in this’, ‘you were brilliant in that’… and then people get us completely mistaken and both of our careers sort of merge into one! “

Have you ever both met?

“I have; weirdly enough we were in the Royal Shakespeare Company. She was a year ahead of me and I think I met her once – she was lovely. In the flesh, we’re not that similar, but I think she’s stunning so I’m really flattered. I like to think that somewhere in LA, when I was in EastEnders, people were stopping her in the street and congratulating her for killing Dirty Den.”

What else have you got coming up?

“There’s a film that I’m in called The Great Ghost Rescue, I think that comes out on Halloween. And I’m waiting to find out if Aunty Val will be resurrected in the second series of Friday Night Dinner. That’s been recommissioned so fingers crossed she might return!”

> Visit the Save The Children website.

Watch the trailer for Tracy-Ann Oberman’s first Doctor Who episode…