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Leave London to do a soap? Never

Former EastEnders golden girl Tamzin Outhwaite talks to
Stephen Milton about her new movie Bull and quashes the rumours that she is broke

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Tamzin Outhwaite.

Tamzin Outhwaite.

Tamzin in new film Bull.

Tamzin in new film Bull.

Tamzin with boyfriend Tom Child and her two kids.

Tamzin with boyfriend Tom Child and her two kids.

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Tamzin Outhwaite.

When Tamzin Outhwaite found herself working alongside Colin Farrell on the set of Woody Allen’s 2006 crime caper, Cassandra’s Dream, the actor admits she felt nothing like a household name and more “like a mad fan.”

I was like a fan for those few days,” she tells me, beaming as she sits on the ground at the foot of a bed in her London home. “I was there with Colin and [co-star] Ewan McGregor, they’re dressed as burglars. Colin’s making jokes backstage and I’m on the set of a Woody Allen film. Just being there, I think I ended up feeling like a mad fan.”

Outhwaite, who turned 50 in November, played a gangsters girlfriend in a blink n’you’ll miss performance. The role was so insignificant, the actress isn’t even sure she’s in the movie for one big reason.

“Because I’ve never seen it,” she laughs to my disbelief. “I’m not good at watching things I’m in. But just being there with Woody Allen is the reason you say yes, no matter how much you have to do in the film. I was a Woody Allen film fan from years ago and I had to go and see what [working with him was] about. Just as a human, not even as an actor.”

Given the allegations of historical abuse made against Allen by daughter Dylan Farrow, many artists have declared their regret at working with the director, from Kate Winslet to Colin Firth and Mira Sorvino.

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Tamzin in new film Bull.

Tamzin in new film Bull.

Tamzin in new film Bull.

Does Outhwaite have the same regrets? She pauses. “At that time, I don’t think any of that had come out. I don’t know the details, I wouldn’t be able to make a really considered decision without the facts. You can only do what you know at the time. Hindsight is a brilliant thing.”

Weathering the pandemic, which she has called a ‘scary time’ after losing a lot of work, the mum-of-two had bounced back with two major new roles in new BBC drama Ridley Road, and intense revenge thriller, Bull.

In the latter, Outhwaite plays an embattled, hard bitten mother, caught in the crossfire as a former gang boss, Bull [Neil Maskell] returns to his old haunts to find his missing son and seek revenge on those who double crossed him and left him for dead.

Directed by Paul Andrew Williams, who helmed ITV whodunit smash hit, Broadchurch, the actress proudly confessed the gritty flick was “the kind of film I always thought I would end up doing.”

“Years ago, my favourite film was Nil by Mouth [award-winning 1997 domestic abuse drama starring Kathy Burke and Ray Winstone]. I don’t like watching violence but I was so engrossed in it, it stayed with me for a long time so when I read this script. It felt similar to me in that it felt so visceral and raw, I knew I had to be a part of it.”

Shot on a micro-budget over three weeks during the pandemic, Tamzin explained working on the film, which sees her engaging in intense scenes of grief and anger, “felt like a therapy session.”

“You’d do these really emotional scenes and I just wanted a big hug after but you couldn’t because of all the health and safety restrictions. So that was strange. But at least we were working.”

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Tamzin with boyfriend Tom Child and her two kids.

Tamzin with boyfriend Tom Child and her two kids.

Tamzin with boyfriend Tom Child and her two kids.

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At the same time, the actress was shooting political drama, Ridley Road, which ended last month on BBC One. In the series, Tamzin played a tough-as-nails salon owner with a heart of gold called Barbara. And getting into character with a blonde up ‘do, she ended up bearing an uncanny resemblance to her late Eastenders’ co-star, the great Barbara Windsor, who passed away in December 2020.

“When they put the hair on top of me, I text [Windsor’s widower] Scott and said, ‘remind you of anyone.’ I did feel an awful lot of Barbara was in that character. Real East End soul, it was lovely and bittersweet.”

It’s nearly two years since Tamzin’s Albert Square alter ego, Melanie Owen was killed by a tragic road accident. Joining the soap in 1998, the actress become an overnight success with fans obsessed with her on-screen romances with Steve Owen [Martin Kemp] and Ian Beale [Adam Woodyatt].

Quitting Eastenders in 2002, she rejoined sixteen years later before Melanie finally met her untimely end. With zero chance of a return, would Tamzin now consider joining Corrie or Emmerdale?

Outhwaite slowly smirks and chooses her words carefully. “Something has been spoken about,” she cryptically reveals, “but I wouldn’t’ leave London to do a soap. For me, I was always an Eastenders fan. And that’s done and dusted.”

Friendly and warm, the actress gesticulates and moves about as she speaks. Bathed in morning light, she cuts a casual figure in high-end active wear, after dropping her kids off to school.

But at the height of the pandemic last year, the actress– who co-parents daughters, Florence, 13, and Marnie, nine with ex-husband, Lucifer star Tom Ellis – hit the headlines for reportedly being so hard up, she was selling her belongings in a car boot sale.

Tamzin, who’s now in a long-term romance with 30 year-old Tom Child, cracks up at the mention of the gossip.

“I said I liked to do car boot sales [in an interview],” she cries, “I’m not struggling. I like my kids to think that everything isn’t disposable, that everything can have a new life somewhere in charity shop or whether you’re selling it on. So I said that and it got turned into, ‘we’re selling everything we own.’

“Financially I’m in a lucky situation, there are people all around me struggling. The pandemic had more of a mental impact on me. It brought us all altogether and made us closer but to feel like you don’t have a purpose, it’s quite damaging. I need to feel like I have a reason.

She adds: “I love being a mum but I wanted more than just home schooling and housekeeping because that fills me with dread.”

Recently Tamzin took to social media to list off her favourite series to binge during the pandemic, including Michaela Coel’s award-winning drama, I Will Destroy You and Apple TV’s Ted Lasso.

And Irish mega smash, Normal People, I chime in. “I haven’t seen it,” she replies. “I know, how is that possible but I’m rubbish at committing. I’m a commitment-phobe in life, I haven’t even seen The Crown. But they’re both high on my list.”~ }

  • Bull is in cinemas November 5 and available on digital release in January

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