She won plenty of awards for her role as bad girl Janine Butcher in EastEnders, including British Soap Awards Villain of the Year (2004) and Best Exit (2005). But Charlie Brooks, 37, says becoming a parent to 13-year-old daughter Kiki, who she had with former partner Tony Truman, is her proudest achievement yet.
Currently on the road with her touring production of Monogamy, she tells us all about her parenting battles, stepping out of her comfort zone and her dream job…
‘I’m glad social media wasn’t around when I started in EastEnders. I’ll use it as a vehicle for the plays I’m in – I put the odd thing on there, but I don’t really look through it. It may have impacted me very differently on a much younger head. It’s a dangerous minefield and unmanageable – I don’t know how to control it. Kiki has social media. She’s 14 this year. I monitor it when I can, but then you have to respect their privacy. Sometimes they create secret accounts and it’s a nightmare.’
‘You feel like you can do anything after you’ve been a mother. It’s very empowering and quite difficult and challenging, and that’s your number-one job.’
‘I’m currently single. Sometimes I do [find it harder to meet people being a parent and famous]. Sometimes I meet guys, but I’m not really interested at the moment.’
‘Kiki loves watching me on stage. She’s been through everything I’ve done. She helps me learn my lines, if the language is appropriate. She’s showing signs of the acting bug, big time, and I’d be happy for her to follow in my footsteps. She’d love to be on Broadway – I’ve never done it, but I’d love to do a little play off Broadway and live in New York. I’d be serious “mum goals”.’
‘I star in a new play called Monogamy, by a writer called Torben Betts and it’s an exploration of people and relationships. I play the wife, Sally. It’s set in a celebrity chef’s kitchen and it’s what goes on after the cameras stop rolling – she’s having an affair with my husband, Mike [Patrick Ryecart]. It’s a bit of a black comedy – laugh where you’re not supposed to laugh.’
‘Sometimes it’s hard being away from home, but I do love travelling. It feels like you’re on a lovely holiday – it’s a really nice way to see the UK and you get to do what you love. Obviously, I miss home and I miss my daughter, but it’s a five-week tour and then it goes into London’s Park Theatre. So I’m away for one week, then home after that. In fact, it’s four nights [I’m away]. I’m commuting the rest.’
‘Preparing for a stage play is more frightening in many respects. When I first start rehearsals I never feel like I’m going to get it, so I give myself a really hard time, but you have a nice four-week rehearsal period where you get to delve into the script, work in the rehearsal room and develop it, which is very satisfying. The role is very different to anything I’ve done before, so I was really pleased to have got it.’
‘I look back on my time in EastEnders really fondly. I had a great time. I was very fortunate with the character, and got so many wonderful and different storylines, so it was really fun to play. I still speak to some of the cast and I’d never say never to returning. I’ve no idea where Janine’s been or what she’s been up to!’
‘I get recognised a lot – it happens 100 times a day. I never think of going out in a disguise, but I have a purpose to my stride.’
✱ Monogamy tours until 7 July. To book, or for details, visit originaltheatre.com.