The telly fave, 40, chats to us about Channel 4’s brand new school-based drama Ackley Bridge 

Hi Jo! Tell us about your character, headmistress Mandy Carter, on the show… 

What I like about Mandy is that it’s nice to have a woman at the head of the school. She’s completely career driven and not interested in having children and I really like that. She’s worked so hard over the years to get to the level she’s at that she’s neglected her home life. She’s very organised and driven in her business life but she’s not at all organised or in control at home. She’s fully rounded and I think it’s a contradiction that’s true in a lot of career women. 

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How’s working up north? 

I love it! I love getting out of London and going up north. The fact that Sunetra Sarker was in the cast cemented it for me. We’re such good friends – we ended up living together when we filmed and saved a bit of the budget! We first lived together when we were in No Angels in 2004. I turned up at Su’s flat and was like: ‘Hi! Let’s watch telly together!’ 

Paul Nicholls plays your hubby…

He’s lovely. We worked together years ago when I’d just had my babies. I’ve been very lucky as my leading men have been very handsome over the years! 

Do you worry you might get stick from EastEnders viewers for playing a northerner? 

I’ve decided not to worry about that. A good 80 per cent of my TV work has been as a notherner. I’ve only had three jobs as a southerner – EastEnders, Doctor Who and a period drama where I spoke with my real accent. I left drama school and moved to Manchester to form a theatre company, so I always auditioned for northern parts. 

Ackley Bridge starts on Channel 4 at 8pm on 7 June 

Words: Rosie Gizauskas