Blood guns& push-ups

TV Times - - Interview - NEW drama Our Girl Wed­nes­day / BBC1 / 9.00Pm Emma Bul­limore

When Michelle Kee­gan landed the lead role in the sec­ond se­ries of BBC1 mil­i­tary drama

Our Girl, she might have ex­pected a lit­tle star treat­ment. In­stead, she was packed off to par­tic­i­pate in some gru­elling army train­ing…

‘We had to do a two-week boot camp in South Africa!’ laughs the 29-year-old for­mer Cor­rie star. ‘It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but if I said any­thing wrong, or wasn’t lis­ten­ing, the cap­tain would say, “Drop down and give me 20 press-ups!” I used to do girlie ones on my knees, but now I’ve learned to do proper ones, so I’m well chuffed!’

Michelle plays Cor­po­ral Ge­orgie Lane, an ex­pe­ri­enced army medic sent to a refugee camp in Kenya on a hu­man­i­tar­ian mis­sion. Al­though her char­ac­ter is adept with guns, boot camp was the ac­tress’s first chance to han­dle a firearm.

‘I didn’t even know how to hold a gun when I started,’ she tells TV Times. ‘I’d never ac­tu­ally seen a real one, and they’re so heavy and in­tim­i­dat­ing. We went to a shoot­ing range to prac­tise with nu­mer­ous guns and I had an AK-47.

‘It was so pow­er­ful, it nearly knocked my shoul­der out of its socket. I found it quite scary, but

Michelle Kee­gan on get­ting fight­ing fit for the new lead role in Our Girl – and life af­ter Cor­rie

the boys in the cast got re­ally ex­cited. It was their favourite day, and they filmed ev­ery­thing on their phones!’

Al­though the guns were a bit alarm­ing, Michelle had a great time playing an ac­tion hero­ine.

‘I’d never done a role be­fore where I had to get my hands dirty, so this is a very cool job. We did lots of stunts. I was fly­ing in he­li­copters and get­ting flung into cars – it was very phys­i­cal. I got bruises ev­ery­where but I found it re­ally lib­er­at­ing – it was bril­liant not hav­ing to worry about my nails!

I’m glad it’s not a par­tic­u­larly sexy role be­cause I want peo­ple to see me in an­other light, in some­thing that’s dif­fer­ent and gritty.’

Michelle is tak­ing over from Eastenders star Lacey Turner, who played Molly Dawes in se­ries one be­fore re­turn­ing to Wal­ford two years ago.

‘I’m a big fan of Lacey’s – she’s an amazing ac­tress, and my dad and I loved se­ries one of Our Girl,’ she says. ‘I think ev­ery­one pre­sumed I was playing Molly, but I’m not. We do make ref­er­ence to her a few times, which is great for the au­di­ence, and her hus­band Cap­tain James [Ben Aldridge] is still on the show, but it’s a fresh se­ries with a com­pletely dif­fer­ent sto­ry­line.’

An army hel­met and cam­ou­flage gear cre­ates quite a trans­for­ma­tion for pe­tite Michelle, who is usu­ally seen look­ing daz­zling on red car­pets with her hus­band, for­mer TOWIE star Mark Wright, or mod­el­ling her glam­orous Lipsy cloth­ing range.

‘My friends and fam­ily couldn’t get over it when they saw me dressed up, es­pe­cially be­cause I’m so small – the hel­met was big­ger than me! But I met fe­male sol­diers while do­ing my re­search and a lot of the girls are smaller than me.’

Meet­ing women who have served in war zones gave her a new per­spec­tive on the life of our mil­i­tary.

‘A lot of them had Post­trau­matic Stress Dis­or­der and some of their sto­ries were re­ally heart­break­ing.

It gave me a new-found re­spect for what peo­ple in the Army ac­tu­ally do. They’re my he­roes – I don’t think I could cope with their life.’

Apart from learn­ing mil­i­tary ma­noeu­vres, Michelle also needed to pass as a con­vinc­ing doc­tor.

‘I had to learn all the med­i­cal stuff, which was re­ally dif­fi­cult at first. I took blood sam­ples and checked pulses, and there was a lot of fake blood and guts…

I had to take a lot of show­ers!’

But de­spite all the chal­lenges, Manch­ester-born Michelle loved film­ing in South Africa.

‘I’m quite a home bod, I like be­ing around fam­ily and friends, so I thought I’d get re­ally home­sick. But I was in nearly ev­ery scene, so I had no time to miss any­one! It was the ex­pe­ri­ence of a life­time.’

af­ter leav­ing her break­through role as Corona­tion Street’s Tina Mcintyre, which she played from 2008 to 2014, Michelle ap­peared as Tracy, a re­cep­tion­ist caught up in drug traf­fick­ing, in pop­u­lar BBC1 drama Or­di­nary Lies last year.

Now she has signed up to play Eng­land World Cup cap­tain Bobby Moore’s wife, Tina, in a new ITV biopic. The con­stant stream of work is a re­lief af­ter quit­ting one of the na­tion’s big­gest shows.

‘Leav­ing Cor­rie was so daunt­ing,’ she ad­mits. ‘I didn’t know when my next job would come along, so to get a role like Ge­orgie in a BBC drama makes me feel very lucky – I’m still pinch­ing my­self.

‘I ab­so­lutely loved do­ing Or­di­nary Lies, too, and I’m very dis­ap­pointed that there’s a whole new cast for its sec­ond se­ries – I would have liked to know what hap­pened to my char­ac­ter!’

Com­bat gear is a very new look for the glam­orous star army medic Ge­orgie shows her met­tle in bat­tle zones

We did lots of stunts – I got bruises ev­ery­where but it was bril­liant not hav­ing to worry about

my nails!

Michelle’s Mr Wright is hus­band Mark

as tragic Tina with lover Peter (Chris Gas­coyne) in

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