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Zoë Tapper Mr Selfridge interview: It's more fun to play naughty girls

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Mr Selfridge came to a close last weekend in suitably dramatic fashion, but fear not fans of the glamourous period drama, ITV has already given a green light to series two.

And if you can't wait that long for your next fix, the DVD of series one is out now. Digital Spy caught up with one of the show's stars, Zoë Tapper, to chat about its success and her TV heroes.

Actress Zoe Tapper

© PA Images / Ian West/PA Wire

Zoë Tapper



Why do you think people fell in love with Mr Selfridge?
"I think it's glamorous. I think it's escapist television. People are pulled into this world on a Sunday night that is a totally different world to the one we live in now. It fills in a big hole in the scheduling and I think that's why people have warmed to it.

"Mr Selfridge is a lot more accessible than shows like Downton. Everyone knows the store, but not everyone knows the story. Having this store as the backdrop with all of society working under one roof, I think it really captures people's imagination."

How much did you enjoy playing Ellen Love?
"It's always more fun to play the naughty girls! There was something about Ellen that I knew straight away that I could tap into. I loved that she had this glamorous, frivolous, flighty side, but then there was also the exploration of her darker side. Her story really appealed to me and I loved playing her.

"I was really nervous about the singing and dancing, but I think that was good for me. It's easy as an actor to fall into the trap of playing similar parts and I think taking a risk with something that frightens you is really good. You always learn something new."

Did you enjoy the costumes or were they quite painful?
"I've always loved dressing up since I was a little girl, so this was an even bigger dressing-up box for me. Ellen likes to stand out from the crowd, she likes to be attractive to me, she likes to make an entrance, so I often had costumes that did the acting for me.

"I loved the outfit she wore during a dance sequence, where she sings a song about being a secretary and being the new girl in the office and she wears this little purple dress with a bow tie and orange stockings. It was still with in the confines of the Victoria era, but it was cheeky and I loved wearing that."

You had some drug-taking scenes as Ellen. What were you using instead of cocaine?
"It was some sort of milk powder, which looked very dubious. Before we did it I spoke to the props guy and made him reassure me that it was totally fake. I wanted it tested before I went for it!"

'Mr Selfridge' still

© ITV

Jeremy Piven in Mr Selfridge



Were you a fan of Jeremy Piven and Entourage before you worked on the show?
"I hadn't actually watched Entourage. But I do understand that if you know and love that show, Jeremy Piven is about as good as it gets.

"Jeremy is very cool and he can turn on the charm in an instant. He knows how to play the game and he does it with a lot of charm and confidence. A lot of people can do the facade and are very different behind the scenes, but off set, he's very laid-back Jeremy and he's got lots of stories to tell. He knows everyone and goes to all the cool parties. He's maybe not as full of life as Ari Gold, but he is a charming, charismatic man."

Who were your acting heroes growing up?
"One that springs to mind is Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect. They were quite full-on and brutal drama, but I just remember thinking how surprised back then I was to see such a strong and forceful woman in a lead role. That definitely inspired me to want to act.

"I love Kate Winslet, Rachel Weisz, Maggie Smith and Judi Dench as well. They're all wonderful and they're very inspiring. We have so many wonderful actresses in this country."

If you could have a role in any TV show what would it be?
"I would have loved to have been in Mad Men. And obviously Claire Danes plays it better than anyone, but I would have loved the part of Carrie in Homeland. Again, like Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect, I think it has changed the way women are cast on TV. But she plays it so brilliantly that I wouldn't dream of taking on her mantle."

If we forced you to do a reality show, which one would you pick?
"Oh my God. You would have to really force me because it would be horrendous. Does Strictly count? I would probably do that. At least you're learning a skill - and a great skill - so I guess it would probably be that. But that doesn't mean I want to do it, so please don't get people to start calling me about it."

Mr Selfridge series one is available on DVD and Blu-ray now

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