When I first joined the cast of a well known soap opera, one of the first things that happened, before the ink had dried on the contract, was a long and serious briefing by the press office. This two hour session was to prep me for the life changing experience ahead.
"Your life will no longer be your own" was the thrust of the chat. The press officer (a nice Jewish girl from Manchester) sat with me (a nice Jewish girl from north London) and asked if there were any skeletons in my closet. Had I ever been in prison? Did I have an eating disorder? Was there an affair I'd been keeping under wraps? It would be better to speak out now and have the programme 'deal with it' – because the moment my face hit the screens the press would be rooting around for any story.
I racked my brains, horrified at my own blandness. I could think of nothing worse than breaking the Yom Kippur fast early. Not the sort of story the News of the World would have run with. I was over the age of tottydom, I was practically married and I certainly didn't lead a rock'n roll lifestyle. Surely a boring homebody jobbing actress like myself would be of zero interest to the red tops.
On the set, I noticed that there was paranoia amongst the cast and a great deal of suspicion toward the press. Being a complete naif, I listened to tales from my future friends and colleagues who were convinced that their privacy was being invaded in some unproveable way.
To be honest, at the begining I thought they were all conspiracy theorists, fantasising and aggrandising their role in the pantheon of popular culture.
There was something going on that I couldn’t put my finger on
A few weeks in, however, I began to realise that they had a point. There was something going on that I could not put my finger on. Certain journalists seemed to find out information that had only been divulged to a friend or member of my family by text or phone call. On three major occasions a certain newspaper found out personal facts that I had not even told close intimates.
It was par for the course, I reckoned; one of the down sides to being a well paid, high profile character in a soap opera. It was annoying but nothing could be done.
Over the years, when I have heard the likes of Sienna Miller and Jude Law suing for invasion of privacy I have always raised an eyebrow, taking the view that if you have wealth and the privilege of being in the public eye, using the media when it suits, then you roll with the punches.
Little did I realise that those journalists, far from bringing down a few celebs and footballers or stinging minor royals, actually deemed every single person whose life was touched with tragedy as an unfolding soap opera plot line to be harvested and plundered to boost sales, no matter what illegality or human torment could be involved.
I've had my fill of the red tops. From now on it's Gardeners' Weekly for me on a Sunday. And I don't have a garden.