Debra laughs when she describes Shell. “Still her bitchy nasty self, you’ll be pleased to hear - but probably at her most psychopathic! I mean it’s great for me that Shell’s behaviour isn’t, well, how can I say... appropriate. It’s a great part to play. It’s exciting, interesting and fun – there are so many different levels for her. It is very taxing but I’m not complaining!
“This series the storylines are so strong for Shell and so challenging for me. Filming some of it has been quite stressful, but I don’t take it home with me. Mind you, I have had a few strange dreams while playing her – nothing too disturbing though!”
Without giving too much of the storyline away, “She goes off the rails and pulls out all the stops. She always gets worse that she gives out and, this time comes unstuck. I feel and do get a bit beaten up, literally! It can get to a part of you, but I love that and that’s why I’m acting. I really enjoy playing her and really wouldn’t want Shell to be a bland role.
“Shell has no remorse. She’s not that kind of person. She always thinks she’s justified and always makes excuses for herself It’s something very strong in her character - even when she stabs Jim Fenner (played by Jack Ellis).
“I’m absolutely pooped at the end of the day playing Shell. In reality, I wouldn’t have the energy to be like Shell - and she certainly takes an awful lot of energy to play. After a hard day filming, I get home and flop down on the sofa, eat something that my husband James, has made me, fall asleep in front of the TV and wake up to be dragged off to clean my teeth – very domestic really! I cook on my days off, it’s all very normal married life stuff!
As to Shell’s look “It’s hilarious really. When we started off with this character we made her look as daggy and doggy as possible! Dripping with gold, grown-out wavy perm, heavy make-up, short skirts and cowboy boots - and now all of those are the ‘in look’ - and very Madonna. Shell has come into fashion!” Debra jokes “Sadly, I can’t say Madonna took her inspiration from Shell, as apparently she doesn’t watch TV!”
Debra has had a busy year, the highlight being nominated for Best Actress for her role of Shell in Bad Girls at this year’s National Television Awards. She has also been filming Dinner Of Herbs and luckily for her had learnt to ride with the other Bad Girls during the making of the last series “as Claire, Kika and the gang were all into riding”. She has also filmed a new comedy series It’s Only TV.
Debra grew up just outside Hull in East Yorkshire, where her parents teach. Her husband James, whom she married last year, is very supportive of her work and even helps her with her lines. Other credits include Diane in Playing The Field and Zoe in People Like Us both for the BBC.
Debra still enjoys doing her impressions for fun and is currently working on singers including Celine Dion - but most people like to hear her do Cilla!