Natalie Casey is best known for her time as Carol Groves in television’s Hollyoaks. Also on the box, Casey has appeared in Two Pints of Lager (And a Packet of Crisps) and Brookside: Double Take! and has presented 100 Greatest Musicals, 24: Access All Areas and Big Brother's Little Brother.

She has been seen on stage in The Vagina Monologues at the Manchester Palace, The Flint Street Nativity at the Liverpool Playhouse, and Harold Brighouse’s Hobson's Choice directed by Timothy Sheader at Newbury’s Watermill Theatre.

Following in the footsteps of her older sister Anna-Jane (with whom she appeared in the Brighouse comedy), Casey crossed over into the realm of musical theatre, making her West End debut this month in Fame, which has returned to London for a limited summer season. Inspired by Alan Parker’s 1980 film and the American TV series of the same name, Fame, revolves around a group of students at New York’s High School of the Performing Arts. Casey plays drama student Serena Katz, performing alongside Ian ‘H’ Watkins, formerly of pop group Steps.

Date & place of birth
Born in Rawtenstall, Lancashire, on 15 April 1980.

Lives now in
Greenwich, south London.

Trained at
I didn’t, I went to drama workshops as a kid, did some ads, then started Hollyoaks at 15. I wish I had gone to drama school now because most actors I’ve met have the best stories about all the crazy stuff they got up to.

What made you first want to become an actor?
I was crap in school – I can’t add or spell – and I was always better at pretending to be someone else than I was at being myself. Rawtenstall is a mill town and there was no hope in hell of me becoming a miller. It's hard growing up in a town where you're the only person with jazz-hands.

First big break
Hollyoaks. I was so lucky to be in something as special as that from such an early age. I did it for three years and really learnt how to deal with the craft of television making. The whole cast of Hollyoaks became like family. We had laughs and celebrations, rows and fall-outs.

Career highlights to date
Fame has been the singularly best job I’ve ever done. I know the film well and the cast of the 1995-1997 production. It's not like I have the soundtrack playing in my house 24/7, but I really fit into the musical theatre crowd and don’t ever want to do anything else.

What musical theatre role would you most like to play next?
I'd love to be in Hairspray as the best friend. Anita in West Side Story would be a dream but I don’t have the skills yet. Maybe if I lost some weight - I'm quite fond of pies.

How is it having a sibling working in the same field?
She (Anna-Jane Casey) is eight years older than me so she's got a lot more experience and street cred. It’s nice having someone close who can help me, and there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of healthy rivalry. She’s a huge star and I’ve a long way to go before I reach anywhere near her.

What might you have done professionally if you hadn’t become an actor?
I would have liked to have been a chef or a criminal psychologist. Slightly contrasting, I know, but I’ve always been interested in people’s minds and like to cook. If only I could find a job where I have to seek out a murderer and cook them a meal…

Favourite director
Timothy Sheader because he’s so professional and gets good performances out of everyone whether it be in musicals, serious plays or comedies.

Favourite playwrights
I really like Arthur Miller and Harold Pinter.

Favourite musical writers
I love Leonard Bernstein. West Side Story is one of the best musicals ever made and one of the best films ever made.

What’s the last thing you saw on stage that you really enjoyed?
Little Shop of Horrors was great because the whole cast worked so hard and Sheridan Smith (Casey’s Two Pints co-star) was amazing. I cried for a week after seeing Death of a Salesman starring Brian Dennehy. And I saw Jerry Springer - the Opera I think 15 times. Not plays, but my favourite film is the second Alien, and I’m a huge fan of TV series Futurama. What could be funnier than an alcoholic robot?

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Always be nice to people and be professional. As an actor, you’re paid to be there on time and know what you’re doing. If either of those things don’t happen, then you should be fired.

What’s the oddest thing that’s ever happened to you on stage?
During Hobson's Choice, I had a scene where I had to exit the basement with some others and the door got stuck. We were in front of an audience and none of us could get out, so we kicked down the door.

What would you advise the government to secure the future of British theatre?
Give it more kudos. Athletes are treated much better than performers and artists yet galleries and theatres are the soul of society. You can judge a society by how they treat animals, prisoners and artists.

Favourite books
Anything by Chuck Palahniuk, the guy who wrote Fight Club. Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. Its human struggle to achieve the impossible makes me cry.

Favourite holiday destinations
Barbados was nice but anywhere in Greece, Santorini especially.

Why did you want to accept your role in Fame?
I'd been going for musical auditions for a long time and I needed this job! And it's a great show, there's not really much more to it. I've never really had a plan. I'm sort of a tree in the breeze. I started out singing and dancing then got segued into television. I have to pay my council tax.

What’s your favourite number from Fame?
”In LA” is my favourite song because Natalie Kennedy, who plays Carmen, sings it unbelievably well. She is just so beautiful and sings wonderfully and has the most amazing stomach. I’m going to have to kill her.

What are your future plans?
Get healthy and buy more shoes.

- Natalie Casey was speaking with Malcolm Rock

Fame continues at the West End’s Shaftesbury Theatre until 1 September 2007.