Ex-Eastenders star Lacey Turner talks about her BBC drama Our Girl
LACEY Turner had always thought herself quite fit – until she started working on her latest TV role.
The 24-year-old, most famous for playing troubled Stacey Slater in EastEnders, portrays a young nail technician who signs up as a soldier in the Royal Army Medical Corps in new one-off BBC drama Our Girl.
"I spent quite a lot of time at [Army Training Centre] Pirbright and I said to one of the corporals, 'I'm quite fit, I exercise every day'," Turner explains.
"She said, 'There's civilian fit and Army fit', and I thought, 'OK... I need to get on the weights!'"
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The actress, a petite 5ft 3in, admits the extra work-outs came in handy.
Over the course of filming, Turner saw her body transform. "I finished with lots of muscles that I'd never had in my life, don't really know what to do with them. I had a really muscly back and arms."
Our Girl tells the inspirational story of Molly Dawes, who has left school with no qualifications and has a part-time job in a local nail bar.
Her family is struggling financially, and Molly's prospects don't look great.
Finding out her boyfriend has been cheating on her is a harsh blow, and she ends up, on her 18th birthday, getting drunk and throwing up in the doorway of the Army Recruitment Office.
On a whim, Molly signs up for a test to join the Army and, when she passes, is sent to an Army training camp where she discovers a new purpose to life.
When researching for the role, Turner spoke to real-life young female soldiers at Pirbright in Surrey.
"A lot of the girls had thought they were going to end up in a rubbish job, like Molly, who looked at her mum and thought, 'I don't want to do that'.
Then there was the weapons training, and "hours spent marching round car parks" while she was scrutinised for accuracy by a corporal who joined the cast and crew 24/7.
"If my thumb was out of place, then he would say, 'You have to do that one again', and if there was one tiny little thing I'd done wrong, he was watching.
Although it's now three years since she left EastEnders, London-born Turner is still best known for playing Stacey Slater, a role for which she won best actress four times at the British Soap Awards.
But, she reveals today, she never actually wanted to be an actress.
"It was more like a hobby that sort of turned into a job," she says laughing, before adding that she's stuck with her career choice now: "I don't have any qualifications to do anything else!"
Next on her wish list is a period drama – for the costumes – and a spot of theatre: "I'd just like to do more good work and discover more of the industry. I'm ticking off my list as I go!"
But don't expect to see her popping up in any American TV shows any time soon.
"You don't know where your career will take you, but I quite like home and I'm happy being here – there's so much good English TV being made.
Our Girl is on BBC One on Sunday.