Tamsin Egerton - the new belle of St Trinian's


Last updated at 17:52 14 December 2007

Actress Tamsin Egerton's combination of innocence and sexiness put her top of the class as an unruly schoolgirl in the remake of the classic film comedies St Trinian's – and her bubbly character makes her wonderfully indiscreet companion in real life

It isn't difficult to find the schoolgirl – or at any rate the child – in 19-year-old Tamsin Egerton. The incredibly glamorous actress who plays Chelsea in the much-anticipated remake of St Trinian's, which will be released later this month, is endearingly childlike in conversation.

So grown-up subjects such as God, global warming or even Colin Firth's naked chest (which she observed close up on the set of the film) fail to elicit much more than the odd girlish expletive ("swoon"), while topics such as Porky (her pet pug) or her childhood toys prompt long, enthusiastic responses.

Indeed, within minutes of meeting Tamsin it is difficult to separate the self-confessedly "dippy" Tamsin from the teen-queen characters she has played in films such as Keeping Mum, Driving Lessons and her new role in St Trinian's alongside co-stars who include Russell Brand, Mischa Barton, Rupert Everett and model Lily Cole.

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Tamsin Egerton

"I play the stupid one and Lily is the nerdy, clever one. My character relies on her looks rather than anything else – she doesn't realise she has got a brain, and she wouldn't care even if she did," Tamsin says with a giggle.

The sixth St Trinian's film (the others were made between 1954 and 1980) has a similar plot to the original cult classics and involves an attempt to take over a "free expression" school of ungovernable girls by the nasty Mr Thwaites (played by Colin Firth, who claims the script is "spectacularly un-PC").

Tamsin loved the experience of working with so many other young actresses (she is good friends with Talulah Riley and Jodie Whittaker), but it seems that she didn't bond so well with Lily Cole.

"I wouldn't call Lily a friend. I don't know why you definitely bond with some people and others you don't. I mean, we exchanged numbers, and when there was a horrible story in the newspaper saying that I had said that I used to model alongside Lily – which I never did – I did text her, going, 'I'm really sorry, I didn't say any of that' and she just texted me back saying 'Shut up! It's all right. Get over it.' So no, we are not close."

Tamsin's own experience of modelling – she is five foot ten, with long (36 inch) legs, and thought that it would be a good idea to model between acting assignments – has left her wary of the profession.

"I did model for a little while part-time, but I wasn't a bloody model and I am definitely not that horrible thing 'model-turned-actress.'"

"I hated modelling. I found people were very disrespectful – it was, 'Don't talk,' as if you were a thing not a person. I am sure if you work your way up in modelling – if you are a Lily Cole – you gain respect. But for me, having been used to being treated on set with respect as an actress and someone with talent, to suddenly be treated as an object was horrible," she says.

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Tamsin Egerton

Tamsin grew up in Hampshire in a "blended" family (her mother has a daughter, Sophia, now 24, from her first marriage, and her businessman father has three children, now in their 30s, from his first marriage), and, at the age of six, joined her local youth theatre group where her talent was quickly spotted.

Roles in TV commercials lead to small acting jobs, and by the time she was 11 she was starring alongside Anjelica Huston in the TV film The Mists of Avalon.

A year later she played the lead role of Mary in the RSC's musical production of The Secret Garden. But while her career as an actress flourished, Tamsin found it increasingly difficult to cope with the jealousy she encountered at the small independent school she attended. She left at 16, after her GCSEs.

"The character I play in St Trinian's is the popular girl in the school, but it wasn't like that for me. I didn't realise what it was about at the time – my looks – even though people kept telling me, 'Oh, it's just jealousy.' It started when I was quite young when my best friend – who I absolutely adored, and who I used to play with all the time – suddenly turned against me, and I just didn't understand why my best friend would want to be mean to me."

"I did have a hard time at school and it's really funny because now that I am well known some of them have tried to contact me and I am like, 'Go away – you don't know me, I don't know you,'” she says.

As a result of her problems at school Tamsin's best friends were her sister Sophia (now working in Thailand as a scuba-diving instructor), her Sylvanian Families (she is very funny about her favourite childhood toy) and her mother Nicky, who was her acting chaperone.

She is noticeably upset when I suggest she is young for her age ("I think I am old for my age – I haven't got a single friend my own age, all my friends are older," she responds), but she does admit to an innocence and accepts that this quality (she is brilliant at delivering double entendres) has played a part in her success as a comic ingénue.

At 16 she won rave reviews for her role as Kristin Scott Thomas's wayward daughter in Keeping Mum – a part that not only involved her appearing topless but also brought her into contact with an intimidating cast that included Dame Maggie Smith.

"Dame Maggie Smith was a little frightening. She was quite up and down – one moment saying, 'Oh, you are delicious,' and kissing me on the cheek and the next minute totally ignoring me. But I think if you are an actress like that – she has had so much success – you can do what you bloody well like."

Tamsin emerged from that film with more than just favourable reviews – Andy Jones (who played the first of her string of boyfriends in the film) has been her real-life boyfriend for the past 18 months.

Andy, 27 – a semi-professional footballer who began his acting career in Hollyoaks, and was once romantically linked with Sadie Frost – is, according to Tamsin, unfazed by her greater success and the fact that she is "always cast as a nymphomaniac2 (Chelsea wears Agent Provocateur lingerie and runs a phone sex-line from her dormitory in St Trinian's).

They don't live together (Tamsin rents a "tiny" flat in South London and Andy lives in East London) but they spend all their down-time together, and she is an avid supporter of both the team he plays for (Enfield Town) and the team he loves (Manchester United).

Andy is in Budapest for a couple of months working on a film (which she doesn't want to name) in which she has taken a small role "so that we won't be apart for too long."

She laughs at the notion that they might marry (although a "husband and children are number one on my list in about ten years' time") but likes the idea of their working together.

"I could definitely work with Andy – but then, I think I could work with anyone. I love work. I am an alcoholic – what am I saying? I mean workaholic," she squeals.

Beneath the bubbly blonde persona she adopts, you occasionally glimpse the determined brunette that you suspect she might be – not least in her eagerness to promote her next project (she is the lead in the forthcoming ITV adaptation of Jilly Cooper's book Octavia) rather than talk about St Trinian's.

Tamsin says she has totally forgotten what happened during the filming in May because, while she has a great 'short-term memory' that allows her to remember two pages of a script in ten minutes, she 'forgets everything within two days'.

She is, though, very much looking forward to the premiere which – with so many glamorous female stars (Mischa Barton, Caterina Murino and Girls Aloud also feature in the film) – could turn into a red-carpet battle of the frocks.

"It's going to be so much fun but most of us got on so well together that we aren't competitive like that. It isn't about who will have the most photographed frock. Maybe we will just go in our school uniform. Besides, Rupert Everett – who plays our headmistress, and based the part on the Duchess of Cornwall – will probably have the best dress."

St Trinian's is in cinemas from 21 December

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