Tamzin Outhwaite: A love life full of heartache until Jim fixed it for her


Last updated at 09:59 28 March 2008

For two months, Tamzin Outhwaite ritually abused one of our fastest rising movie stars, James McAvoy.

On a nightly basis, she tormented the Atonement actor in her role as a selfish, driven and masochistic businesswoman in Laura Wade's play Breathing Corpses.

But Glasgow-born James - cast as mild Ben in the Royal Court, London, production in early 2005 - clearly didn't let the occasional bruise and humiliating professional put-down affect his opinion of Tamzin.

Scroll down for more ...The pair became good friends and would socialise after shows.

One night, James introduced her to a close and long-standing pal of his, the actor Tom Ellis.

The meeting was to prove a pivotal moment in Tamzin's life.

She and Tom, 29 - who is best known as Dr Oliver Cousins in EastEnders - quickly fell in love, married the following year and are now expecting their first child.

Little wonder that Tamzin - who stars in the hit ITV1 drama The Fixer as femme fatale Rose Chamberlain - has a soft spot for James.

"Tom and I have so much to be grateful to James for," she says.

"He is a good friend of both of us now, and, of course, he made the introduction which changed our lives.

"I'm not sure it was love at first sight - I'm not sure that exists - but the attraction was pretty instant, and mutual. Apparently, Tom had had a crush on me for ages - although maybe that was just a good line on his part!

"We certainly knew within a few weeks that the stakes were high and that we didn't want to lose each other."

Tamzin admits she was fast reaching a stage when she thought she might never meet her ideal man.

"I was 34 when Tom and I met, and I'd resigned myself to the fact that I might have to settle for somebody who wasn't perfect," she says.

Tamzin Outhwaite and boyfriend Tom Ellis. The couple are expecting their first child in June

"It took a lot longer to find my ideal man than I thought it was going to. I've wanted a child for a long time.

"I wouldn't say my body clock was ticking that loudly but I've spent my life mothering my brothers, Jake and Kes, my cousins, even my friends, and there was a part of me that wanted to and really needed to be a mother.

"It was a case of waiting for the right time, finding the person I wanted to have that child with. Tom is that person."

Tamzin's settled private life is in sharp contrast to that of the characters in The Fixer.

As part of a secret organisation that deals with criminals who have escaped the law, they tend to be married to their work.

The underground group of which Rose is a member mete out their own form of "justice" to untouchable criminals - often fatally so.

Members of the secret hit squad - which also includes the boss Lenny Douglas (Peter Mullan), the eponymous "fixer" John Mercer (Andrew Buchan) and former petty criminal Calum McKenzie (Shameless star Jody Latham) - put aside their often lonely and dysfunctional private lives to carry out their work.

Tamzin's character is the honey-trap woman charged with seducing malleable bad guys.

She believes the series is striking a chord with the watching public who may feel that, in today's Britain, rather too many people regard themselves as above the law - and get away with being so.

"There is no doubt the series has a topicality about it, and if the organisation to which my character, Rose, attaches herself doesn't exist in real life - and I still don't know whether it does - then I know, from having spoken to them, that there are viewers out there who hope it does soon."

After joining EastEnders in 1998, Tamzin spent three-andahalf years building up the kind of high profile which made her private life of almost constant interest to the gossip columns.

Her engagement to, and subsequent split from, TV producer Marty Benson in 2000 was well documented.

She later dated DJ Steve Ellington from Da Ali G Show for two-and-a-half years, and briefly former EastEnders actor Nigel Harman.

Her split with Ellington came during a rare bad patch in her life in 2003. Her parents, Ken and

Italian-born Anna, parted after 33 years of marriage. Little wonder she has referred to 2003 as "my annus horribilis".

Then, her cousin James Baldwin, 26, to whom she was close, died from a rare form of cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, in 2004.

She has bounced back with starring roles in drama series such as Hotel Babylon and Vital Signs, but then Tamzin has always been good at keeping her career firmly on the right path.

The fixer: James McAvoy, pictured with partner Anne Marie Duff, takes the credit for introducing Tamzin and Tom

Gripped by showbiz fever from a young age, she joined the London Studio Centre in her teens.

She then embarked on what she has described as "eight years of hoofing", in shows like Grease and Oliver!, in London's West End. Her big break came when Alan Ayckbourn spotted her in the chorus line of his musical They're Playing Our Song.

He cast her in the lead role of Evelyn in his play Absent Friends, and the faith he placed in her gave her the confidence to audition for the role of the alluring Mel Healy in EastEnders.

It says much for Tamzin's continuing sex appeal, at the age of 37, that she should be considered suitable for the role of the honey-trap in The Fixer.

Blonde-haired, with a distinctively gravelly voice, she does indeed have sex appeal in real life - even if impending motherhood has made her look a little fuller in the face, and the black smock top she is wearing only partially obscures her six-month bump.

But will motherhood mean kissing goodbye to the kind of role she plays in The Fixer - and played in EastEnders and Hotel Babylon - once those sleepless nights have started to kick in?

"I sincerely hope not," she says, trying not to look too put out by the suggestion.

"I think some of the sexiest actresses around are those who have had children and I don't just mean actresses who have had children when they've been very young. Julie Graham - now there's a sexy woman - Cate Blanchett, Rachel Weisz.

"I am feeling a bit flabby, but I feel quite confident that my body will come back and I'll return to playing parts like the one I play in The Fixer. Hopefully in a second series later this year."

She has no regrets about having delayed starting a family.

"I'm glad I've waited until now. My mum had me when she was only 19 years old - I was the first of her three - and the idea of me having kids when I was so young would have been ludicrous.

"The knowledge I would have had to pass on to my children would have been pretty much non-existent.

"Now, I've achieved at least part of what I want to achieve with my career and have no qualms about taking time out to have a baby. I feel it's the right time."

She is still showing caution towards her role as a prospective mother though.

Cravings - chocolate and ginger beer have formed a prominent part of her diet over the last few months - she accepts as part of the pregnancy process.

But there's been no painting of the nursery at the home she and Tom share in Highbury, North London, no purchasing of baby clothes - not even a definite choice of names.

That will only happen at the end of June, when their baby is due to arrive.

"I don't want to tempt fate so I am trying to be as unplanned and chilled out as I possibly can be," she says.

"I'm over the moon at the thought of being a mum but taking absolutely nothing for granted. I'd feel uncomfortable doing so."

•The Fixer is on ITV1 on Mondays at 9pm.

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