She might look demure but singer-turned-actress Billie Piper has got a reputation for being full of surprises.
From the moment she burst onto the music scene as a 15-year-old, to her marriage to the much older radio DJ Chris Evans,
Billie seemed destined to shock.
When she spent a few years out of the spotlight – and had an amicable split from Evans – it looked like she
might have settled down.
She turned her hand to acting – starring in a handful of period dramas, doing a film with Orlando Bloom and treading
the boards in the West End.
But not long after she won the nation’s hearts with her portrayal of feisty Rose Tyler in Doctor Who, Billie raised
eyebrows last year with her decision to play Belle De Jour in Secret Diary of a Call Girl.
While the ratings were among the highest ITV2 had ever had, it was criticised for its glamorous portrayal of prostitution.
“I think because I’d gone from playing someone like Rose Tyler to little Fanny Price to this, it was a shock
for people and was quite full on for people over here,” said Billie who turns 26 this month.
“Also it was really heavily publicised and I think that always makes people really angry, and then people were up
in arms about it glamorising prostitution so I didn’t think it was fairly reviewed if I’m honest – but then
I would say that.”
While the UK took a rather reserved approach to the series, other nations were happy to have Belle’s antics filling
But Billie says she wasn’t surprised at the show’s positive response in the US.
“When you think about their TV shows, Sex And The City – which is about four sexually liberated women, Dexter
who’s a likeable serial killer and Weeds – about a mother who deals dope, they really are quite advanced in their
“I was really thrilled as it got some serious slamming over here and it was just quite nice that in the reviews Stateside
they were more thorough and about the ideas that the show had, rather than about me being an irresponsible role model.”
With this extra support, Billie decided to cast aside the UK criticism and has just finished filming the second series.
She says she wanted to explore the character further – proving to viewers that Belle’s personality is more
important than her job.
Billie’s eager for the public to view Belle in the same way as other naughty but nice TV characters – and draws
comparison with the role of mafia mogul Tony Soprano from the popular US series.
“I love the way we can empathise with Tony Soprano even though he shoots people for a living, we’re still sat
there going ‘I really understand your family dilemma Tony – even though you’re a mass murderer and by the
way I really like you and kind of want to go out with you’.
“He is a gangster. But people will get so upset that Belle will ‘take it’ for cash. I think the most
important thing is we see both sides to the ups and downs of being an escort. I don’t think we were exposed to that
in series one but that really comes through in series two.”
True to form, there are several shocking developments in the new series.
Firstly, Belle falls head-over- stiletto-heels in love, which makes her doubt her career path.
“It throws up loads of moral dilemmas and forces her to think about her chosen profession in more detail and she
starts to think ill of what she does for a living,” Billie explains.
Secondly, we meet Bambi, who wants to follow in Belle’s footsteps.
“Belle doesn’t want to coach her in the ways of prostitution because she thinks that’s bad – which
is ironic,” Billie says.
“Bambi is reckless, slightly mad and a liability, so in the end she has to take her under her wing and give her constructive
criticism, tell her about the safety rules and selecting clients.”
The fact Billie is pregnant – she and husband Laurence Fox are expecting an autumn baby – also brought a lot
of changes to the set.
This time around the crew included two body doubles, much to Billie’s relief.
“I really wanted to do the series and fulfil my commitment but I knew I couldn’t do those scenes being pregnant
because I didn’t feel like that,” Billie explains.
“I just wanted to sit in the corner and eat, not walk around going ‘look how sexy I am’ and trying to
seduce all these men when I looked like some kind of sea cow.”
She jokes that she only had one requirement when it came to filming: “Food on tap was my only demand.
“A lot of it all day. I wasn’t really fussy about what it was.”
Billie is now taking a well-earned rest and focusing on her new role as a mother-to-be.
She’s in talks about a third series, but confesses she’s got bigger things on her mind. In true form, she’s
not worried about her most challenging role to date.
“I’m just going to rely on my instincts and my mum to come up trumps,” she says. “But it’s
exciting and I can’t imagine working for a while – but that’s really because I can’t be bothered more
Secret Diary Of a Call Girl begins Thursday, September 11, on ITV2
Source: Wales On Sunday September 2008