Laura Whitmore: The welcome return of the Bray wanderer
Laura Whitmore tells Barry Egan how her return to the Dublin stage next month is stirring up many emotions
You can't strictly call it a new direction, because she has acted before. But playing Cleo Morley - "a mortician, but her proper title is anatomical pathology technician" - in the Peter James crime drama Not Dead Enough is a transition for Laura Whitmore, the 2016 Strictly Come Dancing contestant.
"I'm really enjoying theatre life. It's where I started and we've had such a wonderful reception so far," Laura said. She is often asked to sum up Not Dead Enough in 140 characters and her answer is: "It's three bodies, one suspect, no evidence."
The producers describe Not Dead Enough, which opens on April 18, scarily thus: on the night Brian Bishop murdered his wife, he was 60 miles away, asleep in bed. At least that's what he claims. Indeed, and without giving the plot away, Laura Whitmore's character Cleo is central "to the storyline and finding out who the killer is."
Bray native Laura (31), who has presented on MTV, I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! and recently hosted the red carpet for the BAFTAs, is dead excited.
"We're bringing Not Dead Enough to London in a week," said Laura, who lives in London, "but I'm most excited about coming home and opening the show in the Bord Gais Energy Theatre. I don't come home as much as I'd like. So any excuse, I'm on a plane. To be here for nine shows means so, so much to me."
And us "For me, I feel like theatre is going back to basics, relearning a trade. I'm loving every minute of it. Although I'm petrified."
As for the future, Laura said there were a few exciting projects coming up. "I'm constantly auditioning, so we'll see what happens next, but this is keeping me busy until July though."
After that, "there are some very exciting possibilities but I try not to talk about things until I'm actually doing them. I'm just working hard at the moment and learning as much as I can." Laura can remember playing Lady Macbeth in The Helix "about eight years ago and I have to pinch myself that I'm now going to be in a theatre in front of almost 2,000 people", she said, referring to the Bord Gais Energy Theatre in Dublin's Grand Canal Quay.
"It's a lot scarier than TV in front of millions because they are there in the room with you and you don't have an earpiece with a producer helping you out.
"I've learned the most important thing in life is to do what makes you happy," Laura added.
"You only get to live it once, so better make it worthwhile. I've seen three actresses in the past year who have really taught me a lot," she said, namechecking Michelle Williams in Blackbird on Broadway, Billie Piper in Yerma at the Young Vic in London, and Irish actress Denise Gough who starred in People, Places & Things in the West End and subsequently won the Olivier for Best Actress.
"Such powerful performances from females that you can see acted out live in front of your eyes. Live theatre is something I grew up with.
"As a kid I used to see plays in the Abbey and the Gate all the time and for those two hours be transported into another world. Theatre has always been in my heart.
"Whether I'm any good is another thing... but I'm giving it everything."