Five years ago Michelle Ryan, having fled the familial dramas of Albert Square and grown out her signature fringe, decided to seek fame and fortune in America.
She was hailed as the latest British talent to hit US screens as the surprise pick for the lead in the reboot of the Bionic Woman.
But, for every Cat Deeley success story, there is a Martine McCutcheon (who was briefly touted as the next big Brit thing after Love Actually) reality check.
The series was cancelled after just one season. Michelle, now 28, returned to London and started her acting career afresh over here.
“The Bionic Woman was the most challenging role I’ve played to date probably. Just the sheer scale of it was huge,” she says.
She hasn’t let the experience put her off working in the States again, although she says: “You definitely need a reason to be there, and have the right script and the right character.”
Right now Michelle doesn’t need Hollywood because she’s got the best of British. Having made guests appearances in Doctor Who and Merlin, she now has two Brit flicks coming out: The Man Inside and Cockneys Vs Zombies, as well as a starring role in West End musical Cabaret, which opens at the Savoy Theatre on October 3.
In gritty boxing drama The Man Inside (released this week), the Enfield-born actress plays heroin addict Alexia, alongside Ashley ‘Bashy’ Thomas and Peter Mullan.
“I love this character because she’s so complex. It just felt like one of those projects you dream of getting because it’s very layered and is completely different from what I normally get sent,” she explains.
“You don’t always get that with female roles, that someone’s allowing you to be vulnerable, strong, feisty and funny, so that was a real highlight.”
She didn’t need to do too much research into drug addiction because she had already been exposed to it in the past.
“I’m of that generation where there was so much around at school. We watched lots of documentaries and YouTube clips of people talking about their addictions and you see how people go cold turkey. It’s quite harrowing but it’s useful hearing the different stories,” she says.
In horror-comedy Cockneys Vs Zombies, which is out on August 24, Ryan gets to fight the walking dead alongside co-stars Honor Blackman and Alan Ford.
“It’s just so much fun, using a samurai sword to take out a zombie. And you’ve got all the older actors as well, who all have so much to bring – Honor Blackman is one sassy lady,” she says.
Ryan, who started acting in theatre at the age of 10, is also preparing to take on the iconic role of Sally Bowles alongside former Pop Idol runner-up Will Young as Emcee.