Teletext meets Maggie O'Neill
The last time we saw Maggie O'Neill, she was teetering dangerously on top
of a cliff for the cliffhanger - literally - of the final series of Peak
This time she is much more composed, and
thankfully not wearing that garish orange dress which went with her over the
TV Plus caught up with her at the launch of new C4 drama White Teeth, where she
plays a raunchy teacher having an affair with a married man (Om Puri).
One of the scenes required her to stand stark-naked in a hallway with nothing
but a tasteful flower arrangement to hide her modesty.
"It wasn't in the original draft, but the director decided it would be a nice
idea," says Maggie, 35.
"I was really excited about it, but the first time I actually did it I thought
'oh my God I don't know what to do'. I just wanted to run away and cry, but I
couldn't so I just went for it and it was a really good laugh."
Her character, Poppy Burt-Jones, teaches exotic dancing, dressed in full
belly-dancer attire. For research, Maggie relied on Bollywood movies.
"I watched a couple and then thought I'd just make it up when I got there," she
"I didn't know what I was going to do but it was a good laugh. I did feel very
self-conscious though, wouldn't you? The costume was fantastic, really detailed
- but very heavy.
"I loved my character and Om Puri was a really good laugh. He's a really nice
guy and an extremely good actor. We laughed all the time. When you're doing
parts like that it helps you get through it."
Since Peak Practice finished, Maggie has appeared in an episode of Murder In
Mind but says she is "completely and utterly out of work" now the filming of
White Teeth has finished.
"Too many people saw me in that orange frock, I'll never work again after that,"
she jokes. "That's the end of my career."
Maggie was forced to wear the rather nasty creation when her Peak Practice
character, Alex Redman, had her wedding dress trashed by bisexual nurse Claire
Brightwell, played by Eva Pope.
"Now, I'm completely out of work. It's good when you're out for three months but
know you've got a job to go to at the end, but when it starts creeping on it
does get pretty scary. You think this is the year that it could all finally
There's one thing Maggie would never consider and that's competing on a reality
"I was a complete fanatic of I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here," she says.
"But you wouldn't get me on anything like that. I can't imagine anything worse.
"I think you've got to be insane to put yourself in that situation."
Maggie says she was "gobsmacked" at the public response when Peak Practice was
axed after 12 years in June. "It was a very popular programme but it had run its
course for me," she says.
"It was great at the time and I enjoyed doing it, but it was a long time away
Set in the Peak District, Maggie was forced to leave her London home during
filming, but she is now back in the city looking to buy a house.
So what's next for her? "I don't know really, I'd just like to do some nice
dramas, but they don't seem to be making that much at the moment. I'd do a
long-running series again, but I'd prefer somewhere closer to home.
"I think the business has got so narrow now that you've just got to be grateful
for what you can get. I'm up for anything, even a soap. I'm not in any way
snobbish about work."
In between jobs, she keeps herself fit with yoga and pilates.
"You just have to try to keep yourself as busy as possible, the longer you spend
in bed, the harder it is to get out," she says.
Teletext, September 2002