As a child, I always chose a false nose and some face paint and a wig for my birthday.
I don’t even think places like the National Youth Theatre (NYT) are necessarily about wanting to be an actor when you grow up. They’re about meeting people from different backgrounds and different religions and different cultures, and mixing with people that you wouldn’t ordinarily meet.
I think because I did become a well-known face in my thirties and not in my twenties, I was pretty settled in my boots and I knew who I was. And I think there’s a sort of Scottish thing, too, where you don’t take yourself too seriously, and you don’t get carried away with your own sense of self-importance.
My mum Margaret was a single parent, but though life was a bit of a struggle she gave me every encouragement.
I still giggle when someone asks for my address and I say, ‘Hollywood, Los Angeles.’
It means I wake up to sunshine every morning, and I can afford to drink better wine at night. But I haven’t completely sold out to Hollywood.
Americans are so direct. They’d ask me, ‘What’s your five-year plan? Do you have a five-year plan?’ I don’t know what I’m having for my tea tonight let alone a five-year plan.
I’ve always been quite thrifty. I can’t bear to spend hundreds of pounds on designer clothes. I shop in second-hand shops in Portobello Road and go to Sue Ryder.
I was Lady Gaga way before her time. I had a wee kettle for a handbag. Didn’t everyone, at some point? One of the teachers used to call me Dame Flora Robson because I had this big, long Victorian skirt. And I wore a Peruvian hat. It was the 1980s – people were wearing lots of lace.
There’s just no place like Scotland when the sun is out. I just love coming home.
I want to go to Lapland and see Father Christmas, and now I’ve got a child, so I’ve got an excuse. Also, I’d like to go to South America especially as I’m now living in that part of the world, in L.A. now. And I must get down to Mexico.
I have just been working with Maggie Gyllenhaal, who is also a mum, on a movie called ‘Hysteria.’ She is everywhere because of the nature of film work. Not that I’m name dropping or anything like that. I have to pinch myself when I remember who I’ve been working with.
I’ve reached a point in my life where going to the supermarket is a day out.
To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have gone to Hollywood if I hadn’t been offered ‘Ugly Betty’ because I was a wee bit feart. But you have to make yourself frightened. That’s what keeps you alive.
I get quite excited about things other people have worn. I went through a phase as a student when I wore a lot of 1940s tea dresses.
We have a house in Umbria that we bought just before we went to America. That meant we couldn’t go there as often as we thought, but now we’re back, we’re going to start using it more. I love the light, the countryside, the language and the fact that children are accepted everywhere. The Italians get passionate about everything, too.
I think that children that are acting are always pretty savvy anyway because you’re conducting yourself around adults a lot of the time, aren’t you? But there is this worry now that children just want to be famous.
I do quite like sightseeing. I like churches, museums, galleries and all that stuff. I love the smell of a church in Italy or the smell of an old greasy spoon somewhere. I like markets and little funny shops in the backstreets of Florence.
When I hear the bagpipes, it makes the hairs on my neck stand on end. It always makes me weep.
I know what I look like. I’m not a babe who’s automatically going to be the leading-lady type. I think I would always be cast as the friend. I probably tend to look crap more often than I look good. I like messing around and pulling funny faces and doing funny walks.
In a world of iPads and emails, nothing has really changed in the theatre. You still get in an hour early, do your wardrobe, put an old pair of tights under your wig, and you have, ‘This is your call, Miss Jensen’. I got exhilarated by that.
I always felt slightly grubbier than most American people.
I always felt slightly grubbier than most American people. I was never quite as groomed as everyone else, never quite as fit as anyone else. I didn’t have my protein shake and my vitamins.
I always knew I wanted to be an actor, certainly from the age of eight or nine. I think when you know what you want to do, you’re very lucky because you’ve got a focus.
Before I lived in America, my husband and I did a Californian road trip. We took a month, starting off in L.A. I love the landscapes of California: one moment you’re in the desert, the next you’re up in the Napa Valley or by the water in Big Bear.
My husband is always telling me: ‘We’re on holiday – we don’t need to have an itinerary!’ But I always want to see as much as I can. Sometimes, I come back from holiday needing a holiday.
I’m not a big one for sitting by the pool doing nothing.
I think we should be proud of the fact that our face has got lines, because at least that means we have lived.
I think it’s strange when people my age and younger get surgery. Somebody’s got to play old people.
Nobody is more individual than you, so be confident with who you are and what you have to offer because everybody has got things to offer.
I made some flippant remark about not wanting my son to grow up with an American accent, and the next thing I knew, there were people in America suggesting I head back to Britain if I was unhappy at such a prospect.
Two days before I got the audition for ‘Extras,’ I was offered a theatre role, and I asked my husband, Terry, whether I should take it or not. He said, ‘No, wait and see what else comes in.’ Lo and behold, along came ‘Extras.’ Now that was lucky!
Everything has happened so fast for me that I sometimes can’t take it all in. I’m a huge ‘Friends’ fan, and meeting Matthew Perry in L.A., where he was as keen to talk to me about ‘Extras’ as I was to him about ‘Friends,’ was amazing.
I just wanted to be an actress. It never occurred to me that I could become famous, because I’m not one of those people who’s automatically going to be the lead. I always saw myself as the mate.
I was on my own, living in Los Angeles, and I didn’t know my way around, so I thought I’d walk everywhere. Well, that certainly got me noticed. Any woman who walks any distance at all is automatically regarded as a hooker!
Life’s too short to worry about injecting botulism into your face to get rid of a tiny line because you’ve laughed too much. To me, that’s a bit warped.
I did a lot of theatre when I started out. It was the Lyceum, the Citz, the Tron and the Traverse. I came to London and did the Royal Court, the National, ‘King Lear’ at the Manchester Royal Exchange. I did little bits of comedy, like ‘Rab C Nesbitt,’ but I wasn’t predominantly about comedy.
My mother has only just got over the fact that I will never play Shrek’s sister – because of the Scottish accent, she thought I’d be perfect.
I take my hat off to mums who have lots of kids. Anyone that says being a mum isn’t a full-time job has obviously never had any.
I wanted to live where I could pop to the bar that Humphrey Bogart took Lauren Bacall to, or the little restaurant where Charlie Chaplin had a booth.
To my family and friends, I’m very definitely a clown. But do you know what? Doing a drama would almost seem easy because I wouldn’t need to find that gag in a line.
I don’t read tabloids. I just don’t go there.
Nothing is forever, and I do still talk about when I’ll come back to Britain. I’d love to come back and do a nice big juicy period drama. I don’t understand it when people suddenly turn their back on Britain or Scotland. I’m so aware of it, and it’s so much a part of who I am.
I missed Britain. I’m from here and I never aspired to go to L.A. – it sort of happened by default. I loved being there. I found it a little bit difficult at first, but I found my way.
L.A. hasn’t changed me that much – I’ve not forgotten where I’m from, you know. And I need to find a haggis, but no-one seems to sell them over here.
The only time I’ve played a real baddy was when I was Regan in ‘King Lear.’
People are always asking me if I work out, but to be honest, I’m doing very little at the moment. The only time I really go to the gym is if I’m staying in a hotel.
Mind you, if a blockbuster movie was offered, I wouldn’t say no. I can do accents – I don’t always have to be Scottish.