JULIE Wilson Nimmo makes a surprise declaration at the beginning of the chat that causes coffee cup to return dramatically to saucer.

The actress reveals she's been taking acting lessons. What? Nursery teacher Miss Hoolie has gone back to school ? The former RSAMD graduate, who's played a massive range of theatre and TV roles is re-learning how to act?

Come on, Jules. Right now you're working in News Just In - the comedy satire round up of the Commonwealth Games, staged at the Arches Theatre, playing seven different roles, including a Russian lesbian, a Northern Irish producer, and a dog expert from the Isle of Lewis.

And someone's said you need to learn to act?

"Not quite," she says, smiling. "We went to Los Angeles for seven months, living in Westwood near Beverly Hills, and I went to acting classes because I couldn't work without a Green Card.

"Greg (Hemphill, her husband and Still Game star) was writing and the boys (Benny and Chevvy) were at school all day and I was going mental with boredom.

"So I figured I'd go and take some acting classes, just for the hell of it."

Julie found the experience to be 'crazy'.

"Scottish actors are the best in the world; they're really supportive, especially in theatre. But in Los Angeles it's every man for themselves.

"Plus, they were all beautiful people, and all TV and film actors. Not theatre people at all."

With a very different mindset?

"Oh yeh. One day, when asked what sort of roles I got at home, for a joke I said 'I'm usually the fat pal', and the coach stopped the class and announced 'Stop! Stop!

"Then she looked to all the students and said 'Everybody, don't you think Julie is beautiful?' And they all said 'Oh, yes!' Then she turned to me and told me to stop putting myself down."

Julie wasn't. She was simply being Scottish and self- deprecating. Ironically, the acting coach was selling the idea of inner beauty - in a world where outer beauty is an essential.

"That's right. says Julie, grinning. "But you can't take the mickey out of yourself in LA. You can't even tell a story about once having a garbage audition.

"They say 'I'm sure you weren't garbage!' And I'd say, 'No, a' wis!' They just didn't get it.

What I do admire though is the American confidence and positivity, and the way they look after themselves."

Julie also appreciated the energy which goes into American acting, the fast pace demanded by directors, especially in comedy.

Interestingly, her latest theatre work News Just In offers that level of energy. And a delightful amount of madness, where actors appear in a fake news studio revealing the Commonwealth Games stories of the day.

AND all the characters are rather dysfunctional: think Drop The Dead Donkey Meets Rodney Dangerfield.

"Johnny McKnight brings a great energy to the show," she says of the writer/director who's always on Fast Forward.

"If you don't come off sweating then there's something wrong."

With a final script finished only minutes before opening, there's little chance of dry armpits.

"I love it," she says. "And where actors are used to working to one script, we now have to learn one, then put it in the bin each night. This is something different. It's exciting."

Despite the different American sensibility, Julie and Greg's American adventuring isn't over. The pair will return to LA for a holiday after the Still Game run at the Hydro in September.

"America was great to dip into," she says. "And the boys loved it. In fact, Benny got himself a girlfriend - straight in there."

But she adds, wistfully: "I couldn't see us living there, but if we got a job I'd think about it, even if the folk there are totally bonkers.

"And it proved to me you can still learn as an actor. I think actors should practise more in Scotland and I think I'm a better actor for going to the classes." She adds, smiling; "Even though with my ears there's not a lot of chance of getting the sort of shows the rest of the gorgeous students were going up for."

What if she filmed the Arches show and sent it to her acting coach in LA Would that improve her chances?

"She'd probably tell me not to come back," she says, laughing.

"Although they'd probably like the sheer mentalness of it all."

l News Just In, The Arches, Argyle Street, Tonight & Saturday, 9pm. £12/10