Brian Beacom

THERE was an expectation Samantha Womack would be interviewed-out after years of Eastenders press demands.

But within 20 seconds worries about flowing chat are removed like a greasepaint on a wet wipe when the actress reveals she’s just skelped a man hard on the face.

“I’ve just come off stage (in The Addams Family) with my co-star (Cameron Blakely) and we were doing a tango,” she explains in comedy-drama voice.

“My grandmother was once a choreographer and perhaps I was trying hard too hard to impress her friend in the audience and I swung my arm out too madly, and now Cameron’s got such a very sore face.”

Have there been times when she’s felt like giving a fellow actor a sock on the jaw?

“Oh, yes, there are millions of people I’d love to knock out, but Cameron isn’t one of them,” she says, grinning.

“When you do theatre with some actors, there are a lot of kissing scenes in which tongues can go a bit wild at times, so you have to learn to keep blokes like that at bay.”

The tale reveals a lady with a wicked, dark sense of humour, not far removed from that of her stage character, Morticia.

But the grandmother reference opens a door to the past you imagined Sam wouldn’t have wished to enter.

The actress’s childhood has been described as “difficult”, but that’s a bit like saying Joan Crawford could be a bit tetchy at times.

Little Samantha often lived with her grandmother during holidays and when her parents, musician dad Noel and actress mother Diana split. But this was no ordinary granny; this was a showbiz granny who worked on the QE2 as a choreographer.

Little Sam’s bunk was in the bowels of the ship and when her grandmother was rehearsing the tot would be taken away for the day by kindly passengers on day excursions.

But what the experience did was introduce the little girl to the world of showbiz.

“Most of my childhood was spent watching people perform,” she recalls, “and it was all so glamourous.

“You would see the likes of Dusty Springfield, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor on board and I used to watch the showgirls dance. It was an incredible experience.

“Meanwhile, my grandmother was trying to get me into showbiz and she was the reason I went to theatre school when I was fifteen.”

The lure of showbiz however had a negative side. The young Samantha, who moved around the country with her mum after her parents divorced and her mum re-married, couldn’t fit in at school, as was certainly the case during a stint in Edinburgh.

“I was a naughty kid,” she says, with a tone of understatement in her voice.

“There was nothing in the academic programme that appealed to me. The reality is I was just bored.”

Samantha Janus, as she was, left school and home and lived in squats for a while and dated her share of bad boys.

But after finding her world in the Sylvia Young Theatre School, talent outed.

At 18 she represented Britain in Eurovision and acting roles in the likes of the Bill followed.

Sam landed the coveted role of Sandy in Grease in the West End and in the mid-nineties she played the fun-loving blonde in sitcom Game On.

In 2007 Big Fame arrived when she was cast as Ronnie Mitchell in EastEnders, becoming part of a TV family so dysfunctional viewers assumed they were directly related to Satan.

Sam Womack, as she became when she married actor Mark Womack, channelled an inner toughness.

But is there is a sense the actress, who speaks as fast as the one-liners she once delivered in Game On, has a strong, questioning mind?

“Yes, I do have a problem with authority figures,” she says, clearly fluent in subtext.

“I fight tooth and nail for what I believe in. But I care passionately about what I do and sometimes that means I don’t stay in plays with particular companies or whatever.”

She smiles, defiantly; “I’m forty four and I’m not going to change now.”

Womack brings a keen intelligence to her work. But here’s a tester; how do you play a character such as Morticia who is as dry as the inside of a lead coffin - and make an impact?

“That’s the difficulty,” she admits, smiling. “On film, the actor can play her more subdued because the camera captures the eyes.

“On stage however you have to find a way not to make her simply stand there in the archetypal pose with one eyebrow raised.

“You have to make her more of a slightly maternal figure and reveal a little bit of vulnerability so the audience can go with her on the journey - and see the mask slip.”

Sam Woman admits to being driven to succeed. But is that a blessing and a curse?

“That’s exactly right,” she says. “I like being in long contracts, and I don’t like coming to the end of this contract in January.”

There’s an added joy to playing Morticia. “She is certainly not a people pleaser and that’s something I’m trying to inhabit.

“As a teenager I’d go with the flow. It’s what happens when you’re young and you panic you won’t get a job. But later on you realise you have to take control.”

She adds; “They don’t teach that in theatre school.”

Sam reveals her Glasgow connection.

“I was at a right-wing holier-than-thou Catholic school in Edinburgh for a couple of years and I had a very twee, poash Edinburgh accent at the time, but I’d always felt connected to Glasgow in my bones. “And that was explained to me by the discovery on the BBC programme Who Do You Think You Are? that three generations of my family came from there.

“My great-grandfather came from Maryhill, and he was a bandsman.”

Sam Womack is happier in her own skin these days.

“That’s true,” she says, smiling. “That’s why I like getting older. I’m more settled. And the parts that come my way are more interesting.”

Womack adds, grinning; “I just have to be careful with my tango.”

• The Addams Family, the King’s Theatre, October 10-14.