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24 September 2014
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Monarch of the Glen
Kirsty Mitchell plays Iona MacLean

Monarch of the Glen - series seven

Starts this September on BBC ONE

Kirsty Mitchell plays Iona MacLean

Born and bred in Glenbogle, Iona is the local shepherdess who is never more at home than when out in the windswept, empty countryside with only her dog for company.


But as Monarch newcomer Kirsty Mitchell explains, her solitary character faces something of a culture shock in the opening episode of the new series after the laird, Paul, accidentally burns down her home, forcing Iona to move into Glenbogle house.


"Iona is emotionally very honest, someone with a straightforward take on life who is used to her own company and her own space," says Kirsty.


"Then all of a sudden she is flung into the big house at Glenbogle with all of these noisy, eccentric people and she's not sure if she fits in.


"At the same time, though, I think she's amused by the way everybody there seems to be so excitable and highly strung.


"It all starts when the laird burns down her house by fixing the electrics and pretending to know what he's doing to try and impress her. When it blows up, he feels incredibly guilty - understandably - and insists she moves into the big house whilst hers is being rebuilt.


"When Iona arrives at Glenbogle she can't get over how grand the place is; meanwhile, she's just standing there in her dirty work clothes with her dog and two little boxes of burnt stuff. Everything she owned and had ever known was in that little house and she feels very disorientated," adds the Glasgow-born actress.


"When you're used to being on your own and then suddenly you're in someone else's house that is so big and alien to you, it's a shock to the system.


"She is so used to being self-sufficient and no matter how many times people say 'treat it like your own home', you can't because you're living under someone else's roof and having to abide by their rules.


"Embarrassed and trying to put her at her ease, Paul cracks a really bad joke, saying they are all going to get on like a house on fire - which obviously goes down like a lead balloon," smirks Kirsty.


Her new living arrangements force Iona to form a relationship with the laird who, up until now, she's always found intimidating. Instinctive and honest, there's a hidden beauty beneath Iona's layers of waterproof clothing and muddy wellies.


But as far as she's concerned she doesn't even register on Paul's emotional radar. However, all that is about to change.


"I don't think the idea of romance enters her head straight away. To start off with they are just trying to work each other out," suggests Kirsty.


"As for Paul, I don't think he's ever met anyone quite like Iona and there's something about her that captures his interest. He wants to work out what it is that makes her tick - she's very likeable and he's intrigued by her."


While Iona and Paul get to know each other, Kirsty - who has also starred in Holby City, Greyfriars Bobby and Murphy's Law - is in no doubt she has already met Mr Right and is planning to tie the knot next year.


She says: "My fiancé Tony and I met a year ago and now we're engaged and trying to decide what to do about the wedding. Should we have a wedding combined with a holiday and take the people we really want to be there away with us, or should we just have a big full-on shebang at home?


"The Scottish part of me can't help panicking at numbers like £15,000 for a big wedding and £1,000 for a dress," admits Kirsty.


"Figures like that start to panic me a bit, especially when you think it's only one day out of your life. I've never been one of those girls who dreams of her wedding day or what their dress will be like. I was never even sure I'd get married, but then you meet somebody and your heart goes 'boom' and that's that."


Having trained as a ballet dancer at the London School Of Ballet, Kirsty, 31, began to focus on acting five years ago.


Previously, she'd only had supporting roles as dancers in the likes of Soldier Soldier and Brit-flick Small Faces. However, that all changed when she won a lead role in a play by controversial Scottish writer Irvine Welsh.


"As you can imagine, it was a delightfully cheery little number and not exactly family viewing," Kirsty jokes. "My mum said: 'Do you swear? Well in that case I'm not coming'.


"But it was an absolutely amazing learning experience and it made realise that acting was for me. First we did it at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, before bringing the show to London - and I was in my element every night.


"I remember doing a scene one time and having a woman in the front row crying and I was thinking, this is amazing. To be able to touch people like that was a life-changing experience for me.


"I've never trained to be an actress, but I've read a lot about acting and camera techniques. Like Iona, I'm very self sufficient and solitary in that way. I even taught myself to play the guitar from reading books."


But the best bit of filming Monarch for Kirsty wasn't necessarily the dramatic acting scenes - it was learning how to ride a moped.


"I'd never driven one before, but Iona goes everywhere on hers with her dog on the back, so I had to learn. I was a bit nervous beforehand but it was fantastic scooting about the set on a quad bike. I loved it - I think I might be turning into a dancer turned actress turned wild biker girl."

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