Alexandra Moen plays Emily James,
Head of PR
Alexandra Moen is more used to working with Daleks and Time Lords than chefs and posh clients. Having played Lucy Saxon in two episodes of Doctor Who, and Tamsin in the popular cult series Tripping Over, the role of PR superwhizz Emily James was an interesting challenge.
"I know a few women in the PR world, which is big business nowadays, but courting PR is an alien concept to me despite how much fun it was to play – that whole premise of aiming to please strikes me as a bit dubious," says Alexandra.
"And as for working in a hotel, I waited tables when I was a student but I was a really, really bad waitress," she laughs.
"I could never last in a restaurant job for more than a couple of months because they would figure out that I wasn't very good at it. In fact, walking in the corridors of Babylon brought back funny memories of those jobs I had as a student – especially the staff canteen and the memory of seeing a mouse running across the corridors!"
Despite having access to PR professionals, Alexandra wanted to discover the essence of Emily's character within the walls of the hotel and not be influenced by any real-life personalities.
"I remember getting the character brief and thinking Emily could be a brilliant role to play," says Alexandra. "I completely saw who she was and wanted to walk onto the set and just live her, rather than try and put in too much research," she explains.
"The beauty of Babylon is that we only see the characters at work, which is a great comedic setting. We do, however, get glimpses of their personal struggles and there are hints that Emily is a little off the rails – let's just say she can down a bottle of vodka pretty quickly, she is definitely a bit of a wild child."
Alexandra had an opportunity to travel with her lead role as Tamsin in Mike Bullen's 2006 series, Tripping Over, which also starred Daniel MacPherson, Paul McGann and Leon Ockenden.
"Playing Tamsin in Tripping Over was my favourite role to date, and it was filmed in London, Australia and Thailand. We worked in some amazing locations and it was the first time I had been to Asia and Australia. After filming, I went travelling in North Queensland and the desert."
Travelling, it seems, is in Alexandra's genes. However, there are several countries she could rightfully call home.
"I was born in Italy and then briefly moved to Canada at the age of six," explains Alexandra. "My dad was an oceanographer so researched different areas of the world.
"Then we moved to Bermuda and lived there with my two brothers until I was a teenager – which was fantastic for snorkelling, sun and swimming. When we moved to the UK, I finished school and went to university and drama school in London – which I definitely now see as home."
Having watched Hotel Babylon before, Alexandra had an idea that she would be thrown in amongst a great crowd of actors, despite not having worked directly with any of them before. However, her first day was not quite what she expected.
"On my first day, the director hit me with one of the most difficult monologue scenes, where everyone had to give me really nasty looks – so that was a really great way in!" she laughs. "But it was a lot of fun and it felt like home very, very quickly."
Emily James is a well-connected, upper, middle class, privately educated young woman who comes from the highest pedigree within the hotel industry. Her father is an hotelier of international renown and prestige, yet Emily wants to find her own feet within this environment.
When she pulls some strings to bring in her celebrity chef pal, played by Alan Davies, everything turns upside down and the hotel looks like it will win back its restaurant's reputation.
"Emily is really well connected and comes from good stock, particularly within the industry, but she definitely doesn't put on airs and is pretty naïve and innocent in some respects – too trusting," says Alexandra.
"She is ballsy and bold but she is an eternal optimist. There is nothing bitchy about her, and she doesn't deliberately step on anyone's toes. She believes in what she is doing and throws herself full throttle into crazy situations.
"Casting Alan Davies as Otto Clark was inspired. There is something quite tempered about him and his humour is quietly measured," she adds. "And Emily thinks that Otto may be her ticket to PR fame and fortune, and an opportunity to shine in her own right."
However, that's where Alexandra's link with celebrity chefs ends. "I don't think I have been to a celebrity chef restaurant in my life and, to be honest, it doesn't interest me at all," she says. "But I can't deny that I am a foodie and love finding fantastic local restaurants."
Alexandra is, however, the first to admit that she is a hopeless cook – something her boyfriend, director Sam Miller, will testify to.
"I like baking cakes but I always get something slightly wrong," she says. "I tried to make a pasta dish for my boyfriend, which was supposed to be an Italian salmon and chive creamy dish, but, in the end, it tasted so sour I tried to convince him that it was a Polish dish – which he didn't buy in the least," she laughs.
Alexandra shares eternal optimism with her character Emily and her other passion is her music – she is a singer in a psychedelic electric pop group – which she would love to tour the world with. Hot on her list of places to visit are India and Africa, and she likes to travel to New York as often as she can.
"Emily has big plans for the hotel and I can imagine her hosting a Bollywood convention or maybe a Doctor Who or Star Wars convention, just so she can dress up," she laughs.
"Or, perhaps, a James Bond-themed event or even hold the Bond press junkets at Hotel Babylon and have Daniel Craig there in his swimming trunks in the hotel pool! We could even restage the Casino Royale poker game. Wouldn't it be great fun to have Bond walk through the doors?!" she says, optimistically.