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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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Personal Affairs, new drama for BBC Three: The PAs – Maimie McCoy plays Nicole Palmerston-Amory

PA to... Rachel Klein (Emily Bruni)
Take Note... Love, Sex or Money?
Most likely to... Bag herself a rich man
Strengths... Calm and collected under pressure
Weaknesses... Can be colder than the office air-conditioning

Born into an extremely wealthy family, Nicole's world fell apart when her father not only abandoned her mother but left the family penniless. The loss of her father nailed her view of the world – that over and above everything else she'd never be poor again.

Nicole is the embodiment of cynical pessimism. A confident and controlling character who never gets emotionally involved with blokes, instead Nicole uses poor men for thrills and rich men for their wallets.

"Initially people can think Nicole's a bit of an ice queen because she doesn't give a lot away and is fiercely independent," says Maimie.

"But actually she's damaged goods and she's got a very fragile heart which, of course, she keeps well locked up.

"When her dad walked out, her life was completely shattered, so now in all Nicole's relationships with men – and I use the term relationship in the loosest sense, maybe liaisons is a better word – it always comes down to the father figure. That primary figure that so shattered her as a child and has made her very wary as an adult."

Recently, Nicole had mind-blowing random sex with a mysterious guy but has absolutely no interest in seeing him again. But unbeknown to them both, there's a hidden connection there that could have serious repercussions if they were ever revealed.

Maimie explains what it was like filming the steamy clinch: "What seems like a spot of harmless fun soon gets horribly out of hand. I can tell you I was so nervous before we filmed that scene because it's technically difficult to get right and such a strange thing to be filmed doing!

"More than that we had to do it first thing in the morning, so you are up at half-five not feeling or looking your best and you think, 'I don't want to have sex in the lift! That's the last thing I want to do'... ," admits Maimie, with a rueful grin.

"So I would say that Nicole's attitude to men and sex and relationships is very Samantha from Sex And The City. When I watch the repeats on TV I see Samantha and I go, 'I must be playing her long-lost daughter or something!'"

Nicole's best friend at work is Lucy (Laura Aikman). She loves her openness and warmth and sees her as a true friend.

In contrast, Midge (Annabel Scholey) infuriates her and sometimes (against her better judgement) she's impatient with her PA pal, often poking fun at Midge's many fanciful obsessions.

Meanwhile, Nicole's relationship with her boss Rachel (Emily Bruni) is one of mutual respect.

It seems Nicole has made her decision that she will be fiercely independent and never require a man to make her happy. But could it be that this is one ice maiden just waiting to be melted?

For Yorkshire-born actress Maimie – who has also popped up in Doctors, Waking The Dead and was found murdered on a car bonnet in Taggart – one of the many appeals of a lead role in Personal Affairs was the chance to glam up.

"I'm a total scruffbag so the costumes have been quite a revelation to me because Nicole is so groomed and stylish. It's kind of what I'd wear to go out in the evening for a special occasion, not to work.

"The heels took more getting used to but they are fun and really help with the way you strut and how you present yourself as the character.

"Saying that, it's all a bit high maintenance. I think I'd rather wear overalls than have to get dressed up to the nines like this every day."

Maimie was able to draw on her brief experience as a receptionist in the City to play Nicole. But she admits her stint as a temp wasn't exactly her finest hour.

She says: "I was on reception for a day in a department doing hedge funds and I didn't even know what hedge funds were, which wasn't exactly the best of starts.

"So I was just sitting there slightly bewildered thinking, 'I haven't got a clue what's going on'. I couldn't really understand what anyone was talking about either.

"I think my mind works differently. Like when the art department on Personal Affairs give us props like spreadsheets and figure sheets, it's all real and I'll sit and look at them between takes and think, 'What the hell is that?' My brain just doesn't compute those things very well.

"So, unlike Nicole at Hartmann Payne, on a business level I don't think I'd last a second."

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