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Monarch of the Glen

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Live Chat
Simone Lahbib
Simone Lahbib braved the ghouls and the guising to join us for a Hallowe'en Live Chat on Sunday 31st October 2004. As feisty Isobel Anderson, she's been getting in a tizzy over a certain laird and struggling to dig herself out of financial meltdown. But will her steely self-control melt and see her in the arms of the dashing laird? Find out if she gives any hints in the transcript…

The first question was from Lin:Your character Isobel is quite feisty. Do you feel you are a feisty person. Keep up the fab work.
Simone: Yeah, I am fairly feisty, I suppose. I'm a fairly feisty Scottish lass who doesn't back down from a good fight and my husband would agree with me on that one. (laughing)
Simone dropped by the office on Hallowe'en night.
Question from steviebaby: Hi there Simone, you are fabulous in Monarch and you were fab in Bad Girls, can I ask, what's it like to work with Tom Baker?
Simone: He's great fun, always a good laugh on set, loves to play around, great storyteller and I think he's great at playing Donald.

Question from Mike: Are you really a country girl or do you prefer cities?
Simone: I'm more of a city girl but I like to balance that out with getting into the country and into open spaces. Coming from Stirling, I've always had a bit of both. So, when I was up in the Highlands I was loving it but it was good to get back to London occasionally.

Question from Jayne: What was it like working with the Highland coos... ? :)
Simone: We actually had two sets of Highland coos. The first set were the top quality highland cows but they were too expensive, so we had to get some cheaper ones who looked a bit scabby! We had to downgrade. I've really enjoyed working with all the animals in the show. In one of the last episodes there was a beautiful white horse in some scenes which I wanted to take home with me!

Question fromVictoria: It's time Isobel had a dog to keep her company on that farm so - classy intelligent, stylish Standard poodle or crofters hairy mutt?
Simone: I'd have to go for the crofter's mutt! It would be great to have a collie, in fact. It would really suit the character. But I would definitely have to take it home :-)

Question from Niccie: Bad Girls and Monarch have been very different roles for you – what attracted you to the Monarch role?
Simone: The money! (laughs) No, working back in Scotland, I’ve really enjoyed working with a predominantly Scottish crew, who are fantastic. They've all been working with each other for the last six series so they're like a well-oiled machine. And the Scottish scenery… and I liked the character! It felt like Isobel was a character I could relate to and have fun with. Being close to Stirling and my family is great. I can go back and see them at weekends.

Question from Gingie: Would you ever like to live and work on a farm like Isobel?
Simone: My husband's family have a farm in Italy, about an hour from Florence. We spend quite a lot of time there, which we both love. But we know just how much hard work running a farm is! We spent a week there last month and we spent a day picking grapes because it was grape season which was fun, for one day but not something I could do as a proper job. And it would be so much harder running a farm in Scotland with the weather you get here!

Question from Matilda: In pretty much all the articles you read about you, your role as 'bisexual Helen Stewart in Bad Girls' is mentioned. Do you think people will ever drop that image and do you mind it?
Simone: I'm flattered that people remember the character and still make a lot of reference to it. For me as an actress it was a great part and helped establish me in television. But also as an actress I have the typical actor's disease of wanting to play different roles, so it's been great playing a variety of characters for the last three years, not least Isobel in Monarch of the Glen.

A slap-up buffet of toffee apples kept Simone in the Hallowe'en mood.Question from Joe: I would like to be an actor. When did you decide and what did you do to become an actress?
Simone: When I left school I actually took up an offer to go full-time to ballet school. Then while I was at ballet school I was offered a small part in an independent Scottish film called "The Girl in the Picture". It pushed a button in me and I made the decision then that it was what I wanted to do as a career, but I also recognised that I didn't really know anything about acting as a craft, so decided that I wanted to go to drama school.

I read lots of books on acting, went to see as many plays as I could afford, and I watched lots of films. I made my application and they said they wanted two pieces - one classical and one modern. So, I found a drama teacher and worked on the pieces. First of all by reading the plays that the pieces were from, doing a lot of research about the plays, making a connection with the characters and then going for the audition. At the audition we also had to do a movement class and an improvisation. After that I got a letter to say I'd been accepted to Queen Margaret College, Edinburgh.

I went there for three years. In my last year, we did "The House of Bernarda Alba", by Lorca; I played one of the sisters, Marterio. A Scottish agent, Pat Lovett, came to see it and other plays that we performed during our last year. She offered me a place on her books just before my graduation. So, I had a great start!

Question from  Becky: Saw you in The Homecoming in Manchester - Do you prefer TV or Theatre? Any plans to return to the stage?
Simone: I equally like both, for different reasons. There's something magical about a live performance and the interaction with an audience. The Homecoming, was in particular, because it was in a theatre in the round. The audience were very close so they really affected the performance.

My ideal would be to do one play a year but, unfortunately, I've been busy with television work and not been able to fit a play into my working schedule. This year I was offered a part in a new adaptation of Uncle Vanya by John Byrne, called Uncle Varrick, with Brian Cox at the Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh, but unfortunately, I had to make a choice between doing it or Monarch of the Glen and I chose Monarch.

Question from Amjomech: Someone's gotta ask is the character Paul as lovely in real life as he come across on the screen!
Simone: Yes! He's gorgeous. He's a very generous actor and a very sincere, lovely person. In the past six months, I've come to consider him a real friend.

Question from clairebear66: Malt whisky or champagne?
Simone: Champagne, I think…

Question from titch: did it take a lot of time and effort from the hair and makeup dept to make you look so hangover in tonights episode??
Simone: I've very flattered. But yeah, it took hours! (laughing)

Question from Lauren: Have you had any other jobs besides acting and dancing?
Simone: Yeah. After Thief Takers, I bought my first flat, expecting to do a second series, only to find that it wasn't recommissioned. And in the interim, between that and my next job, in order to pay my mortgage, I set up and ran a café in Camden for a friend and employed all my unemployed actor friends. It was fun but hard work and reminded me of the value of money, since I was working for five pounds an hour.

Question from dr help: Did you know that there is a record of you singing for sale on ebay? Did you want to be a singer or has acting always been your main ambition?
Simone: I did sing on a compilation album called Shift, on a track called "It Happens All The Time". I didn't realise it was for sale on eBay. What a laugh! I dabbled with singing in bands when I was younger. I didn't really think it would come to anything but it was something I enjoyed and had a lot of fun with. I also sang a track in the first film I did, The Girl In The Picture.

Question from Rose: Do you answer your fanmail anymore, as there are rumours going round that you no longer do so?
Simone: The past two years, I've been so busy with work, getting married, etc. I just found I haven't had the time. I keep all the fan mail with every intention of dealing with it at some point when I get a break from work. I just want to say thank you to everyone that's taken the time to write and for all the lovely presents I've received, I'm very touched and feel terribly guilty about not responding to every letter personally.

Question from Isla: What's your favourite way to spend a day off?
Simone: Different things. I love, once in a while, having a pamper day. Recently, because I've been spending so much time away from home, when I do get home I'm just happy to potter about. Going to the cinema or the theatre, I love. I'm happy just spending time with my husband, family and friends.

Question from Lindsay: Did you dress up for Halloween as a child?
Simone: My mum's got a picture of me, I must be about seven years old, and she's dressed me up as a snake charmer. I had one of those plastic snakes, with all the linked pieces. I think I had a whole little performance worked out when I did my trick-or-treating, which I was only allowed to do around a couple of family houses and neighbours.

Final question from Alex: What would be your dream role in anything, past, present or future?
Simone: I'd love to do Therese Raquin on stage at some point. I'm currently doing a dream job - another Ecosse production - a TV film called Heartless, which is a romantic comedy, also starring Angus Deayton. We're half-way through filming. I spent all last week on the Isle of Skye. It's a very magical script and feels like a very special job.

And the final word from Simone:Thank you to everybody for staying loyal to the programme. Stick with it. It takes time to get to know new characters but hopefully you'll fall in love with them all through time. Thanks also for logging on tonight. And Happy Hallowe'en!

Profile of Simone >>

Read Martin Compston's Chat from Series 6 >>

Simone Lahbib


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