'How I learnt how to get big canine kisses'
Covering her face with cream cheese and choreographing love scenes were all in a day's work for actress Georgia Mackenzie in her new comedy. She talks to Gemma Quade
When actress Georgia Mackenzie was offered a part in an ITV1 romantic comedy, starring opposite loveable My Family actor Kris Marshall, she jumped at the chance.
However, it soon became clear that Catwalk Dogs was going to be a bit of a different job than the usual rom-coms - because most of Georgia's other co-stars were of the furry variety.
And every thespian knows the age-old mantra about never working with animals - particularly when those animals include a pack of enormous rottweilers.
Georgia plays Sally, a newspaper horoscope writer who has recently suffered a miscarriage. To help her cope with her grief, her partner Michael (Marshall), a lawyer, brings her home a dog - a fox terrier called Archie.
"He actually gets given the dog by a client who can't pay his fee," Georgia explains. "He thinks it's a good idea to give it to her as a distraction. But sadly this distraction turns into, I wouldn't say an obsession, but a focus, and it drives them apart."
Sally ends up having a second miscarriage, this time further into her pregnancy, after she has already had a scan. She's absolutely distraught, and asks herself, as many women do, 'If I can't have children, what am I here for?'.
"Sometimes you say very emotive things in relationships to see what response you get," Georgia says.
"As a woman, when you want kids, another miscarriage must feel pretty devastating. At what point do you give up? How many more can you go through? I just think that's really tragic."
Unfortunately, the loss of two babies begins to reveal huge cracks in Sally and workaholic Michael's relationship, which goes into freefall.
"I think he feels they've talked enough about it, and he doesn't want to talk anymore," Georgia says.
"That's very difficult when somebody wants to talk about something and the other person doesn't. Eventually you become resentful and all you do is argue rather than talk.
"I don't think he realises how seriously she feels about the relationship being in disarray. He acknowledges that when she eventually leaves him and he ends up really wanting her back. He realises what he wants in his life." As Sally tries to forget her relationship and deal with her grief, she ends up putting Archie into dog shows to fill her days. There she meets a new man, dog-breeeder Guy, and they soon embark on a fling. But Michael decides to win her back by showing an interest in her new hobby.
Georgia says working with Kris Marshall was an absolute joy, and they laughed all the way through the shoot - that is until the inevitable bedroom scenes came up.
"No one wants to do them ideally. I don't find kissing scenes too bad, because I've done a few of those," she laughs, adding, "It's the kind of roles I play!
"But there is a scene where we are in bed and we are just about to get it on, and we actually choreographed that. It makes it much easier and it's not so embarrassing."
But what about working with her other co-stars - namely four-legged Archie?
"People weren't really allowed to fuss him apart from Kris and I because we had to build some sort of relationship with him. Weirdly enough he didn't really get too involved, he had shark eyes! He was a working dog.
"It was in the script that he jumped up into my arms, which was very sweet, but I had to have treats in my pocket, which was a bit minging. I also had to put cream cheese on my face so he would lick it," she cringes. "I don't think it even made the final cut! The things we do, going home smelling of cream cheese and dog lick!"
While Archie was a cute fox terrier, there were bigger - and more intimidating - dogs that Georgia had to work with. In the programme, Sally agrees to show one of Guy's dogs - a huge rottweiler called Klaus.
"I was really scared when I heard it was a rottweiler, but actually he was very sweet, kind of like a teddy bear," Georgia says with a smile. " The thing with rottweilers is that if they are trained to be vicious, they are so massive that you would have no chance. But they are quite docile as pets.
"Of course, running him around the room for the dog show scenes after running Archie around, I was knackered," she laughs. "I had to really sprint to show him to his potential!"
After reading the script for Catwalk Dogs, Georgia realised she would be dealing with a lot of animals during the shoot, but luckily she is very fond of man's best friend.
"I didn't have any pets as a child, sadly, apart from a goldfish which we were given at a funfair to go away because we tried so many times to win! She lived for seven years.
"But I actually am a dog lover. I haven't got one because I don't think it's fair with the nature of my job - I could need to go abroad suddenly or away from home."
Georgia lives in a Victorian house in south London that she and her husband, Coupling and Whistleblowers star Richard Coyle, are currently renovating.
She and Richard met back in 1999 when they were both working on comedy Up Rising, and they married in 2003. So, is it difficult being hitched to a fellow actor, or does Georgia find it helpful?
"I suppose it's both really," she muses.
"In an ideal world, maybe you wouldn't be two actors together, but it works for us. I chose him and he chose me."
Catwalk Dogs is on ITV1 this Sunday