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Anita Dobson: 'Living in the now is crucial'

Although her Strictly dancing days are now behind her, actress Anita Dobson, who's about to star in the new comedy series The Rebel, tells Lisa Salmon that keeping fit in your 60s is all about staying positive

Published 16/07/2016

Hilarious: Anita Dobson in The Rebel
Hilarious: Anita Dobson in The Rebel
Anita on Strictly Come Dancing in 2011
Anita with husband Brian May
Anita as Angie in EastEnders

As a former Strictly Come Dancing competitor, actress Anita Dobson knows all about the benefits - and rigours - of keeping fit.

But despite being mindful of her health and well-being, nearly five years after she appeared on Strictly, the former EastEnders star has no desire to hit the gym to keep herself in shape.

"I think you can do as much damage to yourself going to the gym and running as you do good. So my mission in life is just to keep myself 'good' - in good health, as fit as I can be, a little bit of stretching, and just think positive and enjoy life.

"The last place you'll find me is the gym. It seems to me to be a waste of time - I could spend that time doing so many other things."

Dobson, (67), looks back fondly on her time in Strictly, from which she was eliminated in November 2011 after nine weeks.

"I got extremely fit and slim while I was on Strictly, but I did find that each week a different part of my body hurt - it really makes you realise the hard work dancers have to put in and how fit they have to be.

"I'm a lot older now, and I'm not sure if I did it now that I'd have the ability to do some of those moves. Some of the lifts were quite hairy. It was just a 'bubble' in my career, a moment when I, Anita Dobson, pretended I was that dancer I'd always dreamed of being.

"You wish and hope you'll retain the dancing and fitness, but it's impossible. My job is being an actress, and I went back to doing that."

Despite her obvious love of dancing, Dobson doesn't strut her stuff on the floor any more. She's too busy with her acting, and despite his top-class musical pedigree, her husband, Queen guitarist Brian May, wouldn't be a willing dance partner either.

"His rhythm is all in his hands and his head, not in his body at all. He can create incredible music, but he's not a mover," she admits cheerfully.

However, despite the demise of her dancing, the actress insists she's not unfit.

Pointing out that her mantra for a healthy and happy life is simply - "think positive and live in the now" - she says she had a fall recently, and perhaps as a result is much more mindful to take care of herself.

"I'm pretty fit; we've got a lot of stairs in our house and I'm up and down them all the time. Plus, I don't smoke and I'm vegetarian," she says.

She's vegetarian because she doesn't like the way meat's farmed, and says she thinks that while humans are probably meant to eat a little meat occasionally, it shouldn't be "stockpiled" and eaten every day.

"I don't like the idea of that, and I don't think we should have slaughterhouses," she declares.

"I like the way the native Americans Indians did it; you only kill if you have to, you don't kill the young ones, you use every single part of the creature, and you don't kill again until it's absolutely necessary."

May is a vegetarian too, and Dobson says: "He's a fierce animal rights campaigner. He believes animals should be treated with the same respect humans are."

She adds: "If I had to live on a desert island and somebody gave me a chicken, there's no way I'd kill it - I'd call it Henry and make it my friend."

But Dobson's definitely not off to a desert island any time soon, as she'll be starring in the West End musical Wicked from September, and is about to appear on our TV screens in the new three-part comedy series The Rebel, alongside Simon Callow.

The series, which is about Callow's character Henry's determination to stand up for what he believes in, despite his advancing years, was "a real laugh" to make, notes Dobson, who plays charity shop worker Margaret.

"I felt really lucky that it just fell into my lap, it came from heaven. Simon's character is a bit like Victor Meldrew in that he's grumpy and complaining and railing against things in life, but this guy goes out and does something about it, which Victor doesn't.

"I think as you get older, you think, 'I don't have to take this any more, I'm going to say what I feel'."

Dobson is, of course, still best known for her role as the alcoholic pub landlady Angie Watts in EastEnders, despite the fact she was only in the soap from its inception in 1986 until 1988.

However, she doesn't mind still being associated with Angie - not one bit.

"It was the role that changed my life," she says. "It changed my career from being a jobbing actress to suddenly being someone who everybody knew.

"The nation took Den and Angie to their hearts, and I loved Angie. She was a wonderful character to play and I'll always look back on her with huge affection."

Playing Angie was a "tremendous springboard" for Dobson's career, and since then she's appeared in everything from TV, films and radio, to stage musicals and Royal Shakespeare Company plays.

Angie was eventually killed off (off-screen) in 2002, and Dobson says she thought it was the right time for "closure" - although in soapland, of course, dead doesn't always mean dead, as the shock return from the grave of Angie's cheating husband Den showed only too well.

Dobson laughs at the idea: "Anything can happen, can't it?"

The Rebel begins on Gold on Wednesday, July 20 at 10pm

Belfast Telegraph

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