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"I don't really mind having cellulite but I don't need to show it off to other people"

A few years ago, Angela Griffin felt that she had gone 'out of fashion', but the jobs are rolling in now... not that she's about to rest on her laurels any time soon, she tells Gemma Dunn

Turning 40 may be considered a landmark birthday for many, but for Angela Griffin, it's simply another unwelcome tag in the fickle world of showbiz.

"I'd go back tomorrow and be 21," admits the Leeds-born actress, burying her face at the mere mention of her impending birthday (it's July 19).

"I'm happy with where I am, though. I'm really fortunate in that I've got two girls, a lovely husband, I'm doing some really great jobs at the moment and I've got a nice house.

"It's all where it should be, but I still don't want to be 40. I just think it's rubbish because it changes how people look at you. I wish people just didn't know how old I was."

Griffin, who's been married to actor Jason Milligan since 2006, could easily pass for a woman 10 years her junior - especially today; sporting a palm-print jumpsuit, flawless skin and an enviable figure.

However, despite my insistence she's looking great and her confession she's set on a "month of celebrations" for her birthday, she's having none of it.

"The roles I'm getting offered are miles more interesting now, which is why I'm a bit like, 'God, I don't want everyone knowing I'm 40, because then they'll stop offering me those roles'. When you're over 40, you're statistically a has-been; you've got less chance of getting a job because there are eight men to every one woman on TV."

Griffin has been a familiar face on the small screen since the early Nineties, making her mark in soaps Emmerdale and Coronation Street, and dramas Mount Pleasant, Waterloo Road and, more recently, Lewis.

Her latest gig, ITV's Brief Encounters, is already causing quite a stir.

Frank, fresh and funny, the saucy six-part drama focuses on four ordinary women - Pauline (Penelope Wilton), Steph (Sophie Rundle), Dawn (Sharon Rooney) and Griffin as the enigmatic Nita - whose lives are turned around when they become Ann Summers saleswomen.

"The appeal for me was reading a script that had four real women at the centre of it," Griffin says of the Eighties-set series, which is loosely based on Good Vibrations, the 1995 memoir penned by Jacqueline Gold, director of the lingerie and sex toy brand.

"I was worried that it was going to be pink, cackly and shiny - like, 'yeah, go girls, we're so brilliant, high five! Ah yeah look, we're wearing suspenders and we're so sexy!' But it was the antithesis of that.

"I loved the era it was placed in and I loved what the girls were doing."

While playing pregnant mum-of-four Nita may come somewhat naturally to mother-of-two Griffin, dressing up in a risque French maid outfit tested new waters for the actress.

"I was really nervous about it. I went to the gym quite a lot, I put creams on - cellulite and scrubs and all that kind of stuff, because it's like, you know, women should be women but I don't want everyone," she says, trailing off to think for a moment, before adding: "I'm quite happy with my cellulite - me and my husband love it; it's perfectly fine, I just don't need to show everyone else it."

But it's not just Brief Encounters the Northern personality has been hitting the gym for; there are numerous saucy scenes in the upcoming second series of BBC One's Ordinary Lies, which Griffin's set to star in - and her looming birthday, of course.

"I want to look and feel the best I've looked," she muses. "When I'm on screen, I don't necessarily feel self-conscious; I'm not a model, I'm playing real people. But being photographed on red carpets and stuff like that, people are judging you."

At home in London, however, Griffin is happy just being "mum".

"The girls are still at the point where they think I'm cool," she says. "That's how I know that my eldest isn't quite a teenager yet; she's got the hormones of a teenager and she's moody, but she still likes me so I'm taking full advantage of that at the moment."

She's happy to admit she relies on teamwork with her husband as well as a "really good nanny" to be able to fit in filming and travelling for work.

For Griffin, who says she went back to work when the girls "were five months", the decision to maintain her career alongside parenthood is a positive choice.

"A long time ago, I worked it out with myself that it's fine if we want to live in a nice house. I'll work now and then I'll have eight weeks off during summer, when I'm at home and with them every single day."

And Griffin isn't complaining about her hectic schedule, which also includes a starring role in stage musical comedy Stepping Out, alongside Amanda Holden, later this year.

Referring to a year-long dry spell in 2013, in which she spoke openly about her lack of work, Griffin adds: "Before my break, I'd worked consistently for about 15 years. Being out of work can happen at any time.

"I think you just go out of fashion. Everyone knows what I do, everyone knows who I am - or they think they know who I am.

"They're all, 'yeah Angela, we don't think she's right for this', and then you don't even get the meeting. You don't get to go in and prove yourself.

"It's like, 'no, I can do other things; I don't always have to be Northern and I can do action, look!'"

Brief Encounters, ITV, Monday, 9pm

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