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‘I’ve always been busy and driven by ambition... but just before I hit 50 I took a step back’

Actor Jacey Salles, who plays Spanish nanny Ramona Ramirez in Cold Feet, tells Gabrielle Fagan that she and her character have a lot in common

Jacey Salles puts on an exaggerated Spanish accent and hoots with laughter as she admits, “Zere is a lot of Ramona in me”. She’s talking about her role as exuberant, fiery nanny Ramona Ramirez in ITV’s acclaimed comedy drama, Cold Feet, which is returning for a seventh series.

Hapless Ramona started working for the Marsden family, looking after Karen (Hermione Norris) and David’s (Robert Bathurst) children, but has returned in this series as Karen’s personal assistant in her fledgling publishing company.

“I have been promoted but time will tell whether Ramona’s a help or a hindrance as an employee!

“I do share some of her character qualities, I have to admit — I’m definitely fiery, passionate and am always willing to stand up for myself.

“I’m kind and loyal like her too, but thankfully not scatty — don’t talk with an accent — and definitely have more control over my life,” says Jacey (51), reflecting on what she describes as her “surprising survival” in the series, which returned last year after a 13-year break.

“At the original audition, I screeched away in Spanish and did this mad, improvised, uncontrolled impression of someone who paid no attention to authority. I walked away thinking I didn’t have a chance. Then I got the role, but I was only expected to last a few episodes until Ramona was sacked, but she proved so popular with viewers she stayed on,” she says.

Ramona only appeared in the last series in the last episode, when she made a dramatic return for Adam’s 50th birthday (James Nesbitt).

“I’d been quite sad thinking it was finally over for me and ‘bye bye Ramona’. Then I got a last-minute call that I was back, after apparently being in Spain for 10 years. Somehow Ramona’s hung on in there!” says Jacey happily.

“She’s so fun to play because she’s a feel-good character who floats around being unpredictable, getting into scrapes and making everyone giggle. She’s had great storylines, from a gambling addiction to working as a pole dancer.

“Amazingly, her English hasn’t improved over the years — that would spoil the joke wouldn’t it — because there’s so much potential for confusion with the language barrier,” says Jacey, the daughter of a Spanish entrepreneur from Barcelona and an English interior designer.

Her early childhood was spent in Ibiza, where her parents ran bars and an international school, until the family returned to Britain, where she eventually pursued her dream of an acting career. Her first big break — playing a Spanish nanny — came thanks to Dawn French, who once taught drama at Parliament Hill School in London’s Highgate.

Remembering her former pupil, Dawn cast her in BBC Two series Murder Most Horrid in the early Nineties. Since then Jacey’s appeared in films The Misadventures Of Margaret and science fiction comedy horror, Attack The Block, as well as a host of TV series including Holby City, Doctors, and last year, as Spanish millionaire Juanita in Channel 4’s Hollyoaks.

“I thought, ‘Uh-oh, a Spanish accent again!’ but Juanita was the total opposite of Ramona, so I thought of it as like playing her nasty elder sister. She was glamorous, fiery and a complete pantomime-villain character,” says Jacey.

As well as bringing up her 15-year-old daughter, Lola (“We’re going through the teenage years,” she says with mock exasperation), Jacey’s worked in catering and taught English and drama.

A few years ago her “hectic lifestyle and a sort-of mid-life crisis” made her change the pace of her life. “I’ve always been someone so busy, frenetically working and driven by ambition, but just before I hit 50, I really took a step back, so I could re-evaluate. I’ve relaxed more and am not so desperate to be at the centre of everything. I’m in a really good place, much more content to live in the now, and feel calmer,” she declares.

Much like her beloved Ramona, Jacey herself is also currently single, after a long-term relationship finished last year. “I’ve never gone looking for romance before because I’ve always let things unfold. If I’m meant to meet someone, I will. I’m not that desperate to be in a couple that I’m chasing it,” she explains. “I feel really fulfilled and very happy as I am.”

Cold Feet, Fridays, ITV, 9pm

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