“Some people want to talk to you about how much they love the character, but some people want to criticise you and slag you off” says the Mel Owen star…

EastEnders star Tamzin Outhwaite has opened up about the attention she received when she first joined the soap in 1998, and admits she felt proud of herself for keeping her feet on the ground and staying sane.

The actress, who returned as Mel Owen in January, first appeared in the show between 1998 – 2002, and was an instant hit with viewers.

She tells us: “Because I was 28 when I joined, you’re at a certain age where you can cope with it (the attention) a lot better – if it was ten years earlier, it would’ve been a struggle. I think thanks to family and my upbringing, I felt quite grounded, so I didn’t feel like my ego was going to take off.

“But I do feel proud of myself for leaving three and a half years later with my sanity still intact, because it would’ve been quite easy to lose it a bit.

“The attention is a lot to deal with, but it’s what you make of it; it’s how you deal with the situation. Some people want to talk to you about how much they like the character, and some people feel like they own a piece of you and they want to have a go at you and criticise you and slag you off a bit. So you’ve got to deal with both sides. How I dealt with it was to not take any of it to heart.”

The 47 year old says that second time round on the show, the media attention has died down – which she believes is largely due to the rise in reality television.

“I think the media are less obsessed with actors and people that have a craft, and maybe a bit more obsessed with people from Love Island and TOWIE,” she adds.

“I think the attention has shifted a bit, which is absolutely fine by me, because it allows you to just get on with your job.”

EastEnders continues on BBC1 tonight at 8.00pm.