Strictly Come Dancing star Cherie Lunghi has revealed that she hung out with a madam and former prostitute to prepare for her role as a brothel madam in The Secret Diary Of A Call Girl.

“I didn’t feel judgmental at all, and they were so lovely as women, women talking about their job and their line of business and about men. We ended up just talking about men and sex,” the actress said.

The ITV2 series, which stars Billie Piper as Belle, caused a stir when it first started last year, but Cherie doesn’t feel it has glamorised prostitution. “It’s a very very complex subject. You get the high end which has a certain glamour to it and the further down you go, the sadder and more desperate and more cruel it becomes,” she said.

“It’s just functional whatever way you look at it, but at the same time, it’s the oldest profession in the world, so it’s always going to perform some sort of function within society and it’s going to bring out the vulnerable or the cruel in men.”

Cherie recalled a recent holiday in Turkey where she saw an ancient sign for the local brothel among the ruins of the port town of Ephesus.

“It was from 200BC and had a symbol of a naked woman and then an arrow pointing in the direction. When all the sailors came ashore from the boats, they headed straight for the girls. Nothing changes,” she said.