The EastEnders star tells TV Times magazine the inside story of Tanya’s cancer scare and her life away from the Square…

How does Tanya react to finding out she has cancer?
“Tanya’s dad died of cancer and she nursed him through it. She has seen it first hand and therefore has a deep-seated fear of it. It is the start of a really difficult time for her.”

Has it been difficult to film?
“Yes, but we’ve just moved to be nearer work, so I get to see more of my the kids (18-month-old twins Freddie and Edie). That’s made me very happy and I find the more miserable I am at work, the more hysterical with laughter I am at home. I find it easy to switch off and I am just so relieved to be happy and healthy.”

What research did you do for the storyline?
“I have been working with a cervical cancer charity called Jo’s Trust and have talked to women who have survived the disease. I am full of admiration for them. I used to moan about the smallest things. I’d look at my legs and think, ‘I hate my lumpy thighs’, and now I think ‘Thank God, some people’s legs don’t work.’ I am lucky to have my health. The thing about cervical cancer is, the earlier it’s diagnosed, the easier it is to treat. No woman enjoys having a smear test, but treating cancer is a lot worse. The NHS provides women with regular smears and that is something we should make the most of.”

What about your relationship with Max. What has been the reaction to the affair?
“It’s like Marmite. Some people hate the idea, others love it. A lot of people think Max is really smarmy. They’re the ones who don’t fancy him. The ones who fancy him feel like Tanya and forgives him because he’s just naughty and they love it.”

How will Tanya react to fighting the disease?
“She is going to want to keep up appearances. You don’t tend to lose your hair with cervical cancer treatment, but I will grab any chance to show her dropping her guard. I’ll be looking duller towards the end. It’s my job to make this as honest and truthful as I can.”

Will that be difficult?
“No, it is all painted on at the moment. I am knackered in real-life. We’ve been up today since 5am and one had a little upset at midnight. I’m not complaining though as they are just fantastic. They are really sweet with each other. They spend at least 40 minutes when I put them down, really winding one another up in their cots. They are opposite each other and they bounce about, giggling away, standing on their heads. Every night is a sleepover for them!”

And what about your husband Neil?
“He’s great. We are a very modern family. He looks after the twins while I go to work and that’s great because I feel less guilty. We’ve got the balance right now we’ve moved closer to Elstree. I’ll see them in the morning and at night and when things get really intense, Neil can bring them in at lunchtime. Now, if I had a bit more sleep, life would be perfect.”