Samantha Womack: ‘I’d like to rescue Ronnie’

Samantha Womack is moving on from EastEnders‘ Ronnie Branning as she gears up for her new stage role in South Pacific.

Best known for playing disturbed Ronnie in the BBC1 soap, Samantha is about to start treading the boards as naive nurse Nellie Forbush in the London musical.

Samantha confirmed she quit EastEnders before being offered the part of Nellie and insisted her decision to quit was not because of the controversial baby-swap storyline that attracted over 13,000 complaints.

After becoming emotionally attached to her character over her four years on EastEnders, Samantha admitted she had to forget the character within weeks of leaving.

Samantha told The Evening Standard: “I went almost straight into rehearsals, so I haven’t had much time to process anything.

“Those last few months at EastEnders felt like a hurricane. The whole ‘Babygate’ thing was like a circus and I was caught in the middle of it.”

Optimistic, bright and bubbly, Nellie is the complete opposite of Ronnie – but Samantha admitted playing Ronnie did affect her in both a negative and a positive way.

“If you’re involved in that kind of stressful environment for 14 hours a day, every day, it would be ridiculous to say that it doesn’t impact on the way you feel.”

She added: “I miss Ronnie actually. If she was real, I’d like to rescue her.”

Samantha admitted she is nervous of the challenges ahead. She said: “I’m terrified actually. More terrified about something than I’ve been for a very long time. But I think it’s good. I think it proves that I was right to leave because clearly I had become too safe.

“I could have stayed and bought a nice big house but I’d stopped learning and I still want to. Even though I’ve been working most of my life, it feels like I’ve only just started to find my feet.”

And she said she has no regrets. She said: “I’m fiercely proud of what I did,” adding: “I left because I would have been replicating what I’d done before and I’m no good when I’m stale. I lose heart. I don’t think I would have been able to generate those kinds of performances any more. It seemed like a natural place to end it.”

South Pacific opens at the Barbican Theatre on August 12 2011.