Belle has a new job and a new man as Billie Piper plays out the final chapter of Secret Diary of a Call Girl

Say what you like about Billie Piper, she is anything but predictable. The actress has already been a teenage pop sensation, tabloid fodder as the wife of Chris Evans, the nation’s sweetheart as Rose Tyler in Doctor Who, and ‘the world’s highest-paid prostitute’ – in the words of the Daily Mail – in ITV2’s Secret Diary of a Call Girl, which returns on Tuesday, February 1.

Piper first played the title role in the steamy and controversial drama, based on an online diary of a real-life escort, in 2007. Since then, the actress, who is still a way off hitting 30, has also managed to fit in getting remarried – to actor Laurence Fox – and being a mother to baby Winston.

As she stars in her fourth and final series as good-hearted escort Belle, TV&Satellite Week magazine caught up with her for a chat about men, motherhood and becoming a madam…

What’s happening to Belle in this series?
“She unexpectedly becomes a madam, which she’s reluctant to do for obvious reasons. She also has a new home, which she doesn’t work out of. She needs it to be a haven, but it becomes a place of absolute chaos.”

Why is her home life so chaotic?
“Stephanie the madam – who’s played by Cherie Lunghi – is in jail, so her daughter, Poppy, has moved in with Belle. Poppy is an important character because she’s seeing that world for the first time, finding out that her mother’s a madam and that Belle’s a prostitute. To her, it seems sick and morally wrong.”

How does Belle cope with being the boss?
“She’s not convinced of her ability to do the job, and the other girls mock her. She’s serious about what she does, whereas they are more streetwalker than escort. Belle is more into building relationships with her clients, making them feel they got what they wanted, even if it’s only a chat.”

How’s her love life?
“The Ben and Belle saga continues, and she also meets this guy who appeals to her wild side. She has to choose between settling down with Ben, his more conventional way of living and possibly packing in prostitution altogether, or going with the wild card.”

What’s the new guy like?
“He’s a vice cop called Harry, a dark, slightly twisted and corrupt character. She’s having an affair with him, and he’s very manipulative, handsome and exciting. She finds it quite liberating to be dominated by someone for a change.”

Do you think Ben is a good match for Belle?
“He is relatively level-headed, and he’s desperate to be with her. But I don’t think any man can take what she does for a living on the chin. He gets more and more angry as the series continues, and throws a few hard-hitting questions at her, which hasn’t really happened in the past.”

How do you juggle your home and work lives?
“It’s really hard for anyone who works and has a family. You’re always going to feel like you should be staying at home and being a mother, but then you have these selfish desires and you want to feel fulfilled as a professional. Because Laurence and I are both actors, there will never be a perfect solution.”

Have the sex scenes got easier to do with each series?
“We encourage the crew to have a laugh, so the atmosphere on set doesn’t feel tense. We make appalling jokes and behave badly, and that’s the only way to do it without feeling uncomfortable. The more intimate scenes with the guys Belle has fallen for are harder to do, even though they’re not as naughty.”

What did you make of the real Belle when you met her?
“It was all quite strange. I only met her twice and, the second time, I was interviewing her and was really nervous. She’s a scientist, incredibly smart and unlike anyone I’ve ever met.”

What’s next for you?
“Some time off and possibly a holiday. I’d like to do a play this year. I’m looking at a few options, but they’re all in the early, developmental stages.“